While farmers tend to experience isolation from the very nature of their lifestyle and work schedule, communication is key to tackling coronavirus and we must all reach out and show concern, says Baroness McIntosh of Pickering.
March has seen the country in the grip of coronavirus which is impacting every walk of life.
While the elderly are especially vulnerable, it will test the NHS to the limit and the resilience of businesses and banks.
It comes at the busiest time of year for farmers with lambing in full swing and flood waters are still threatening crops, which would be greatly relieved with the lifting of the three-crop rule.
There was welcome recognition in the Budget of the importance of red diesel to the agricultural sector.
‘Communication is key’
Communication is key to our understanding of how to deal with the virus.
For example, I have seen advice about not stroking pets but nothing on handling livestock.
What is shocking is the low percentage of the population who still seem unwilling to follow the basic Government and health advice of washing hands often with soap and hot water and even sneezing into a tissue.
Remember the saying, “coughs and sneezes spread diseases"?
How will farmers cope with the coronavirus challenge?
I believe greater and more formal cooperation will be essential.
I know farm neighbours look out for each other and we need to replicate that on a grander scale so if a farm household is in self isolation owing to the virus, that neighbours from near and further away will step in and help.
Farmers tend to experience isolation from the very nature of their lifestyle and of work on a farm.
All of us need to be mindful of this and reach out and show concern.
Farm charities provide essential support (Farm Community Network, RABI, Yorkshire Agricultural Society amongst others).
They are only a phone call away.
‘Business as usual in the Lords’
We have been in the Lords scrutinising the new domestic framework for fisheries policy.
We are expecting the Agriculture and Environment Bill in short order.
These two bills are closely linked, and I shall be keen to find out which criteria will apply to the new environment land management schemes.
Also, if farmers provide a public good to the local community in terms of temporarily storing flood waters on their land, how will they escape the onerous de minimis rules on reservoirs applying to them?
There is an increasing stress on growing trees though they have no commercial value usually for the first twenty years and would take up grazing land for livestock, potentially depriving farmers of their income.
Coronavirus impact on food market
One of the most worrying aspects of the origins of the Corona Virus is that it is said to have started in a food market selling wild exotic animals.
These markets have apparently been closed by the Chinese authorities but only on a temporary basis.
It shows we cannot be too careful in terms of which foods we do import, a theme to which we will return in the ongoing trade negotiations.
One matter which has to change: we cannot expect our farmers to produce to the highest standards of health, welfare and safely levels while seeking to import farm produce and food produced to lower standards.
May you all take care and stay safe
You can find Anne tweeting at @AnneCMcIntosh