New national advisory service launched for farmers and crofters

Scotland’s new Farm Advisory Service (FAS) launches today. The FAS forms part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) which is co-funded by the EU and Scottish Government.

The £20m contract was awarded earlier this year to SAC Consulting (part of Scotland’s Rural College) and Ricardo Energy and Environment. It runs until the end of December 2020.

Today, the new FAS website goes live (www.fas.scot) along with a dedicated telephone advice line for farmers and crofters (0300 323 0161). The service will expand over the coming weeks and months into a comprehensive delivery package of practical information and advice to farmers and crofters across Scotland.

The website will be a source of data and information, tools and apps, all designed to be relevant to modern farming and crofting enterprises. At its centre is a calendar of events that will detail all of the workshops, network farm meetings, conferences and training courses that will be planned and delivered as part of the FAS.

The website also hosts the entry point for grant applications for Integrated Land Management Plans (ILMP); Specialist Advice; Mentoring for New Entrants; and Carbon Audits. Application forms can now be downloaded from the website which provide access to up to £2,200 grant assistance for ILMP and £500 for carbon audits.

The advice line operates between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, covering a wide variety of topics including cross compliance, water framework directive requirements, climate change and many other technical issues.

Another feature of the new FAS is the Crofter and Small Farm Advisory Service. This will provide discounted subscription and consultancy services for crofters and farming businesses (under 30 Ha) across Scotland. Full details are available on the FAS website (https://www.fas.scot/crofters-small-farms). Information will also be on hand at the Scottish Smallholder Festival in Lanark on 24 September.

The website, the advice line, the grant schemes and the discounted consultancy services are just the start. As the resources and events grow, the FAS approach will be to address not just business efficiency and viability but climate change and environment, as well as compliance and greening in an integrated manner that provides sustainable and practical advice.

Welcoming the start to the new service, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, commented:

“Access to the best and most up-to-date advice is essential to any business. Aimed specifically at farmers and crofters across Scotland, I welcome the launch of the new integrated Farm Advisory Service, which will provide a faster and less complicated entry point to a range of relevant practical advice, information and tools from business efficiency and viability to compliance and climate change advice.”

NFU Scotland’s Director of Policy, Jonnie Hall said: “The real need for relevant and accessible advice for all of Scottish agriculture has come into sharp focus over the last eighteen months. Looking forward, every active farmer and crofter in Scotland will need to look more closely at what they do and how they do it. That makes an effective and seamless advisory service essential. NFU Scotland fully supports the development and roll out of the new Farm Advisory Service, and encourages all farmers and crofters to make the most of the new approaches, tools and techniques it has to offer.”

The Scottish Crofting Federation’s Director Brendan O’Hanrahan said: “We are reassured that the basic network of SAC local offices, offering skilled and experienced one-to-one advice backed-up by intimate knowledge of the local area is remaining as the backbone of the advisory service. As ever, local delivery is key. We welcome the provision of an expanded programme of information meetings, new entrants’ workshops and events on issues such as cross-compliance and biodiversity. The new FAS will result in better coordination across the country and a wider range of useful advisory material will be made more accessible.”

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