DATED: 5 MAY 2020
In the first of a regular update on issues facing the agricultural sector, Commercial Property expert, Amy Husk gives a roundup of recent developments for the sector relating to COVID-19:
Dairy Industry – temporary changes to competition law
The dairy industry has suffered severe disruption in recent weeks as a result of COVID-19, following the closure of the majority of the food service sector. Although there has been some increased demand from the retail sector this has not made up for the significant decrease in demand and many farmers have reported having to pour milk away. Temporary changes to the Competition Act 1998 will allow farmers, producers, retailers, suppliers and logistic services to collaborate on issues such as milk quantities, demand, availability of milk processing and storage, the sharing of labour and facilities and availability of logistic services as long as information on costs and pricing is not shared. The aim is to ensure that all links in the chain are able to work together to reduce and prevent the need for surplus milk to be disposed of as a result of COVID-19.
Farm payments deadlines extended
The government confirmed on 27 April 2020 that the deadline for 2020 Basic Payment Scheme applications, Countryside Stewardship revenue claims, Environmental Stewardship claims, and woodland legacy revenue claims is extended by one month to midnight on 15 June 2020. This is in recognition of the disruption caused by COVID-19. The deadlines for Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier and Countryside Stewardship Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant remain unchanged and closed on 1 May. The deadline for Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier applications is also unchanged and closes on 31 July 2020.
Natural England – virtual advice
Farm visits have been suspended as a result of COVID-19 so Natural England has set up an off-farm advice programme for Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier applicants. An advisor from Natural England’s list can be contacted and a 90 minute clinic session can be booked. Details of the provider in your area can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/mid-tier-farm-advice-framework-faf-events.
RPA bridging loans
The RPA announced on 28 April 2020 that interest-free loans will be offered to farmers and land owners to cover 75% of the current estimated value of their 2019 claim for Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship 2019 payments. The RPA has said that payments to eligible claimants will be made in May and this is to assist cash flow in farm businesses. The bridging loans will not be paid for Basic Payment Scheme claims as the majority of 2019 claims under that scheme have already been paid.
We hope you find the above information useful. For further advice on transactions involving agricultural and rural land and property, contact Commercial Property specialist, Amy Husk.
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