A MAJOR new initiative aimed at helping farmers across Scotland improve productivity and increase uptake of new technologies and production methods was launched yesterday.
“Planning for Profit, a joint venture between Quality Meat Scotland, the National Farmers Union Scotland and the Scottish Skills Development Scheme, is designed to help livestock and mixed farmers raise their performance levels closer to those being achieved by top producers.
And although the scheme is of special relevance in the light of common agricultural policy (CAP) reform measures, it was claimed that the exercise would form part of an on-going drive to boost production at farm level – and to grow the industry on a national scale.
The £200,000 initiative will launch with aseries of meetings beginning next month giving advice on coping with the likely cuts in support measures and on improving farm profitability. This will be followed by a round of on-farm events over the summer and series of workshops next winter which will help producers look more closely at their own enterprises and to draw up plans for the future.
The organisers said that central to the exercise was the mantra “think, plan, do”, which was aimed at encouraging farmers to take a fresh look at their businesses, identify where opportunities might lie, plan how these opportunities could be developed and then to act on these plans.
“A lot of farmers find that they are often too busy to look at these important issues,” said QMS chairman and Crieff farmer Jim McLaren, speaking at the launch, “but putting some time aside to take an overview of where the business could be going is a first step in the right direction.”
“Our industry has fantastic brands like Scotch beef which has huge potential for growth in both the home and overseas markets but it is vital that we have increased supplies of product to meet demand,” said McLaren.
The initiative will be delivered jointly by the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), SAC Consulting – part of SRUC – and agricultural consultant Peter Cook.
Jim Booth, head of co-operative development with SAOS, said that over recent decades farmers in the US had increased productivity by an average of 2 per cent per year – yet output on Scottish farms had remained largely static.
“So our aim with this initiative is to encourage farmers to recognise the opportunities that are waiting for them and to help them draw up an action plan to grasp them,” he said.
Iain Riddell, principal consultant and regional manager with SAC Consulting, said that the use of well-respected and high-performing farmers would play a key role in delivering the underlying messages:
“As well as using farmers in our talks and open days, the production of a reference guide which gives case studies of how people have improved and adapted their own units ensures that farmers will have a handy, practical guide to help with their own plans,” he said.
A programme of events and booking details are available from QMS.