Farmers should be rewarded for gaining skills

Farmers could soon get recognition for investing time in continuous professional development, according to Roger Lewis, chairman of the Next Generation Dairy Board (NGDB).

Farmers should be rewarded for gaining skills and knowledge, and a system could be developed where farmers gained points for a range of activities, such as attendance at discussion group meetings, courses and on-farm events, said Mr Lewis.

Points could be added to a credit card-style data capture device presented at these events. Farmers would pay a minimal annual membership fee, he said.

Mr Lewis, who runs a dairy farm in Pembrokeshire, saw the idea as a means of giving farming an extra tier of professionalism.

“There is a lot of continuous professional development in farming, but this is not being recognised in any way.

“We have to be professional to make farming work these days, but I don’t think we are always perceived as professionals in the eyes of the public.”

He believed there was also scope for processors or retailers to pay scheme members a premium for their produce.

The initiative is currently at a scoping stage, but Mr Lewis hopes to see it introduced within the next 12 months. If it does go ahead, Mr Lewis said it will be the board’s single biggest achievement since joining the NGDB.

The board was created by the NFU to engage the next generation of dairy farmers. It has now come to the end of its pilot period and may be replaced by a new cross-sector young farmer national board.

NFU dairy board chairman, Mansel Raymond, said he had been encouraged and impressed by the level of enthusiasm and understanding.

“The board members have shown they are keen to influence what is going on in the sector and to get involved with the NFU. Most are already managing complex dairy businesses and will be the workforce of the future,” he said.

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