12 May 2020

How has regulation changed for the farming sector in light of Covid-19?

The range of hazards and harms in farming is broad and governed by a complex regulatory framework ensuring maintenance of standards and quality of product. The existing regulatory framework has been criticised for being inflexible and disproportionate and has for some time been set for sweeping reforms aimed at achieving more efficiency, smarter monitoring and better engagement with farmers/rural businesses.

Covid-19 has led to a relaxation of some regulatory requirements and a certain leniency in approach not previously experienced in the farming sector. Whilst it is, of course, impossible to comment on every area, changes have been made to the key areas of TB testing, subsidy deadlines and amendments to cattle passports:

TB testing

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have provided further clarification around TB testing. In summary, TB testing should only be carried out where it is safe to do so, maintaining a two-metre distance between vet and farm staff, and between farm staff who do not live together. If the exercise cannot be carried out safely, due to handling systems and/or the stock to be tested, it should be postponed.

If a whole test cannot be carried out due to an inability to test safely, there is an option to delay the window, once, to allow either social restrictions to be lifted, or alternative handling to be implemented.

No financial penalties in Basic Payment Schemes (BPS) or herd restrictions will be placed on OTF herds for delaying a test, if it is within the revised testing window. The testing window extensions depend on the type of test concerned. Those tests with a three month window will be delayed for an additional two months, and those with an initial testing window of two months, will be extended by a month. For breakdown testing, herds will be permitted to extend testing up to 120 days after reactor removal.

Farmers are advised to speak to their vet before a test is due to discuss their individual situation and ability to test safely.

Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)

In light of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, farmers and land managers in England and Wales now have until 15 June 2020 to submit their BPS applications without penalty. This will give farmers and their agents an extra month to submit applications and claims, helping them to avoid penalties for late applications.

The period for making amendments without penalty is extended to midnight on 30 June 2020. The final deadline, with penalty, is extended to midnight on 10 July 2020.

Cattle Passports

Due to the situation with Covid-19, The British Cattle Movement Society (BCMS) are endeavouring to deal with their priority work first.

For all births, deaths, and movement reporting, BCMS request farmers and businesses to use CTSO or their automated self-service link. Please refer to www.gov.uk for the standard requirements/timescales relating to passport applications and reporting/recording of cattle movements.

BCMS have made temporary changes to the way requests for passport amendments are dealt with by asking farmers not to send passport amendments by post, if possible, as there will be a delay in the return of passports.

Should a passport amendment be required, farmers are advised to follow the guidance below, and post the original passport to BCMS only when able to do so:

  • write on the passport what information needs to be amended
  • write ‘Cancelled’ in large bold letters across the front of the passport
  • take a photo of the front and back page of the passport (if the amendment is to the date of birth, or requires three or more amendments, take a photo of your calving records)
  • e-mail the photo(s) to bcmsenquiries@rpa.gov.uk using the subject title ‘Passport Amendment Request – CPH 00/000/0000’ which will allow BCMS to easily identify request(s).

When BCMS receive the e-mail the necessary amendment will be made and the updated passport will be sent in the post.

As a regulatory lawyer who is actively involved in my family’s farming business, I can help you to understand these changes and to continue to run your farming business successfully in these changing times.

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About the Author
Bryn Thomas, Partner

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