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Tuesday, 31 August 2021 10:55

'Keep in contact with each other'

Written by  Peter Burke
Rural Support Trust chair Neil Bateup says farmers must look after themselves and each other during these trying times. Rural Support Trust chair Neil Bateup says farmers must look after themselves and each other during these trying times.

Keep connecting. That's the message to farmers from the chair of the Rural Support Trust, Neil Bateup.

He told Dairy News that since lockdown the trust probably haven't had as many requests as they normally get, but the trust is still there to help.

He says because of the Covid lockdown they won't go out to a farm unless it's an emergency but people can still do things by phone.

An issue that has cropped up, and one that is hard to deal with, is when farm staff change jobs and problems arise. Bateup says the best they can do is refer individuals to MPI or Federated Farmers, who can help deal with contractual matters.

Another problem is the staffing situation on dairy farms: "Since the start of the season there has been a shortage of staff... we have many farms that are understaffed and the people left on the farms are working too hard and getting tired. This started last season and has probably got worse. It is unlikely to change under the present Covid conditions."

Bateup says the Rural Support Trust is closely monitoring the situation and is pretty agile; if they see a problem, they will act. He says in time of stress the trust would normally go into an area under pressure and stage an event such as a barbeque, a function with a guest speaker, or a dinner and get people together to share problems and help each other.

"Unfortunately, through Covid we have had to cancel a number of events. We just ask people that, if they are under pressure, to let us know and we'll get someone to talk to them by phone or Zoom. We are always happy to take calls," he says.

Bateup says because it is still early days with the present lockdown, the Rural Support Trust hasn't organised any webinars, but says he understands other organisations have. Once the lockdowns are over they will organise events. He points out that farmers are pretty good at looking after each other in times of crisis.

"My message to farmers is, just make sure they look after themselves, stay connected to friends and family by phone, Facetime or Zoom. Keep the social connections going even if you can't do it in person. Don't lock yourself away - keep connecting."

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