14th August 2020


Rural Rap

ANOTHER SOLAR FARM COULD BE COMING TO KENT, reports the Kent Messenger.  Vattenfall, a global energy company, has announced a proposal to build a 66-acre solar farm near Herne Bay.  The completed project would have capacity of 20MW and provide enough electricity for 5,000 homes a year.  It would share the existing grid connection and onshore infrastructure already utilised by the offshore windfarms.  The proposed development is smaller than the nearby 900-acre Cleve Hill project which got the green light earlier this year despite fierce local opposition.  Locals are invited to take part in an online information session on Wednesday 19 August at 7pm.  kentonline.co.uk/herne-bay/news/solar-farm-proposal-announced-by-energy-giant-231771/

HUNDREDS OF HOMES FACE THE PROSPECT OF THE FIRST HOSE PIPE BAN IN EIGHT YEARS, reports the BBC.  South East Water has warned that customers could be without tap water unless water usage is cut.  Last Friday, when temperatures soared to 36c, the company saw record-breaking demand for water, and said that people’s staycations were causing a “strain on the county.”  It urged people to “put away hose pipes, sprinklers and garden water toys” so that everyone has “what they need to drink.”  Tips include using water twice – such as watering plants from the paddling pool, covering the paddling pool when not in use, not filling paddling pools in the early evening when demand for water is higher, and thinking carefully before turning on the garden tap.   bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-53705717?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/england/kent&link_location=live-reporting-story

STORMS ARE SWEEPING ACROSS KENT, reports the Kent Messenger.  A yellow warning for thunderstorms is in place as the long-awaited rainfall follows on from scorching temperatures.  There are reports of thunder, heavy rain and even hail across much of west Kent, with residents reporting powercuts and commuters reporting rail delays and flooded roads.  East Kent appears to have missed out on the rain however, with Ashford, Dover and Faversham all reporting clear blue skies.  The yellow storm alert remains in place until Monday.  kentonline.co.uk/kent/news/thunder-and-downpours-as-storms-strike-county-232109/

ELMLEY NATURE RESERVE IS THE 3,300 ACRE HOME TO THOUSANDS OF BIRDS AND WILDLIFE, AS WELL AS 700 COWS, reports Kent Online.  The Isle of Sheppey bird reserve is one of England’s largest, it is a wetland of world importance and an internationally important site for the conservation of plants, animals and insects.  With 30-40,000 birds, including hundreds of lapwings, spending their winters here, and 20 out of the 50 UK butterfly species, it is a rural idyll.  Since lockdown, visitors now have to pre-book their visits, but the system is working so well that it may continue indefinitely.  The reception area also doubles as a wedding venue, and there are luxury bell tents for glamping in the wilderness, as well as six individual huts.   kentonline.co.uk/whats-on/news/wild-about-nature-232037/

THE KENT SHOWGROUND IS LAUNCHING A COMPLETELY NEW EVENT IN SEPTEMBER, reports the Kent Messenger.  Following the cancellation of its largest annual event – the Kent Show, the organisers are launching Food on the Field – an event for visitors to sample the best of Kent’s restaurants and eateries.  It will be held at the showground in Detling.  Visitors will have the chance to try signature dishes and drinks while enjoying the Kent countryside.  Two-time winners of the Taste of Kent Awards, the Butchers Block, and silver winners of the Independent English Wine Awards, Meopham Valley Vineyards, have already confirmed.  Each restaurant will have a selection of their signature dishes in taster size, and there will also be a Farmers Market.   kentonline.co.uk/whats-on/news/new-outdoor-food-event-announced-231968/

INCREASED LABOUR COSTS AND THE IMPACT OF THE SUPERMARKET PRICE WARS COULD HIT THE APPLE INDUSTRY’S ALREADY TIGHT MARGINS, reports The Grocer.  The 6.2% increase in the national living wage in April has added up to 3p per kg in costs, while Coronavirus had caused a further uplift of 11p per kg as social distancing measures slowed down packhouse lines and PPE added increased input costs.  Consequently costs are running way above inflation at a time when the supermarkets are indulging in a major price war.  The impact on apple margins is becoming untenable and preventing investment in the future.  British Apples & Pears said there’s little point in asking retailers to reflect increased costs in consumer prices as the supermarkets are “trying to get themselves into a place where they’re ready for a recession.”  The projected crop this year is already very disappointing due to poor weather at the wrong moments, leaving a 10-15% shortfall on last year’s crop.   thegrocer.co.uk/fruit-and-veg/apple-growers-issue-untenable-margins-warning-as-weather-hits-2020-crop/647242.article

