DEFRA‘S NEW farm benchmarking service will be a valuable tool for farmers, according to government adviser Donald Curry.

Farm Benchmarking Online, launched at the Royal Show (July 4-7), is the third in a series of management tools provided by the department, following two booklets on farm management accounting published in FARMERS WEEKLY earlier this year.

The system, which compares farms‘ performance with information gathered in the annual Farm Business Survey, will allow farmers to compare their businesses in detail with similar operations.

“One of the recommendations of the [Curry] report was that DEFRA provide some benchmarking information that farmers could access,” said Sir Don.

“With decoupling, the need for farmers to improve business skills is fundamental.

“This is a key development in that programme, and it will provide a valuable tool for farmers to manage their businesses even more effectively.”

DEFRA‘s Andrew Woodend, who project-managed the new system, said farmers would be better able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their businesses by comparing thenm to similar enterprises.

“The system draws on information from the Farm Business Survey, which looked at 2000 farms in England and is constructed to be a representative sample,” he said.

“Farmers using the service will be able to compare not just profits, but variable and fixed costs such as power and machinery, and labour.

“It will help farmers to make decisions on a more sound basis if used with other management advice, such as the Farm Business Advice Service.”

Consultant Keith leddington-Hill, of the Laurence Gould Partnership, said the information should not be used in isolation.

“Farmers should use it as a guide to see where cost structure might be different from similar-sized businesses, and then look into why. It‘s a useful guide, but not a definitive management tool in its own right.”

To see how your farm business measures up, visit www.farmbusinessbenchmark.defra.gov.uk.