Ricardo is applying its expertise garnered from supporting over 30,000 farmers through running the Farming Advice Service for England and the Farm Advisory Service for Scotland, to deliver a future farming resilience programme to help improve long-term sustainability and profitability.
Ricardo, a global strategic environmental and engineering consulting company, has been selected by the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to deliver the two-and-a-half-year Future Farming Resilience Fund (FFRF). This programme supports farmers and land managers across England to become more resilient to challenges caused by COVID-19, extreme weather events and forthcoming changes to agricultural support, so that they can remain profitable and sustainable economically, environmentally and socially in the future. Ricardo has previously successfully delivered the initial and interim phases of the FFRF.
Ricardo’s programme is built around three key support pillars: environmental, financial and mental health aimed at enhancing the performance and building the resilience of England’s farming community. Ricardo will be advising farmers through environmental reviews to improve performance and resilience in response to challenges such as carbon sequestration, drought or flooding. In the process, this will help to reduce flood risks and greenhouse gas emissions, and improve water and air quality. Working with delivery partner The Andersons Centre, the leading consultancy for agriculture professionals, commercial and financial guidance will be given to farmers to help them to understand the impact of changing subsidies; review their business and better understand their own financial performance; successfully budget options for a viable future; and undertake succession and later life planning. Ricardo is also partnering with a farm community network to provide mental health, wellbeing and personal resilience support for farmers: helping those in crisis and advising on managing stress.
Dave Freeman, Associate Director, Agriculture at Ricardo said: “We are very pleased that Defra has entrusted Ricardo to deliver this Future Farming Resilience Fund programme which is going to bring tangible long-term benefit to farmers all across England by helping them prepare for the changes in agricultural policy during the Agricultural Transition and adapt to climate change. From its experience delivering the Farming Advice Service for England and Farm Advisory Service for Scotland which have benefited over 100,000 farmers through events and advice sessions, Ricardo is uniquely placed to give farmers the knowledge, confidence and support they need to embrace change, develop business plans and act to ensure a more resilient future for their business. We will support farmers to maintain their vital roles as environmental stewards and providers of secure food supplies for the nation.”
Edward Calcott from The Andersons Centre added: “This is a great opportunity for farmers to have some funded support to take stock of where their business is at present, compare it to others financially, and consider ways in which it can be improved. It is a flexible approach. We can help businesses look at the performance of current enterprises; understand overall viability in terms of profit versus their annual cash requirement and what might need to change to meet that; adopt the correct structure of long-term borrowing; establish joint ventures, and much more. Farmers who have been through the previous rounds have found the input invaluable.”
Uniquely, Ricardo is offering both programmatic support - in the form of webinars, podcasts, regional workshops and a self-help toolbox – as well as one-to-one advice for farmers. Bringing together these proven knowledge transfer and behavioural change techniques of one-to-many briefings, advice led one-to-one support and locally recognised facilitators and networks, and using expert business advisers, experts on environmental sustainability, plus the expertise of trained wellbeing case workers and local facilitators, will multiply the impact and success of these interventions, driving change more quickly.
Farmers not directly involved in the programme will also benefit from the knowledge as they learn useful skills from their peers directly involved in the project. Because the programme stimulates improvements in efficiency, for example: nutrient management, diversification, environmental opportunities, sustainable land and carbon management, other sectors of national economy will be positively affected. These sectors include: wider economic outputs through the supply chain, increased affluence within rural areas and increased investment in the rural economy.