10 October 2000
Farmers to get free business advice

By Isabel Davies

A FREE business advice scheme which the government hopes will help 15,000 farmers over four years has been launched by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Advisers will visit farms to draw up an action plan to give farmers guidance on how to access grants and available subsidies – or how to leave the industry.

The scheme, which will cost 20 million, fulfils a government pledge made at the Downing Street Summit in March, said junior agriculture minister Joyce Quin.

“Most farmers are already highly skilled in running their agricultural activities, but they also need to operate as businesses producing for the market place in an increasingly competitive world,” she said.

“This service will help farmers and growers respond to changing marker demand and changing industries by providing tailored advice.”

The scheme is open to any farmers in England with a County Parish Holding number who spend at least 75% of their time working on their core businesses.

Eligible producers will be able to get three days of an advisors time, starting with a business “health check” and then an analysis of the state of the farm.

Tim Bennett, deputy president of the National Farmers Union, said the scheme would give farmers practical advice on how to survive the farming crisis.

“This is a significant scheme which was part of a package of measures won at the Downing Street summit for which the NFU fought so hard,” he said.

“It is particularly welcome at a time when many farm businesses need to make serious decisions about their long term future.”

Ms Quin admitted that some people might be advised to go out of business, but said the objective was to find ways forward.

She said: “The aim of the scheme is to find viable ways forward, but it would be unrealistic to think we can find solutions for everyone.”

Kevin Buckle, a Cumbrian farmer who has already received advice through a similar Farm Link scheme, encouraged farmers to listen to the advisors.

“They havent got their heads up in the clouds and they are an accessible organisation,” he said at the schemes launch in London on Tuesday (10 October).

The new service will be delivered through the Small Business Services network of Business Link offices which are subcontracting extra staff.

  • Farmers wanting to take advantage of the scheme should call 08456 045678. Callers will be put in touch with their local Business Link office and their details will be forwarded to a qualified adviser who will arrange a visit.