FARMERS ARE missing out on £1000s worth of free advice by not taking up three days of consultation available under the Farm Business Advice Service.

The FBAS, which has been running since 2000, has been extended for another year, until March 2005.

And a new rule means that even farmers who have already used the service could be eligible to apply again. But time is running out for anyone wishing to take advantage of this.

“Farmers are on borrowed time,” said Sue Scott, manager of FBAS for Business Link in Oxon and Bucks.

“If they want to use this service they need to get registered now.”

Mark Howard, south-east chairman of the NFU, said uptake could have been better.

“There are a lot of people who could benefit from this, and I cannot understand why they haven‘t taken it up. It doesn‘t cost them anything.”

Even so, about 15,000 farmers across England have benefited from the scheme since it started, and around £4.5m is available to spend this year.

“The money is there, but if it‘s not used it just goes back to the Treasury, which is a complete wasted opportunity.”