As farms across Scotland begin the spring work in earnest everyone is having to use common sense in their working practices to minimise the risk of contracting Covid-19 or spreading the disease.
The assumption is that farming and food production is an essential occupation but so far exact confirmation has been lacking.
Following a request from Farmers Guardian a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have published guidance on essential businesses, social distancing and key workers which we expect all businesses to follow.
"Producing food forms part of our national critical infrastructure so farm businesses which produce food are considered to be essential businesses and their workers have an important role to play in this. But workers should not be placed under unnecessary and unacceptable pressure regarding their terms and conditions.
“It is vital that all businesses, including those in the agricultural industry, act responsibly. The guidance makes clear that essential businesses can only continue to operate if they can keep their employees safe, both in travelling to work and at work. The social distancing rules must also be applied in order to protect workers’ lives. We will continue to liaise with stakeholder organisations in the agricultural industry to ensure that everyone understands what is expected of them.
“We acknowledge the very acute challenges faced by businesses, including in farming and food production and we are grateful to everyone is being responsible and supporting their staff, particularly when they need time off for isolation. We are asking businesses and people to make difficult changes but these are absolutely necessary to help slow down the spread of the virus as much as we can, and protect our NHS and people’s lives.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, which represents abattoir operators said: “All essential staff within its members’ plants are classified as ’Category 2’. We understand that this is the same for all similar food and drink operations in Scotland. Essential staff refers to in-plant workers, of course, and not to admin or office staff.
Questions have also been raised about whether the May 15 deadline for submitting Single Application Forms is still realistic.
An update added to the Scottish Government website today left the position open. It said: “The Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate (ARE) is continually monitoring the situation with Covid-19.
“With the current government advice that people should be working from home wherever possible and following the strict ‘social distancing’ restrictions, we recognise that this will be causing implications for customers needing to complete their Single Application Forms (SAF) within the required deadlines.”