Coronavirus: What the NFU is doing to help members

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The NFU is working to provide clarity for members on what the coronavirus outbreak and its impacts will mean for farm businesses. As more information becomes available, we will be updating our advice to members page and our Q&A on the impact or coronavirus in the workplace.

This page will provide regular updates of work NFU staff are doing on members’ behalf.

Coronavirus: Updates and advice

This news hub on NFUonline will be updated regularly to keep you up to date with what you need to know and how to deal with the various issues raised by coronavirus. Visit the hub.

Friday 27 March:

18.08

NFU President Minette Batters chaired a UK Farming Roundtable meeting of 18 organisations spanning the UK’s farming industry with Defra Secretary of State George Eustice and Agriculture Minister Victoria Prentis to discuss some of the key issues and concerns facing agriculture in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.


17.05

Interview alert

NFU President Minette Batters is scheduled to be interviewed live via Skype on Sky News at 7.45pm tonight with Sophy Ridge. She will be discussing how COVID-19 has impacted the farming sector and the concern about worker shortages this summer.


15.27

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts, Director of Policy Andrew Clark, acting chief economics adviser Rohit Kaushish and economist Priya Punj are hosting an NFU COVID-19 banking roundtable discussion today with key contacts from Barclays, RBS/NatWest, Lloyds Banking, HSBC, Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks.


14.48

Flood management and access policy adviser Dr Mhari Barnes and BPS senior adviser Richard Wordsworth continue to raise issues from affected members regarding the Farming Recovery Fund with the RPA and are working on the detail for the third phase, which was announced on March 20.


14.00

Flood management and access policy adviser Dr Mhari Barnes is working with Defra on new guidance for public rights of way in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. This guidance will be published as soon as it is available.


12.18

Director of EU Exit and International Trade Nick von Westenholz had a call with the CBI and business leaders to discuss key issues affecting the wider business community.


11.37

Director of Policy Andrew Clark has spoken with Defra about their Future Farming programme, which includes the current ELMS consultation which is due to close on May 5. In the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and given the importance of getting the transition from CAP correct, NFU has made it clear there must be a postponement of previous deadlines.


11.07

BAB Director Robin Manning had a call with European farming leaders to discuss issues affecting the sector in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic following the informal meeting of Agriculture Ministers on March 25. The UK farming unions, through BAB, remain a full member of COPA for the duration of the transition period.


10.27

The NFU has a conference call today with Defra and the RPA to discuss issues around BPS, and Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship, including applications, deadlines, inspections and service provision. BPS and agri-environment advisers are continuing to raise points with the RPA on all these issues.


09.03

Food chain adviser Helen Hunt has spoken to the Craft Butchers Association and the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) to understand the market conditions for butchers and the impact COVID-19 is having on their supply chains.


Thursday 26 March:

16.48

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts and flood management and access policy adviser Dr Mhari Barnes had a call with Lord Gardiner to discuss issues and concerns around access and public rights of way in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.


15.55

Horticulture adviser Rupert Weaver and external affairs manager Liv Phoenix had a call with Theo Clarke (MP for Stafford), the interim chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Fruit and Veg, to brief her on the current issues affecting the horticulture sector and to look at what the APPG can contribute to the debate around food supply.


15.21

The BPS and economics teams today discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the delivery of the Countryside Productivity Small Grants scheme and the Growth Programme with Defra and the RPA. The discussions centred around the ability of farmers to comply with the rules and timescales set out for these payments.


15.00

Message from the horticulture and potatoes board chairman

Horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper outlines how the horticulture and potatoes team is working hard to do everything it can to help as the impacts of COVID-19 are felt. Members can read the message here.


14.30

Acting chief economics adviser Rohit Kaushish, Director of Policy Andrew Clark and head of taxation Michael Parker spoke with the Treasury today to discuss COVID-19 developments, including feeding back on industry impacts and discussing Government support packages.


12.36

Message from the poultry board chairman

Poultry board chairman Thomas Wornham explains how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the poultry sector and outlines the work the NFU is doing to keep supply chains moving. Members can read the message here.


12.07

Acting chief economics adviser Rohit Kaushish and economist Priya Punj are today holding their second meeting with RBS/Natwest to discuss the impacts of COVID-19.


11.16

Interview alert

An interview with horticulture and potatoes board chairman Ali Capper setting out why we need help from society at this time to pick fruit and vegetables is due to be broadcast on BBC World Service Business Report at 3.30pm today.


