Defra has pushed back the next phase of the Future Farming Resilience Fund, which offers free support and advice to help farm businesses cope with the reduction in Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) income.
The scale-up phase, previously set to begin in April next year, is now expected to run from late 2022.
Free advice still available
Farm businesses in England have less than three months left to apply for free support through the current interim phase.
Spaces remain available, and Defra is encouraging farmers in England to sign up to the free advice.
There are 19 providers under the scheme, with a range of offerings to suit different sectors and businesses, including one-to-one support, benchmarking and technical performance.
The interim phase of the future farming resilience fund was launched in August 2021 and is set to close in March 2022. This phase has capacity for up to 9,000 farmers, but in October only 1,200 farm businesses had taken up the scheme, according to Defra.
The providers involved in running the interim scheme are reporting varying uptakes, with many of them still having spaces available.
Andrew Powley, team leader at Defra, said: “Different providers offer different kinds of support, in different sectors. Many of them offer one to-one consultations and farm visits, followed by recommendations in a report. Others provide workshops, webinars, tours and networking opportunities to help farmers get support from their peers.”
“We previously said we would run the scale-up phase from April 2022, but we are now looking at a revised go-live date and will let you know when further information is available.”
One of the bodies offering the free business advice is the Landworkers Alliance (LWA). The alliance is urging farmers to join the scheme and take up the free one-to-one advice.
The LWA is working alongside the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association and the Organic Research Centre to support up to 500 farm businesses.
Hatty Richards, LWA farming future advice co-ordinator, said: “We really encourage sign-ups from farmers who have never had a chance – or perhaps the inclination – to look at the benefits of incorporating aspects of agro-ecological farming.”
Oxfordshire arable farmer Matthew Izod said: “I joined the Your Farming Future programme to explore new ideas of how we could improve our farming business and to look for ideas that would help us with our transition out of BPS support.
“I’m so glad I branched out of conventional arable networks, as I’ve been inspired in ways I would never have thought about otherwise.
“On my first farm visit with the LWA, another farmer advised me to graze sheep over the winter, a time of year that’s quieter for arable farmers. I’m really looking forward to exploring and implementing that idea and more when my personal adviser visits my farm.”
Mr Izod said there are lot of great resources, with the one-to-one advice, webinars, farm visits and peer-to-peer groups offering a massive boost.
The AHDB’s business resilience tool is a free online self-assessment tools that is available for any farm business to use. The online tool includes a BPS calculator, business resilience assessment and key performance indicator calculator.
Further support is also available for 4,000 eligible farm businesses in England through the farm business review service, which offers more tailored in-depth advice from consultants.