Farm businesses can now access free consultancy advice to help them navigate the loss of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and the move to the Environmental Land Management scheme.
Defra’s Future Farming Resilience Fund (FFRF) has opened for applications, with free consultancy advice being offered through 19 providers across England.
The £10.7m fund is being delivered in different ways, with many providers offering a tailored approach including farm visits and detailed financial and professional advice individual to each business.
What’s on offer
Farmers Weekly spoke to some of the organisations offering the advice to find out about their different approaches.
Brown & Co
Brown & Co is offering one-to-one support, including a face-to-face meeting with a farm business consultant specialising in the sector, plus the opportunity for farmer-to-farmer sharing and learning through webinars and group sessions.
Consultants will assess opportunities through a resilience benchmark, which will assess farm businesses on six key parameters: performance, diversification, environmental, financial, social and income creation.
Greg Beeton, divisional partner at Brown & Co, said: “A key outcome across our work with more than 600 farmers in the pilot phase of this project was that most farmers gained more value from our one-to-one support and requested this focus in future work.”
JH Agri Consultancy will be offering advice designed for livestock farmers in the north of England.
James Hadwin, who runs the firm, aims to establish “where your business is now and your objectives for the future and, most importantly, where you and your team want to get to.”
Working alongside RJ Livestock Systems and Agri-food Technical Services, JH Agri will look at recent financial performance and highlight any areas it feels can be looked at to reduce reliance on direct support in its current format.
Mr Hadwin said: “We will consider flock and herd technical performance in order to highlight areas of strength or weakness and give clear recommendations of things to look at and focus on.”
Ceres Rural is offering a four-step business resilience report to highlight challenges and opportunities due to the removal of the BPS.
The stepped approach will include a farm visit by a consultant, collecting data and benchmarking, reporting the findings and offering recommendations.
The finished 10-section report will include a machinery and labour review, current business performance and environmental opportunities.
AHDB is using a more mainstream approach to offer advice to up to 4,000 farmers in England.
This will include an online farm business review tool, designed to help assess the implications for their businesses of the removal of direct payments and options for replacing that lost income.
A more tailored approach will also be available to 600 farmers, covering full farm benchmarking, environment and carbon auditing and an agribusiness appraisal.
How to apply
To apply, contact one of the 19 companies offering the scheme in your area and covering the relevant farm sector.
The full contact details and coverage of each provider can be found on the Defra website.
With farmers applying for the funding directly, they are not restricted from contacting more than one provider.
However, most will be operating on a first come, first served basis, so availability is limited.
Case study: Pilot scheme at Pear Tree farm
Tim Hankins farms at Pear Tree Farm, a 230ha tenanted mixed beef, sheep and arable farm in Northamptonshire.
Mr Hankins was selected to take part in Defra’s pilot scheme. After joining the scheme, an Andersons consultant arranged to visit, walk the farm, and look at its finances.
Off the back of the visit, Mr Hankins received a 48-page proposal outlining potential changes he could make to his farm business, as well as suggesting some diversification opportunities.
Mr Hankins said the consultation provided his business with free, good-quality advice that normally he would have to pay for.
It allowed him to have an open-minded view of the business from an outside perspective.
The business was able to benefit from the opportunity to look at the farm from a different angle and spot things that otherwise might have been missed.
“The review process gave me plenty of ideas and food for thought, so I can safeguard my family farm, produce food and look after the countryside for the future generations, and my family,” said Mr Hankins.