Skip to content

Farming and Covid-19

As Covid-19 impacts of every aspect of our lives, we asked a Wiltshire Farmer for a view on the national emergency.

The Effect of Covid-19 on Agriculture – a Farmer’s View, from Jonathan King who farms near Bratton

At the moment we are not adversely affected by Covid-19, our labour force is nephew Bob and myself, supplies are being delivered, goods out loaded. It is a fairly solitary existence therefore no real problem with social distancing.

CPRE’s main task is to maintain the countryside. One of the ways to do this is to have a financially viable agriculture without ridiculous environmental restrictions. Is it moral to restrict the production of food in our country when a large part of the world is under-nourished? Because of single issue pressure groups, we are losing more and more tools and having to resort to old products.

I hope that more good will come after Covid-19 has disappeared. I think it is highly likely that people may reassess their previous way of life and realise that food security from an adequate home supply where possible is a good thing. Flying in French Beans from East Africa is unnecessary and environmentally damaging.

We have up to 250 beef cattle which are fed natural home-produced food (grass and maize silage) apart from milk powder and vitamins and minerals. In the summer months as many as possible graze outside.

It is on the arable side we can do so much to reduce the release of carbon into the atmosphere. Reducing the movement of soil has an enormous benefit and to this end we have had a non-ploughing policy since 2005 and for the last four years we have been direct drilling. This not only saves the release of carbon, but dramatically reduces the use of diesel, pesticides and fertiliser by not moving soil. We are able to improve the soil by growing green cover crops which means soil improvement and no bare soil between crops.

We also participate in the higher level Stewardship scheme which has over the years has increased bird and insect numbers hugely. By planting grass margins around fields we protect water courses, hedgerows, birds and insects.

It is the government’s intention to stop paying us for pro-duction but only for environmental schemes together with money to develop the rural economy. In my view this is wrong because it industrialises the countryside.

We must have a vibrant agriculture encouraged to produce food and to respect the environment but this comes at a cost. The President of the NFU has said that farming could be carbon neutral in a few years given encouragement.

Therefore, the downside of Covid-19 is obvious and with us now, but we have a future and we must take advantage from this opportunity to do things better. It’s never said but the real reason we are threatened is population explosion which must be controlled or Covid-19 or similar experience will occur again and again.

Two people searching for something against a cloudy blue sky