4 April 1997

Agency committed to training

IMPROVED staff training to ensure good advice is delivered to farmers will be one of the key aims of the Farming and Rural Conservation Agency (FRCA).

Created due to the privatisation of ADAS, the agency took over MAFF and Welsh Office statutory work from ADAS this week. It will cover six fields -rural economy, land use, planning, milk hygiene, environmental protection, agri-environment schemes and wildlife management.

Michael Finnigan, FRCA chief executive, said training would be a central priority among his 480 staff. It follows criticism presented to parliaments agricultural select committee into agri-environment schemes, which claimed many project officers were not well trained enough to give advice to farmers.

Mr Finnigan told FW that the FRCA was already talking to partner organisations within agriculture and conservation, such as the NFU, RSPB and English Nature to improve training facilities.

Grant aid from the European Commission, which has previously not been taken up by the UK government, could be applied for in selected designated areas.

Andrew Clark, NFU environment spokesman, welcomed the tough line on training saying it was an area which had been under-resourced in recent times.

Dr Clark said he hoped the FRCA would improve links with MAFF regional service centres, to ease the progress of the countryside stewardship scheme.

And he also wanted to see FRCA staff highlight the importance of MAFFs Codes of Good Agricultural Practice.n