Sunset over fields and sea

Free support expanded in the South West to help our farmers

Farmers and landowners in the region can now access help to adapt to changes in agricultural grants, thanks to a £2.6 million support programme.

Following the success of earlier phases of the Future Farming Resilience Fund, Devon County Council has received Defra money to expand the initiative to cover Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The project will help farmers, land managers and their families understand the changes and adapt to the gradual phasing out of Basic Payments, which will end altogether in 2027.

The new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme which replaces it will encourage farmers to focus on sustainable farming practices, encourage biodiversity and create new habitats for wildlife.

According to Defra, 65% of South West farm businesses are at risk of closure due to low profitability and high reliance on Direct Payments, so the Future Farming Resilience programme will play a vital role in promoting the government support available.

To help with the transition, Okehampton-based enterprise agency Business Information Point will be leading the support alongside other providers, through a range of local workshops, webinars and tailored, one-to-one advice. They have been supporting farmers locally for more than 25 years and have worked on the earlier stages of the project.

More than 350 farm businesses have already received one-to-one help and 740 farmers and landowners have attended Agricultural Transition information workshops.

The workshops, held in local venues throughout the region, help farmers and land managers understand the impact of reductions to direct payments and explore ways to mitigate these reductions as the payments wind down.

Topics include business diversification, productivity, new grant schemes and succession planning and include the chance to ask questions and discuss issues with experienced agricultural advisors.

In addition to the information workshops, Business Information Point will also be running small group webinars across the region which will provide a chance to explore and discuss individual topics in more detail.

Topics up for discussion include farming grant opportunities, using environmental schemes to generate income and the benefit of woodland creation.

One-to-one consultancy

Those who attend the workshops will be offered one-to-one business support assessing the impact the reduction in Direct Payments will have on their business.

Farmers will also be able to access free, one-to-one support with a local network of highly experienced agricultural advisors.

This will provide an opportunity to explore the options available, including a detailed and thorough, independent investigation of all farming and business activities, either remotely or in-person, to develop an agreed and documented action plan.

Digital and technology support

Honiton-based digital agency and social enterprise, Cosmic, will be supporting farmers and land managers to improve their digital skills throughout the programme.

This will include free workshops, as well as one-to-one advice and training to help build digital confidence and enable the better management and day-to-day running of the farm business.

This could include making applications and requesting payments for Sustainable Farming Incentive agreements, submitting tax online to HMRC or promoting a diversified farm using social media, Google or paid online advertising.

The support is open to any farmers or land managers based in Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly currently in receipt of BPS payments.