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East Anglian farmers will benefit from a new project, funded through Defra’s Resilience Programme, which aims to develop sugar beet farming systems in the future.
The Soils for Sugar Project will boost growth through reviewing and benchmarking general cropping business performance in the east of England. The analysis will include financial performance and how participants manage their natural capital.
It will provide practical guidance on how to respond to the changes highlighted in the Agricultural Transition Plan, the impact of climate change and requirements to reduce carbon emissions.
Creating new opportunity
Between now and 2027, Defra will reduce and, eventually, stop direct support payments. This means farm businesses will no longer receive broadacre subsidies. Coupled with the uncertainty over climate change, it is essential that sugar beet growers manage land to become more sustainable and develop new commercial income streams for their businesses.
Anglia Rural Consultants (ARC), the University of Cambridge’s Rural Business Unit, Suffolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and Wright Solutions have created a unique partnership to support sugar beet growers in Suffolk and Norfolk.
This experienced team of experts, led by Jamie Gwatkin, a rural business consultant, sugar beet specialist, ARC member and your group administrator – have a mission: to provide professional advice and support to the participants, through this free, tailor-made programme that will help growers demonstrate their sustainability credentials and build greater viability for the future.
Funded entirely by Defra, the Soils for Sugar Project will run from July 2021 to February 2022 and includes:
- Provision of a benchmarking analysis to identify the needs of participants. This service will quantify any business issues and provide valuable recommendations to improve the farm business.
- One to one advice from expert rural business advisers, to help create a business plan which will improve productivity, resilience, and sustainability.
- A programme of inspiring webinars, face-to-face seminars and workshops providing in-depth knowledge on important topics such as Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and Environmental Land Management (ELM) rules, soil management, biodiversity and carbon counting, as well as grant funding opportunities to aid diversification and productivity.
- An action plan which can be used to support future productivity grant applications.
Aims of the programme
The project will support the participating farm businesses through one-to-one and group topic-based seminars to achieve sustainable, long term viability through:
- Providing a financial benchmarking service delivered by the Rural Business Unit (RBU) at the University of Cambridge, using the Defra-funded Farm Business Survey.
- Providing an environmental assessment developed by Suffolk FWAG on how participants manage natural capital and biodiversity across their holdings.
- Improving productivity through the better management of soils in conjunction with Philip Wright.
- Seeking to identify best practice for sugar beet production in the area, with particular respect to the protection of soils.
- Developing ways of preserving natural capital (as a minimum), improving biodiversity, and identifying ways of carbon counting.
- Identifying alternative opportunities and income streams.
- Identifying future revenue grant funding.
- Providing the 'golden ticket' for future capital grant funding.
The programme will also enable sugar beet growers across the two counties to forge even stronger links and develop new contacts, sharing valuable knowledge and expertise.