Minister urges farmers to apply for groups

Photo by Aaron McCracken/Harrisons
Photo by Aaron McCracken/Harrisons

With the application window for Business Development Groups closing in just two days, I would encourage farmers and growers to apply to the scheme before the closing date on Monday (14 December) at 4pm, writes Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle O’Neill.

Business Development Groups is the first programme to open under the Farm Business Improvement Scheme which is part-funded under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. Other schemes will open for applications in 2016.

Business Development Groups (BDG), which will use a group approach, aims to improve the technical and business efficiency of farm businesses.

Working in groups encourages farmers to learn from each other and has been proven to be very successful in other parts of the world. Independent research has shown that farmers in discussion groups were up to 20% more likely to adopt new technologies and best management practices and as a result, achieved higher profit margins.

Farmers will work in a group of 15 - 20 like-minded individuals from the same sector to improve the technical and business efficiency of their farm with the support of their group and their CAFRE Development Adviser.

Each BDG member will need to attend at least six training events per year, benchmark the performance of their business and produce a development plan tailored to their farm. They must also be willing to share farm performance information with other group members and host a group training event. BDG members will receive a payment of up to £490 per year to cover the cost of travel and to replace labour during training events plus additional funding if they host a farm visit. I can assure you that Business Development Groups are open to all farmers who are interested in improving the efficiency of their farm, working together, sharing ideas and learning how other farmers solve problems.

In these challenging times, Business Development Groups will help give farmers the skills to assess how their farm is performing and plan for the future development of their business.

For further information on Business Development Groups please visit the CAFRE website at http://www.cafre.ac.uk/business-development-groups, or alternatively call CAFRE on 028 9442 6770 or via e-mail at developmentservice.admin@dardni.gov.uk