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How is coronavirus affecting our farming community? Partner at Langleys Solicitors, Newark, reflects on the situation

How is Covid-19 affecting our farming community? Amy Cowdell, a partner of Langleys Solicitors, Newark, reflects on the situation so far.

At the time of writing, the majority of the population must stay at home in order to slow the speed of the spread of the coronavirus and ease the pressure on the NHS.

Farmers are quite rightly in the key worker category. Keeping the food chain fit and healthy to feed our population is absolutely vital.

Amy Cowdell.
Amy Cowdell.

Fortunately, the weather is favourable at the moment for working the land.

Farm workers may get sick and have to self-isolate with suspected symptoms. Coupled with the lack of international seasonal workers coming into the country from travel restrictions and tighter border controls, this is leaving a shortage of workforce on farms.

The Feed The Nation campaign was launched last month by industry leaders with a plea for people to go out and work on farms to help plug the gap and bring fresh food to the nation.

At the time of writing around 10,000 people have signed up to help deliver harvest and pack fresh fruit and vegetables.

However, according to the CLA, another 80,000 people are needed.

Hopefully, students not able to attend schools and colleges, or those not working at present, may be in a position to take up this work.

Chartering flights from Eastern Europe to bring in workers is a possibility being reviewed by industry associations.

Although DEFRA has now relaxed the three-crop rule, we still await the RPA response to the pandemic and whether they will delay the fast approaching deadline for BPS applications (May 15).

Sadly, Newark Livestock Market closed its doors last month for the foreseeable future. Whether it will open again is unclear but at this stage of the pandemic perhaps it would be unwise.

The Livestock Auctioneers’ Association has announced strict rules to be followed at a mart.

They have called a halt on sales of breeding stock for at least three weeks. Buyers have been asked to double-up so that one representative attends the auction to buy for multiple purchasers. Cafés and commercial units, where people may congregate, must close and social distancing of two metres is being enforced.

Restrictions have been placed on sellers who must drop off their livestock with employees of the market and leave immediately, without entering the market itself.

This is all with a view to maintaining social distancing and having limited the public in one building at any one time, but equally to ensure that the vitally important food supply chain is well stocked up with fresh meat.

It is difficult to keep up with the new financial packages the government has put forward to help steady the economy through the pandemic.

Packages to support farming businesses are included. A review of these is beyond the scope of this article, but I would urge you to talk to your accountant or solicitor about what might help you through this.

It is a tense time for all of us but we are a strong nation and support is out there.

We will not be beaten.

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