Practical Guidance Note for the rural and farming community #1

COVID-19: Practical guidance for our rural and farming clients #1

As a nation, we are all experiencing truly unprecedented times and we recognise that these are deeply worrying developments for all of us. We are determined to do whatever we can to help our farming clients navigate through this crisis.

Our immediate focus is to provide you with up-to-the-minute, hands-on practical information and advice to relieve you of the uncertainties that lie ahead. We will continue to update our insights regularly to make sure you are in the best possible position to make decisions regarding your farming business and family.

This article will focus on the main types of financial support and grants that are available for farmers and rural businesses.

20th March 2020

Farming Business Support – Utilise banks as cash is available for lending

The information about funding is constantly changing but we do know that cash is available for lending. We understand that lenders have already seen a spike in applications, so it’s important to start any applications as early as possible.  Do remember, that releasing money is not always instant and can take between 4-12 weeks.  A lot of our farming clients are lucky to have an agricultural bank manager’s direct number in their phone; talk to them. If you don’t, your bank will have a COVID helpline which will be able to help. Specifically, your bank will be able to help in the following areas:

  • Granting working capital facilities to support trading businesses that are seeing a lengthening of the order-to-cash cycle and cost increase as a result of supply chain disruption
  • Forward looking liquidity needs to adjust capacity to fit new demand patterns
  • Cashflow to support working capital requirements by potentially offering a credit limit, based on unpaid invoices
  • Business support and advice services
  • Capital Repayment Holiday on variable rate lending
  • Interest rate reductions
  • Temporary emergency loans with no fees
  • The granting of an overdraft or extension of existing overdraft limits.
  • Customers with deposit balances in Notice and/or Fixed Term products have immediate access to cash with no penalty for immediate access

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – government-backed 80% guarantee against outstanding facility balance

A ‘Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme’ (CBILS) is now available and will be provided by the British Business Bank, and will offer attractive terms of business, with the aim of supporting the continued provision of finance to UK businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.

As well as loans, there are many other types of finance supported by the programme depending on the provider.   You can find out what type of finance they provide here.

CBILS provides the lender with a government-backed 80% guarantee against the outstanding facility balance, potentially enabling a ‘no’ credit decision from a lender to become a ‘yes.’

CBILS supports a wide range of business finance products, including:

  • Term facilities
  • Overdrafts
  • Invoice finance facilities
  • Asset finance facilities.

To be eligible for support via CBILS, you must:

  • Be UK based, with a turnover of no more than £41m per annum
  • Operate within an eligible industrial sector
  • Have a sound borrowing proposal, but insufficient security to meet a lender’s normal requirements
  • Be able to confirm that you haven’t received de minimis State aid beyond €200,000 equivalent over the current and previous two fiscal years

Animal production, crop growing and mixed farming are all eligible but with reduced threshold. Find more details here.

Full details on CBILS can be found here.

Emergency Relief for hospitality businesses – 1-year business rates retail holiday and £25,000 grant

Many of our farming clients have some form of diversification which falls within the description of hospitality.  The government have stated they will introduce a business rates retail holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

Businesses that have received the retail discount in the 2019 and 2020 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.

A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to your local authority.  (We understand that guidance regarding the business rates holiday will be published by 20 March and we will keep you up to date via when we have the full details).

Emergency Relief for small businesses – Funding for small rural businesses

The government will also provide additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR). This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, to help meet ongoing business costs.

If you are eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, you will be contacted by your local authority – you do not need to apply.

We understand that funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by the government in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme is still pending.

HMRC and Time to Pay – Delay payment on your tax bills

If your business suffers from financial difficulties with outstanding tax liabilities, you may be eligible to receive support through HMRC’s Time to Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. HMRC are operating a new dedicated COVID-19 helpline for advice and support, so if you are concerned about being able to pay any tax due to COVID-19, then call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

The helpline can assist with:

  • Setting up a Time to Pay arrangement
  • Suspending debt collection proceedings
  • Cancelling late payment penalties and (unusually) interest.

Further details, when we have them, will be updated at

Statutory Sick Pay - Support for rural businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

HMRC will bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • Eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force
  • The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.

Insurance – Take time to review

Our advice is to check your milk and supply policy documents now as insurance policies differ significantly. Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should now be covered.

The Association of British Insurers provided a helpful Q&A page here.

Last word – We are here to help

Above all, we are here to help.  Your Old Mill adviser is available and equipped to help with your questions and queries.  We will endeavour to provide you with as much information as we can and help you through these uncertain times.

Key contacts: – Old Mill’s website containing up-to-date financial information and advice -All governmental information and services for coronavirus – Up-to-date information for landowners – Up-to-date information for farmers & – Confidential helpline and support for farmers in crisis.


For more information about any of these areas please contact your Old Mill adviser or email