FREE BUSINESS advice will be available to farmers for at least another 18 months, after DEFRA announced the extension of the Farm Business Advice Service.

NEW FUNDING

It was due to close in March 2005, but new funding will keep it running until at least September 2006. DEFRA has spent 36m since 2000 on free three-day consultations with farmers, but officials are deciding whether this service will change.

“The Regional Development Agencies will become involved in the planning for delivery of the service, which will be increasingly aligned to the small business advice services for which they take responsibility from April 2005,” said junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty.

James O”Gram, a consultant with Laurence Gould Partnership, welcomed the news. “Farms certainly need it while things are changing with the single farm payment,” he said.