“Pick up the phone, we’re here to help” is the offer from Farming Connect as it steps up fully-funded online or telephone support during the coronavirus pandemic.

In response to the restrictions in force due to the coronavirus pandemic, Farming Connect has arranged a number of one-to-one surgeries, which are fully funded for registered individuals.

“Whatever concerns you have about your business, this is not the time to shoulder your worries in silence, we will find you an expert who will listen to you and provide the confidential guidance and support you need either over the phone or digitally,” said Eirwen Williams, director of rural programmes with Menter a Busnes.

“If you call the Farming Connect Service Centre in the morning and explain what you need, we will do our best to match up your enquiry or concern with an appropriate expert the same day and quite often, you will have the support you need from one of our approved consultants within a matter of hours,” said Mrs Williams.

She added that if any eligible farmers or foresters are not already registered with Farming Connect, this is a speedy process which can also be done over the phone by calling the service centre on 08456 000 813.

The surgeries, all provided over the phone or digitally, are scheduled to continue until Farming Connect’s ‘normal’ face-to-face service provision can resume.

Each will usually last approximately one hour per individual.

They can cover topics ranging from regulatory compliance matters and business management – which can include for example legal, accountancy, planning and succession advice – to animal health and technical topics, managing people and diversification projects.

Mrs Williams explained that the current coronavirus restrictions mean many farmers and foresters are feeling more isolated than ever, and this can have a huge effect on both their mental and physical health.

She urges the industry to make sure they seek the support they are entitled to.

“If you don’t know where to turn, turn to Farming Connect, today!” she said.

“No farmer or forester should be suffering in silence at this challenging time, and even if your particular issue doesn’t fall into any of the surgery categories we’ve already identified as key areas where concerns are often rife, we have the capability and resources to react quickly and find you the expert guidance you need.”

Keith Owen, a director of rural consultancy Kebek, is a well-known environmental consultant who specialises in farm business infrastructures and regulatory compliance.

Keith says that this new Farming Connect service is already proving hugely beneficial for many farmers who are concerned about issues such as the new environmental regulations due to come into force this autumn.

Mr Owen says that for many farmers, their worries can be addressed more economically than they think.

“I am getting calls from farmers, signposted to us by Farming Connect, who are clearly worried and don’t know who to turn to for confidential and practical advice.

“Many are concerned about the impact of the new control of agricultural pollution regulations and achieving cross compliance.

“Farmers we talk to are often looking for a completely confidential conversation that can pave the way for finding economical and practical solutions that give them a way forward.”

Mr Owen added that professional guidance can provide solutions to their problems and show that the steps they can take don’t necessarily result in an increased financial burden.

This support sometimes includes talking to regulatory authorities on the farmer’s behalf which also helps give them peace of mind.

If you would like to book a place for a Farming Connect one-to-one surgery, call the Farming Connect Service Centre on 08456 000 813. Alternatively, for further information, contact your local development officer.