As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, NSA is working on a number of different policy areas that need addressing as a consequence of the disease outbreak and is responding to member enquiries and the changing picture as quickly as possible. This page has information for farmers in all Devolved Regions.
Guidance has now been produced by Defra for farming and farmworkers. This is available on the Government website here and states:
- Farming and maintaining animal welfare are important and can continue if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible.
"If you provide services such as sheep shearing, sheep dipping and foot trimming to different farms it is not possible for workers to stay 2 metres apart at all times. You should communicate to all staff that they should wash their hands for 20 seconds or more and more frequently than normal, and always when arriving at or leaving a farm or premises, or use hand sanitiser when they cannot wash their hands. They should be careful to avoid touching their face at all times. You should arrange work so that you and colleagues can frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products. This should be done both during the working day and when moving between premises."
NSA is following Government guidelines available here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus or, in Scotland, here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-livestock-keepers/, or in Wales, here: https://gov.wales/coronavirus-regulations-guidance.
Various forms of financial support for businesses is available. Information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19. On Tuesday 5th May, the Government officially launched its Bounce Back Loan scheme - more information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan
Accessing Covid-19 grants
Millions of self-employed people whose livelihoods have been affected by coronavirus are now able to claim a second payment of up to £6,570.
Those eligible will now be able to receive a second and final grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, with the money set to land in their bank accounts within six working days of making a claim.
Anyone whose self-employed business has been adversely affected by coronavirus since 14 July is eligible for the scheme. Applications for the second grant must be made before Monday 19th October.
For full details on the scheme and information on how to apply www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme.
As health and agriculture are devolved policy areas the advice across all four regions of the UK may be slightly different.
Guidance for England
If you farm in England you can follow this link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-farmers-landowners-and-rural-businesses to the Governments most up to date guidance for farmers. It is important to note in England you can:
- Attend markets for Breeding, Store and Prime sales. You MUST follow strict social distancing rules and wear a face covering. More information is available here: https://www.laa.co.uk/news/3995/laa-statement-on-the-sales-of-breeding-animals/
- Bring shearers and other contractors onto farm, provided nobody is displaying Covid-19 symptoms. You must socially distance where possible.
-For information on accessing a Covid-19 test please visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested.
Guidance for Scotland
If you farm in Scotland, you can follow this link: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-animal-owners/ to ScotGov's most up to date guidance for farmers.
More information on regulations at livestock markets can be found here: https://iaas.co.uk/some-breeding-sales-to-recommence-under-strict-operating-guidelines-for-coronavirus/
Guidance for Cymru/Wales
If you farm in Wales, you can access information about how Covid-19 is impacting farming communities in Wales here: https://gov.wales/rural-payments-wales-rpw-service-update-coronavirus-covid-19.
Further information on support available for farmers in Wales is available here: https://gov.wales/emergency-measures-support-farmers-during-covid-19-unveiled
If you live in Wales you can attend markets for Breeding, Store and Prime sales. You MUST follow strict social distancing rules. More information is available here: https://www.laa.co.uk/news/3995/laa-statement-on-the-sales-of-breeding-animals/
A firebreak lockdown has been introduced across Wales to help regain control of coronavirus. This means that a series of restrictive measures will be in place from 6pm Friday 23rd October until Monday 9th November 2020. This fire break lockdown generally reflects the lockdown conditions applied in March and essential businesses, including livestock markets, are permitted to continue trading. Buyers and sellers are still permitted to travel to markets to sell and buy stock, including from England. The LAA announced market operators must maintain a full attendance record of all people entering the site, social distancing must be applied at all times, face coverings must be worn by everyone attending the site, except for medical or Health and Safety reasons, and hand washing facilities must be available for everyone to use.
Guidance for Northern Ireland
If you live in Northern Ireland, you can find information here: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/impact-covid-19-day-day-farming. In Northern Ireland:
For more information on accessing Covid-19 tests please visit: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/testing-covid-19#testing-for-essential-or-key-workers
NSA has also produced work in certain areas - please see below for more information:
Defra has now confirmed shearers from abroad are allowed to travel into the UK without the need to quarantine. However, significant hurdles still remain, with international flights limited and, naturally, a possible reluctance to travel in the current climate.
NSA is continuing to encourage people to use the shearing register set up with NAAC and British Wool to provide an online shearing register to help UK contractors and UK Shearers link up. This is available here https://www.naac.co.uk/jobs/shearingregister/. NSA has set up a complimentary list for farmers and shearers to connect on a more moderate scale where a contractor is not needed. This is available here: https://www.nationalsheep.org.uk/shearing-list/
NSA encourages members to plan ahead for shearing and take every precaution to ensure your health and welfare is protected along with your stocks.
Further support for NSA members
NSA has released a statement here https://www.nationalsheep.org.uk/news/29283/nsa-calls-for-respect-from-walkers-during-covid-19-outbreak/, calling for people to avoid farms to help protect farmers.
