Dairy members: Are you prepared for the end of the transition period?

Feet by arrows in the union jack and EU flag

The end of transition period with the EU is fast approaching, and with uncertainty around whether or not the UK government will secure a deal, we are reminding our dairy members of a few considerations businesses can make to ensure they are as prepared as possible, particularly in these exceptional times as the coronavirus pandemic continues to be an overarching part of our daily lives.

Top five considerations:

  1. Consider your supply chains
  2. Export guidance
  3. Labour and workforce
  4. The “normal” stuff
  5. Keep up to date with the latest news

Consider your supply chains

With so many different consumables required on farm, from parlour sundries, machinery equipment, vet medicines and chemicals, the supply chains from which you source these goods may well be longer than you initially think, with many spanning the EU and beyond. Due to increased friction (paperwork and checks) at the UK and EU border after the 31 December, there may be some delay or disruption to your usual supplies of certain products. In this regard, make sure you communicate with your suppliers and milk processor to understand their plans and levels of preparedness. Check your on-farm stocks and as far as possible, put in place contingency plans for alternative products or procedures. Working with your processor and understanding the possible impacts to their business and whether they forecast this to potentially have an impact on farmgate milk price, may be useful in helping you plan for the months ahead.

Stockpiling is not recommended as good practice, as we want to ensure there is a plentiful supply for all in the industry. However, try to make sure that you have made the adequate preparations for the next few months and try to avoid ordering essential goods at the last minute, in case of delays. While some considerations may be obvious, including feed or bedding, perhaps consider the slightly more niche but essential items – such as parlour or machinery parts – which may come from the EU and which you can’t do without. Ensuring your equipment and facilities are in good order and repairs are made will minimise the risk of potentially requiring hard to source items.

If you are aware of shortages of certain products that may be a pinch point, either due to potential Brexit implications, COVID-19 restrictions or due to weather conditions then please feed this information into your regional dairy lead NFU staff member, regional board member or national dairy team at ZGFpcnlAbmZ1Lm9yZy51aw==. That way, we can keep track and support our members through any potential issues and raise these concerns through government and industry contacts.

Export considerations

Do you export products to the EU or have plans to? If you do, there will be new rules, regulations and paperwork required to send your products abroad. This includes export health certificates for live animals and product of animal origin (POAO) consignments which will also require you to locate a Certifying Officer in your area to inspect and verify goods.

There may be other further implications or administrational tasks required to export to the EU in the event of a no-deal at the end of the transition period. This may result in increased costs, through administration or transport fees, and set against the possible imposition of EU tariffs, it may have an impact on your cash flow or margins.

Make sure you have taken the time to understand the current guidance and advice around EHC’s and what is required of you, before planning any exports after the end of the transition period (i.e. any product arriving in the EU after 31 December 2020).

Defra is hosting a series of webinars to assist traders in exporting to the EU and further information on moving products to NI is expected over the next few months. We urge all (potential) exporters to consider listening to these webinars and engaging with Defra through their online channels and other guidance. We will ensure that we update members as soon as we are aware of any implications or further requirements that may affect dairy members.

Remember there will be similar administrative implications for imports too.

You can find out more detailed information about importing and exporting on the EU Exit food hub. The EU Exit Foodhub has been developed by partners across the agri-food supply chain, including the NFU, and aims to act as a central source of information for traders.

For anyone who exports organic dairy produce, keep an eye on the NFU organics pages for updates for the sector with regards to organic equivalence and new labelling requirements, following the end of transition.

Labour and workforce

Do you employ foreign labour or have workers from the EU currently on your farm? You will need to ensure that current members of your workforce who are from EU member states, apply for pre-settled or settled status by 30 June 2021 – but applicants are advised to apply before then. This is in order to maintain their rights and ability to work here without disruption after the end of the transition period. Keeping an eye on COVID-19 restrictions for travel, including quarantine restrictions, is important for labour planning, particularly over the Christmas period if workers are returning home to the EU, then coming back to work. Consider these implications in your staff planning measures and what potential contingency plans would be required if there are COVID-19 restrictions or a positive case of COVID-19 on your farm. Official current government guidance on COVID-19 and animal care can be found here.

Freedom of Movement of People will cease at the end of the transition period, imposing potential limitations for sourcing foreign labour in the dairy sector. Due to the way in which the future the Points Based System (PBS) for immigration will operate, staff retention and creatively sourcing new labour from the domestic workforce will be key over the next few months. The NFU is working closely with other industry organisations and lobbying government to ensure ample workforce is available. Anyone encountering issues in labour recruitment should contact the national HQ dairy team, or their regional dairy lead or board member to signpost for support.

The RABDF is currently encouraging farmers and farm managers to take five minutes to fill in their survey that is investigating national worker shortages and solutions on dairy farms. Find it here.

Don’t forget the “normal” stuff

With so much going on at the moment, it’s easy for other more regular things to pass you by. Perhaps there are renewals coming up or you are in an NVZ area and need to apply for a derogation – (details are expected soon). Furthermore, there are the likes of Countryside Small Productivity Grants that can be applied for over the winter, so take a look here before the deadline ends. Remember, BPS payments will be made from the 1 December to 30 June 2021 – so follow these five top tips and make sure your details are up to date and that you are aware of any changes to this years BPS as we move towards a BPS phaseout.

For practical guidance and support, as well as market updates keep an eye on AHDB’s dairy pages for up to date analysis and articles covering many elements of the dairy sector, including availability of feed and price forecasting.

Keep up to date with the latest EU exit news

There is much uncertainty as to what will happen as a result of the end of transition over the coming months and how much disruption will be caused as a result to the agricultural industry and markets. However, the NFU EU exit team, as well as the dairy team, are here to keep you up to date and to provide all of the information and support our members need to get through the next few months. Keep an eye on our dedicated EU exit channel, and if you need support or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us on ZGFpcnlAbmZ1Lm9yZy51aw==, via CallFirst on 0370 845 8458 or, alternatively, through your regional dairy lead contact or dairy board member.

As well as various webinars being held by industry organisations including the AHDB and RABDF, the NFU is hosting a series of virtual “Live” events for members over the coming months, including “Farming’s future relationship with the EU", on 4 November. This will be available to watch back on NFUonline, so keep an eye on the news channel.

In addition, our coronavirus hub contains all of the most recent guidance and advice to assist you – find it here. CallFirst Specialist Advisers have also created this FAQ page.

This government advice site offers a plethora of relevant information for business and citizens for the End of Transition.

As a reminder:

Health and wellbeing

If you are the manager or main staff member of your dairy unit, it is important that you have considered contingency plans if you do fall unwell as a result of COVID-19 and need support in caring for your livestock during this time.

It is understandable if, during these unusual times, you or members of your team feel an increase in stress or anxiety. It is therefore so important that we take the time to not only check in on our friends, family and colleagues but also ourselves – both mentally and physically. There are a number of rural charities and support networks that can offer help to those in need. Perhaps you could consider assisting the manning of a phone line for a farming mental health charity or finding out how you can promote their work. Make sure you take some time away from working to reset and relax away from the farm (within Covid-19 lockdown restrictions).

If you are struggling or know someone who is, know that you are not alone and the below helplines are here to support:

  • FCN: 03000 111 999
  • RABI: 0808 281 9490
  • DPJ Foundation: 0800 587 4262
  • YANA: 0300 3230 400

RABI have created an online farming community where you can access free, safe and anonymous online mental wellbeing support from any device – find it here.

Farmwell has also published useful personal resilience guidance.

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