A £32 million support package to support agriculture through Covid-19 has been made available by rural insurer NFU Mutual.
The package includes donating millions to local and national charities, as well as rural and mental health causes, to help support the countryside through the pandemic.
It's made up of:
- £24 million insurance package of increases to cover;
- £5 million support scheme to the local agency network;
- £1.8 million increase in charitable donations;
- £1.35 million change to the claims process;
- £250 million Mutual Bonus discount for loyal customers.
At a local level, NFU Mutual has set up a £1 million Emergency Coronavirus Fund to be released through its Agency network to help local charities and communities across the UK, from the Highlands and Islands to rural towns and remote villages.
There will also be an added £750,000 donation to the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, enabling donations of up to £1 million to support national organisations - reaching the isolated and vulnerable experiencing stress and worry, as well as families facing financial challenges due to coronavirus.
NFU Mutual is also making a £50,000 donation to affiliated charity, the Farm Safety Foundation, to support and extend its mental health work during this period of isolation.
Coronavirus insurance coverage
The insurer is also developing a range of insurance cover changes to protect its policyholders worth an estimated £24 million.
These will include increased cover in key farming sectors, alongside continued availability of its existing uncollected milk insurance at a time when many insurers are ending cover, and free extended public liability cover for farmers selling their own produce directly to the public.
The insurer will also continue to give back to its loyal customers through its Mutual Bonus, resulting in a total discount in premiums of £250 million from July 2020 to June 2021. This means the entire sum of NFU Mutual support is worth £282 million.
To help the majority of farmers who are self-employed, NFU Mutual has announced it will include insurance for Covid-19 in Personal Accident and Group Personal Accident policies.
The cover will be available for both new and existing customers. This will help keep income flowing in if the farmer and farmworkers are unable to work due to contracting Coronavirus.
It is expected to provide £12 million worth of pay-outs for members affected by the illness in 2020.
The insurer has also brought in new procedures to enable claims to be processed and paid quickly and easily, and without the need for unnecessary contact. The insurer will continue to provide an automatic 15% increase in property sums insured, to ensure customers are protected if an Agent or valuations firm cannot access property that may have increased in value during the outbreak.
The insurer is also providing £5 million to support its 300 strong local office network in towns and villages across the UK, which provide local NFU Mutual and NFU services.
In addition to the package, NFU Mutual will also continue to provide funding for the UK’s main farming unions as they work with the Government to keep agriculture running, as well as providing adviser support at a local level.
This year, NFU Mutual will donate £7.5 million to farming unions to carry out their vital role (up from £7.2 million in 2019).
'Standing by farmers'
Farmer and chairman of NFU Mutual, Jim McLaren, said: “For over a hundred years we have stood by the side of farmers and we are determined to do everything we can to support our customers and the countryside through these difficult times.
"Our wide-ranging £32 million support package includes financial support for rural charities, together with additional insurance cover to help our members.
"Our 300 agent offices, based in the heart of our rural communities, will also be distributing funds to local causes.
British farmers and growers are playing a vital role in the national effort, despite facing enormous challenges themselves. Adding protection for farmers will support the agricultural industry when the nation needs it most.
“Despite the challenges we are also facing, we will continue to offer a high level of Mutual Bonus this year, saving our loyal customers £250m in the form of premium discounts, because we recognise this is a difficult period for all.
“Streamlining our claims process is also making it easier for our members to get the payments they need, quickly and safely at this critical time.”
NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker was among those to welcome the announcement.
“It is good to see our partner organisation NFU Mutual rallying around the industry in this time of crisis," he said.
This is a package of support that will benefit many grassroots farming and crofting members who are customers of the mutual.
"The charitable donations and the extra funding for the Farm Safety Foundation to extend its mental health work will be very well received during this period of lockdown.
“With its reputation built around trust, reliability and customer service, these measures will make a real difference and provide valuable reassurance to customers that the Mutual is there for them at this very difficult time.”