15m of advice for disease-hit farms
By FWi staff
AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown has unveiled a 15.4 million package to help farmers recover in the aftermath of the foot-and-mouth crisis.
The package is aimed at improving the marketing of farm produce. But it will also contribute to the governments longer-term aim of restructuring farming.
Farmers will receive free business advice, encouraged to apply for marketing grants, and develop strategies to restock farms and promote locally produced food.
“These measures will provide high-quality, targeted business and agronomic advice to help farmers consider their future options,” said Mr Brown.
They will also contribute to the governments strategy for helping farmers restructure in sustainable, market-oriented and environmentally responsible ways, he added.
The announcement follows a House of Commons speech last month when Mr Brown pledged a recovery package for farmers most affected by the crisis.
As part of the package, the governments Rural Development Service (RDS) will run seminars for farmers who have had livestock culled.
These seminars will be held in the most seriously affected areas and will cover advice on both business and farming operational issues, said Mr Brown.
They will consider the range of programmes which are available to help farmers address business recovery either individually or in groups.
Following the seminars, a regional contact service will be established for farmers seeking follow-up advice and help in taking ideas forward.
It will encourage all farmers to make use of the Farm Business Advice Service, which provides up to three days of free one-to-one business advice.
The aim is to help farmers make decisions about the future direction of their businesses and improve their performance through best practice.
In addition, an enhanced form of the Farm Business Advice Service will offer up to five days of free advice to farmers whose livestock have been slaughtered.
Advisers will help farmers develop a strategy for their farms, develop new income opportunities and access the range of other support measures available.
The farm business advisers will draw on guidance which the Ministry is providing for farmers considering restocking farms in the wake of the crisis.
The additional cost of the enhanced service will be 10.4m. Some 4.4m of the money will be funded by carrying forward unspent provision from 2000/01.
Mr Brown said the government wanted to aid recovery by providing for sustainable farming practices, diversification, re-skilling and marketing.
In particular, a Processing and Marketing Grant will encourage innovation and investment in added-value farm products and boost market opportunities.
A new round of the Agriculture Development Scheme will open in England to improve the marketing and competitiveness of sectors hit by foot-and-mouth.
Grants will on a competitive basis for non-capital projects lasting up to three years which are ineligible for the England Rural Development Programme.
To qualify, projects must boost marketing or competitiveness of sectors affected by foot-and-mouth or address weaknesses highlighted by the disease.
Some 2 million in grant aid will be available. A consultation document with proposals for the detailed operation of the scheme will be issued shortly.
Promotional bodies such as Food from Britain and the Regional Food Groups will play a major role in developing trade and marketing, said Mr Brown.
The aim is to restore markets and help the wider rural economy recover.
Some 3m will be made available through Food from Britain. It will liaise with the Countryside Agency and the Meat and Livestock Commission.
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