10.32

Message from the sugar board chairman

NFU Sugar board chairman Michael Sly has a message to the UK’s sugar beet growers about NFU Sugar’s work to keep the homegrown industry operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members can read his message here.


09.45

Food service disruption and the supply chain: view from the NFU

Head of Food and Farming Philip Hambling outlines how the NFU is responding to the coronavirus crisis, particularly the disruption it has caused in the food service market, and how we are ensuring farmers are continuing to keep the nation fed. Read the blog here.


08.50

Chief food chain adviser Christine McDowell has spoken to a number of retailers about current and predicted sales as well as upcoming planned promotions, such as Easter campaigns. Discussions were also held about how they are working with the wider agri-food industry to help redirect volume from food service to retail.


Wednesday 25 March:

17.05

NFU President Minette Batters and Vice President Tom Bradshaw took part in a roundtable discussion today about seasonal labour supply. There will be further meetings with officials and Ministers throughout this week and next.


15.47

Message from the crops board chairman

National crops board chairman Matt Culley has a message for members about the NFU's work to help farmers as they continue to provide essential food for the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members can read the message here.


15.40

Chief food chain adviser Christine McDowell had a call with IGD, 70 other food industry organisations and 40 other stakeholders, including local government and food banks, to discuss ways of distributing donations of food to vulnerable people. She also had a call with SALSA, which provides food safety accreditation to SME food producers and manufacturers, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and how to deal with audits.


15.00

Acting head of external affairs Rocky Lorusso has today spoken to Tim Farron MP, Lib Dem spokesperson for Food and Farming, about how farming is being affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and outlined to him some of the main challenges facing members.


13.57

Food chain adviser Helen Hunt has been speaking to KFC and Nando’s about the impacts of COVID-19 on their supply chains.


12.47

Message from the livestock board chairman

With the impacts of COVID-19 being felt across the livestock sector, national livestock board chairman Richard Findlay has a message for members about what the NFU is doing to help. Members can read the message here.


12.15

Sugar sector discussions

NFU Sugar Board chairman Michael Sly and head of sugar James Northen had a conference call with British Sugar and Agriculture Minister Victoria Prentis today to discuss issues surrounding the sugar beet sector, including possible solutions to potential pest problems this spring.


11.30

Grant scheme deadline extended

Following concerns raised by the NFU with the RPA, the deadline for claims for round two of the Countryside Productivity Small Grant Scheme to be submitted has been extended from midnight on May 31 until midnight on July 31. However, members are encouraged to get their claims into the RPA as soon as possible as this will help with the roll out of a third round. There are no other changes to the scheme requirements.


10.51

Message from the dairy board chairman

National dairy board chairman Michael Oakes has outlined how the NFU’s dairy team is working across the supply chain to do everything it can to help in the wake of COVID-19. Members can read his message here.


09.47

President Minette Batters had a call with Shadow Defra Secretary of State Luke Pollard and representatives from grocery retail yesterday in which food supply and food distribution issues were discussed.


Tuesday 24 March:

18.14

Director General Terry Jones had a call with Defra Secretary of State George Eustice where he discussed farm staff movements to and from work under the new restrictions announced on March 23, concerns about seasonal labour supply, and market disruption in the red meat and dairy sectors.


14.57

Landlords urged to be flexible over tenants’ rents

UPDATE: Read more here about NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw’s letter to all institutional landlords urging them to work with tenants and show flexibility and understanding with regard to rents during the COVID-19 outbreak.


14.14

Bank discussions

Acting chief economics adviser Rohit Kaushish and economist Priya Punj are speaking with the Bank of England and Lloyds Bank today to discuss the impacts of COVID-19. This follows meetings last week with Barclays, RBS/Natwest, HSBC, Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks.


12.17

NFU horticulture and potatoes adviser Emily Roads had a call with the Horticultural Trades Association and Defra today to discuss potential support mechanisms for the ornamental horticultural sector, which is feeling the impacts of reduced sales.


11.31

Public rights of way concerns raised

The NFU is working with Defra and Natural England to address members’ concerns over public rights of way through farm businesses in light of social distancing measures imposed as a result of COVID-19.


10.55

Updated TB testing guidance

The NFU has been calling on Defra and APHA to provide clear guidance to farmers on the implications of COVID-19 for statutory bTB testing. This guidance is now available here.


09.50

Dairy supply chain stakeholder call

The NFU coordinated a dairy supply chain stakeholder conference call yesterday afternoon to bring together the key organisations and discuss supply chain issues. The group will feed in to Defra to ensure any issues are raised immediately.