MCCAIN HAS ANNOUNCED A £25M INVESTMENT IN THE BRITISH POTATO INDUSTRY TO HELP FARMERS FIGHT THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND COVID-19, reports Farming UK.  The firm, the UK’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato products, said the investment would also strengthen its partnership with farmers.  It said the last two years were two of the worst potato crops the UK had seen in 40 years.  The company’s Potato Farmer Pledge has been worked on following feedback from its 250 farmers suppliers.  Funding will be delivered through grower contracts with McCain, grant funding and multi-year incentive offers.   farminguk.com/news/mccain-s-25m-pledge-to-help-growers-battle-covid-and-climate-crisis_56296.html

THE SAMARITANS HAVE LAUNCHED A CAMPAIGN TO REACH OUT TO MEN IN RURAL COMMUNITIES, report RABI, among others.  The Real People, Real Stories campaign will run for six weeks.  The NFU Mutual is supporting the Samaritans’ response to Covid-19 as part of their commitment to aid farming communities.  Other farming organisations including RABI are also backing the initiative and encouraging farming men to seek support.  Nearly half of men aged 20-59 in rural communities have experienced feelings of anxiety during lockdown, and 59% are worried about the future.

PRINCE CHARLES HAS MADE A SIGNIFICANT DONATION TO A NEW FARMING CHARITY FOLLOWING THE PANDEMIC, reports Farming UK.  In a video message to tenants on his Duchy of Cornwall estate, the Prince of Wales said he had been left “demoralised” after seeing the effects of the virus on food producers.  “We all know that food is not made by supermarkets,” he said.  He singled out Sam Stables, his tenant in Hereford, who has launched the “We’re Farming Minds” charity which aims to tackle isolation and depression in the countryside.  Mr Stables took on his friend’s flock of sheep after he was struck down with Covid.  During lockdown, Prince Charles said the UK owed farmers an “enormous debt of gratitude” for producing food.

SALES OF FRUIT AND VEG BOXES MORE THAN DOUBLED DURING LOCKDOWN, reports Farmers Weekly, and local producers are hoping to capitalise on this growing trend.  Small farmers have provided a vital service to the public as people’s buying trends shifted from supermarket shopping and the nation turned en masse to online food deliveries.  Although the trend has slowed in the recent weeks, growers say customer loyalty remains high and they hope that people will continue to buy locally sourced, fresh seasonal produce once the pandemic is over.   fwi.co.uk/farm-life/feedthenation-growers-hope-veg-box-demand-is-here-to-stay

FARMING BUSINESSES ARE READY TO HELP THE ECONOMY GET BACK ON ITS FEET, reports the Farmers Guardian.  The UK economy shrank by 20.4% between April and June due to lockdown pushing the country into its first recession in 11 years.  The number of people in work fell by almost a quarter of a million, but for many food and farming businesses, recession seemed a “long way away.”  Food businesses are some of those that, on the whole, have been winners in the last six months – apart from the notable losers in the dairy and ornamental sectors.  However, the bigger question now is what will happen to rectify the recession and whether radical reform of CGT and IHT, and other measures will have a detrimental impact on the sector.  The CLA argues that closing the productivity gap between rural and urban would generate £43bn, so rather than penalising a resilient sector, the government should focus on providing it with the tools to make it one of the most prosperous parts of the economy too.   fginsight.com/news/those-working-in-the-rural-economy-are-ready-and-raring-to-go—uk-enters-recession-111211

RURAL PUB LANDLORDS HAVE WARNED THAT A SECOND LOCKDOWN COULD FORCE THE PERMANENT CLOSURE OF THEIR BUSINESSES, reports the Express.  A survey revealed that almost 40% of owners and landlords believe that being forced to shut their doors again would mean that they had to close for good.  A further 31% believe they would struggle to stay afloat, while just 17% think they could make it work.  The survey also saw a series of demands from owners and landlords for support which could help save their sector, including scrapping business rates, cutting beer duty, long term VAT reduction and a roadmap to reopen the wedding industry for big events, as well as trying to allow Christmas bookings to go ahead.   express.co.uk/news/politics/1320415/Coronavirus-latest-update-second-lockdown-UK-pubs


KCC is seeking your views on spending priorities and the approach we should take to help us amend the 2020-21 budget.  The council is amending the budget due to additional spending and loss of income as a result of the pandemic. 
Responses will be considered by councillors at the full County Council meeting in September 2020. 
To contribute, please visit www.kent.gov.uk/budget 


RABI, Addington Fund, FCN, Forage Aid and RSABI, supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, have launched the Farming Help initiative.  The initiative is also being launched with the NFYFC, the NFU and the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust. 
FARMING HELP recognises that this will be an anxious time for many farmers and farming families and periods of poor health or self-isolation may result in temporary practical difficulties on farm.  For help drafting a contingency plan, for practical local help with livestock, shopping etc, or to discuss your concerns and anxieties,

Contact 03000 111 999 or visit www.farminghelp.co.uk

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