October 1, 2008

North Expert Set to Help Farmers Work Together

By Sam Wood

AFAMILIAR face for many in the North East's agricultural sector will be helping farmers to collaborate on business ventures.

Doug Gray, who until recently looked after hundreds of Dairy Farmers of Britain members across Northumberland, County Durham, north Cumbria and Yorkshire, has been named as the North East's new regional manager with English Farming and Food Partnerships (EFFP).

Mr Gray will provide dedicated business support to groups of farmers who want to work together to improve their profitability and sustainability, and to existing farmer-controlled businesses across North East England. He will also be working with food, non-food and biofuels processors and manufacturers to increase the amount of produce they source direct from farms in the region.

He said: "These are particularly challenging times for many farmers with costs rising and uncertainty over future support.

"However, there are real efficiencies to be made by getting together with other land-based businesses, for example by collectively sourcing farm supplies more competitively or by spreading the risk of exploring new markets. My role is to bring businesses together and to help them action their ideas and plans."

The post is supported by One North-East as an extra resource to help farmers find ways of working together more closely and to develop their links with suppliers, new customers and retailers.

One NorthEast's rural policy and partnerships manager, Frances Rowe, said: "The farming sector makes an important contribution to the regional economy.

"But, as in all industries, farmers must continually look for new ways to maximise efficiency and productivity and to access new markets - particularly at such a challenging time for all businesses, coupled with the specific pressures presented by issues such as climate change and CAP reform."

Before joining EFFP, Doug managed Dairy Farmers of Britain membership with responsibility for 600 members across the North of England. His role included managing the member council and close involvement with the operational and commercial side of the business.

Doug is from a mixed family farm in Northumberland which produces store cattle, lamb and arable crops.

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