08.55

NFU writes to institutional landlords

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw has written to all institutional landlords urging them to work with their tenants and show flexibility and understanding with regard to rent in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.


Monday 23 March:

17.05

Interview alert

NFU President Minette Batters is due to be interviewed live on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme from 7.30am tomorrow morning, covering the impact of coronavirus on farm, including labour shortages and supply chain disruptions.


16.55

Horticulture and potatoes adviser Emily Roads had a call with representatives from the Ornamental Horticulture sector to share information and arising issues, discuss policy solutions and agree actions moving forward in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.


15.55

Dairy team working with Freshways

The NFU dairy team is liaising with Freshways after the processor announced last week that it was issuing a price cut and extending terms to farmers following the loss of food service business.The team is trying to access Government support to help the affected farmers and also assisting members directly with advice.


15.00

Poultry adviser Aimee Mahony had a call with Defra and other stakeholders, including APHA and the Food Standards Agency, to discuss salmonella testing and contingecy plans in relation to COVID-19.


14.10

The NFU’s Food Chain team has been working to help link up food service businesses with retail supply chains to try to help provide additional volumes into shops, where the demand has fallen off in food service.


12:22

Agriculture eligible for Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme has now launched. Following NFU discussions with the Treasury and financial services sector, agriculture is now eligible but at a reduced rate due to state aid rules. The NFU will shortly be providing updates on the details of the scheme.


11:21

The NFU poultry team is speaking to Defra officials today about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the poultry meat sector. Among the areas for discussion will be the financial impact , including cash flow, as well as impact on the supply chain, and staffing/workforce.


Saturday 21 March:

09:05

NFU in the news: NFU President Minette Batters was on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on Saturday following Defra Secretary of State George Eustice’s press conference about the coronavirus outbreak.


Friday 20 March:

13:19

Government makes further funding available for flood-hit farmers

NFU win: Intense NFU campaigning has resulted in government increasing its Farm Recovery Fund pot by £6m, taking the total funding available to £10m, to help farmers affected by torrential rain from storms in February that led to wide-scale flooding. Read the NFU response here.


12:31

NFU head of food and farming Phil Hambling had a call with the Government Food Chain Emergency Liaison Group call this morning. A variety of topics were discussed, including labour and seasonal labour; advice for food premises; regulatory burdens; competition law and looking after the vulnerable in society.


10:57

Government relaxes three-crop rule

NFU win: The Environment Secretary George Eustice has confirmed that the government intends to relax the crop diversification requirements known as the 'three crop rule' for farmers for 2020, as farmers in flooded areas have suggested they will have difficulty complying with the rule this year. Read the NFU response here.

10:12

Flood management and access policy adviser Mhari Barnes and the BPS team are speaking to Defra and RPA officials about updates on support for members around the Farming Recovery Fund and wet weather affecting compliance with the greening crop diversification rules, which had put many businesses under pressure before the COVID 19 outbreak. Clarification is needed on these matters to help members plan for the coming months.


09:55

The NFU poultry team is speaking to Defra to explain the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the laying hen sector. They will be discussing the financial impact , including cash flow, as well as issues relating to the supply chain and staffing/workforce.


09:23

Chief food chain adviser Christine McDowell has spoken to Red Tractor today to discuss inspections and remote audits. She has also spoken to other certification bodies, including organic, this week to understand their position on on-farm inspections.

Christine is also speaking to retail contacts every day to understand where supply chain pinch points are. She has also spoken to retailers and the IGD about getting food to vulnerable people.


08:14

Chief environment adviser Diane Mitchell is working with the Environment Agency on inspections and farm visits and the need for guidance for farmers to help with contingency planning.

Thursday 19 March:

15:47

Flood management and access policy adviser Mhari Barnes had a conference call with the Environment Agency and Defra to discuss the continued flood recovery measures during the current situation.


14:11

Chief combinable crops adviser Harriette Roberts spoke to the new arable lead at Defra about how COVID 19 is already impacting the sector and how it might in the future.


11:37

Chief livestock adviser John Royle had a conference call with the Defra team leader for red meat and dairy and the Defra head of animal welfare to discuss the issues currently facing the livestock sector, including livestock markets, labour issues on farm and in processing, on-farm inspections and other supply chain challenges. A further call is planned for next Monday afternoon (23 March).

Please also stay up to date with government advice - click here to go to the information hub at the Gov.uk website.


Published: 27/03/2020 at 16:00

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