July 21, 2016
Vulnerable farm businesses across the UK are to benefit from a major new scheme launched today by The Prince’s Countryside Fund. Supported by HRH The Prince of Wales, the charity’s Patron, the Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme aims to provide business support and one-to-one guidance to 300 farm businesses each year across the UK, as well as giving them the tools to evaluate their viability and long-term sustainability.
Building on the success of The Prince’s Dairy Initiative which has helped strengthen the UK dairy supply chain since 2012, the £1.5 million five-year programme developed by The Prince’s Countryside Fund launches during National Countryside Week following research earlier this month which showed a steep decline in the number of small family farms.
Small and medium sized family farms have experienced unprecedented strain and in 2015, the average farm income fell below £20,000 for the first time since 2007. Their ability to survive economically is now so challenged that one in five are unable to pay their short term debts. In response, many are fighting the tide through innovation and diversifying their businesses into new areas such as leisure and tourism.
Now, a national steering group of industry experts has joined together with a wide range of local and specialist organisations to deliver business management workshops, develop online resources and deliver 15 sustainable local networks of farm businesses to improve efficiency and increase profitability on farms.
Speaking about the launch of the programme, The Prince of Wales said: “The small farms which have been such an integral part of Britain’s landscape for thousands of years are under threat. My Farm Resilience Programme is designed to respond to those threats by helping up to 300 hard to reach, vulnerable farm businesses. It is the most far-reaching programme ever offered by my Countryside Fund.”
Claire Saunders, director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund said: “There has never been a more important time for practical action to help farm businesses. On top of the everyday problems for farmers, new and more life changing decisions are now required. Small farms add vibrancy and strength to rural communities and ensure that we have a diverse farming sector.
“By offering this programme we will provide many farmers with new skills to cope with the increasing financial, technical and human challenges faced by family businesses. The ultimate target has to be ensuring that we retain a varied and viable farming sector and nurture an essential part of our national identity by helping farms to make the most of their business.”
In a bid to respond to contemporary challenges and identify ways to increase the viability of family farming, a recent report by the Fund proposed a series of 17 recommendations which include:
Improvements to financial management, technical knowledge and market knowledge
A need to upskill through targeted advice and training as well as encouraging farmers to share best practice and analyse success.
Improve economic resilience by shortening the supply chain and increasing profits.
Invest in succession planning and develop initiatives to attract new blood into agriculture.
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