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Farming Connect awards new contracts to enhance service
The contracts will take effect later this month and run for up to three years.
Farming Connect Climate Change Development Programme
This new contract has been awarded jointly to Bangor University and IBERS (the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences which is part of Aberystwyth University). The Welsh Assembly Government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and land use by 3% per year from 2011 and this programme will review existing research, available information and market opportunities and transfer this knowledge to Welsh farmers. This will ensure that farmers are able to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change in a way which has a cost-benefit to their business, enabling them to take advantage of business opportunities as a result.
Farming Connect Skills Development Programme
This contract, currently operated in-house by Farming Connect, has been awarded to Lantra, the Sector Skills Council for the environmental and land-based sector.
The aim of this programme is to provide training for individuals who work in the farming and forestry sectors to improve working practices, comply with legislation and to encourage diversification. A team of three regionally based skills co-ordinators will offer assessments to identify knowledge and skills gaps within the business as well as co-ordinating and managing the delivery of training from an approved list of providers.
Farming Connect Whole Farm Plan
Farming Connect has increased the number of approved mentors to deliver Whole Farm Plans. The mentors will help produce a comprehensive plan tailored to the needs of individual farmers/producers which could include technical advice, environmental protection and enhancement and business planning. The extended list of mentors now includes specialists in horticultural production, organic farming, alternative energy, woodland management/expansion and animal health planning.
Farming Connect communications contract
A Farming Connect communications contract has been awarded to StrataMatrix, the Aberystwyth and Cardiff based public relations and communications company, which will include promoting the range of Farming Connect services and raising its profile at a regional and local level throughout Wales.
Farming Connect, which launched its new range of services in July 2008, has already registered or re-registered over 2,000 farm and forestry businesses which are improving profitability and on-farm efficiency by tapping into subsidised services including one-to-one support for business planning and technical advice under the new Whole Farm Plan scheme; the Farm Advisory Service which helps farmers reduce the risk of breaching cross compliance regulations, and the Skills Development Programme which provides both practical and regulation-linked training.
All eligible farm and forestry businesses which have registered with Farming Connect since last July can claim back 50% of the costs of all the above, while businesses with Young Entrant status, i.e. where one partner is under the age of 40 years at the time of application, are entitled to claim back 80% of the costs for the Whole Farm Plan and Farm Advisory Service.
Many other services, including all the Farming Connect Development Programmes, are fully subsidised. Farming Connect is funded through the Rural Development Plan 2007-2013, which is financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Assembly Government.