NSA is happy to support its members in any way it can. Please look at the FAQ's we have received below. If you have any further questions, please contact [email protected]
Government's job retention scheme
From 1 July, employers can bring back to work employees that have previously been furloughed for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant for their normal hours not worked. When claiming the grant for furloughed hours employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week.
The scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June. From this point onwards, employers will only be able to furlough employees that they have furloughed for a full 3 week period prior to 30 June.
This means that the final date by which an employer needs to agree with their employee and ensure they place them on furlough is 10 June. Employers will have until 31 July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30 June.
Further guidance on flexible furloughing and how employers should calculate claims will be published on 12 June. Find out more information on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is changing.
Can I go out and look after my livestock if I'm displaying symptoms of covid-19?
Government guidelines say you should remain at home and self-isolate if you are displaying symptoms of Covid-19. These are a new and continuous cough, and/or fever. If you have livestock it is recommended you ask somebody else to check your animals until you have completed your quarantine. If you cannot find anyone else to help you, you must ONLY go to your animals, ensure you wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after you go out, and avoid other people.
What if we cannot stay more than two meters apart to provide care to an animal, for example, lambing complications?
Where possible maintain 2m distance between you and others. If there is no way to do this follow Government advice on social distancing with others and clean your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Where possible, ask someone from the same household to help as they do not need to socially distance from you. If that is impossible, try to minimise the time you have to be close together and socially distance from others. The government guidelines state:
"Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff. If a 2-metre distance cannot be maintained, staff should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible. You should communicate to all staff that they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more and more frequently than normal."
I need to travel with somebody in order to complete my work, what should I do?
If you can, avoid travelling with another person. If your work can be done without you travelling with somebody from a different household (this includes family you don't live with) it should be avoided. Government guidelines say: "If workers have to share enclosed spaces such as the cabs of vehicles, they should keep the window open for ventilation and they should be careful to avoid touching their face at all times. On leaving the enclosed space, they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more or use hand sanitiser when they cannot wash their hands."
What rights do I have with people walking across my land?
Some footpaths have been closed to prevent the public from breaking social distancing rules. Where this hasn't happened, you must try to maintain your distance from people. If you are concerned about cross-contamination on gates, you can use gloves, carry hand sanitiser and avoid touching your face. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you can. NSA has released a statement calling for walkers to avoid travelling to walk across farmland where possible.
Can my vet still come out if we need them?
Yes, however, you should follow Government guidance on social distancing.
What about other services?
This is a difficult question to answer. NSA is working hard to get clarity from the Government about what services can continue. NSA has produced a list of roles that it has asked the Government for clarity on, and will continue to ask for clarity on other roles. In the meantime, NSA is working on the assumption non-farming agricultural roles are also essential to allow food production to continue. Therefore, those performing such roles can continue, provided they follow Government rules and guidelines on social distancing.
Are we still allowed to take lambing students?
This, again, is unclear. Nobody should be travelling unnecessarily. Therefore, if your student is not already with you and you do not rely on their labour to get through lambing, Government guidelines would imply your student should not come. This decision must be at your discretion following the Government guidelines as closely as you can.
We need shearers to come on to the farm, but we're nervous about letting someone onto the farm. Is there any guidance?
Guidance is currently being written and agreed by a group of sheep industry bodies. As soon as it is ready and agreed, NSA will share the link to it here.
Is NSA still working?
Yes, we are still working hard to represent you - we're just doing so from our homes rather than The Sheep Centre. If you need to contact us, please email [email protected] OR https://www.nationalsheep.org.uk/contacts/nsa-head-office/ find somebody specific here.
I'm struggling financially, what help is there?
As always, there is fantastic support offered to farmers through charities such as FCN, RABI, RSABI and others. If you are in England or Wales, you can call 03000 111 999 for help. In Northern Ireland call 08001381678 and in Scotland call 0300 111 4166. There are lots of options for Government support it is worth exploring here gov.uk/business-support to find out if there are any options for you and your business. For more information view NSA's mental health support pages below.
I also keep cattle, can I continue with TB testing?
At present TB testing visits should only continue providing all involved can maintain adequate self-isolating and social distancing requirements. The UK Chief Veterinary Officers are keeping these measures under constant review. Adjustments to TB testing instructions will be made as appropriate as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.
Letter from the food standards agency to farmers: https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/news/open-letter-to-the-meat-industry-in-england-in-response-to-coronavirus
Letter from the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, to farmers: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/letter-from-the-environment-secretary-to-the-food-and-drink-industry?utm_source=b87a88e9-d5ee-43ec-a56f-3176594441f5&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate&fbclid=IwAR19STE3KufEQcjk9ZyxAETl7RhEItL1FOLnlAAc0R_V6kYlbuMx3iOCpfs
Statement from NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker from 19th March 2020: https://www.nationalsheep.org.uk/news/29187/statement-from-nsa-chief-executive-phil-stocker-regarding-the-continuing-covid-19-outbreak/