Industry helps to Match-Make UK Shearers and Contractors The UK sheep industry is facing a difficult shearing season, as the Covid-19 crisis makes it highly unlikely that the usual influx of highly skilled overseas shearers will be able to travel to the UK. It is vitally important, to safeguard the health and welfare of the […]
Coronavirus Guidance goes Public
The NAAC has made its Coronavirus Guidance public to try and keep the industry safe and contractors working in the current crisis.
Commenting, Jill Hewitt, Chef Executive said: “It is vital that the industry can work together and it is no longer appropriate to limit important information, as we also need farmers to read this guidance to try and keep themselves, staff and contractors safe in the current crisis”.
Agricultural contractors have a dual role in this emergency to keep everyone protected, whilst providing necessary operations to farmers in the essential provision of food for the nation. Over 90% of farmers use a contractor and many will not be able to manage without their services in coming months, for key operations such as drilling, spraying, mobile feed mixing and even sheep shearing.’
The guidance emphasises the need to work in partnership with farmers to take all necessary precautions, whilst avoiding direct contact wherever possible.
Whilst many farmers can remain ‘home-working’, contractors will need to move about, particularly following the desperately wet autumn, and it will be vital to many farmers that they can still access contractor’s specialist services and labour – particularly if farm staff need time off. It will be critical to share resources and work together to get crops in the ground and maintain high standards of animal welfare.
Notes for Editors
1. Formed in 1893, the NAAC is the representative organisation for agricultural and amenity contractors in the UK who supply all types of land-based services to farmers, government, local authorities, sports and recreational facilities.
2. For further information contact: Jill Hewitt, CEO at National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) Tel: 07889 511245, email@example.com.
Amid reports that the Chancellor may remove rebated fuel next week in the budget, the NAAC has the following statement:
Agricultural contractors rely heavily on red diesel to supply essential farming operations to land managers and it is vital that this exemption is retained to maintain food production.
In times of huge uncertainty, alongside a wet autumn, the industry is already struggling with financial reserves and the removal of the lower fuel duty would be a devastating blow that could push many contracting businesses to fail. By almost doubling fuels costs this would potentially add hundreds of thousands of pounds of input costs each year which is currently unsustainable.
There is no commercial, alternative ‘green’ fuel to replace diesel in agricultural machinery, removing any choice for the industry to switch fuels.
Contractors are effectively farmers without land and they are now an integral and essential part of the vast majority of farm businesses.
Jill Hewitt has been appointed to CEO of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC), following the retirement of Duncan Russell.
Jill has a wealth of previous experience having previously run the organisation from 2000-2013, before a family crisis forced her to step down. However, she remained active in the organisation, being retained as a consultant and leading the NAAC’s political and technical work in the interim.
Commenting Jill said, ‘I am delighted to be back at the helm of the NAAC at such a critical time for the land-based industry. With over 90% of farmers using a contractor it is vital that the NAAC is at the forefront of political negotiations to ensure that we are properly recognised in a post-Brexit era.
To make certain contractors have a bright future, we need the industry to be united and represent ourselves as professionals, demanding fair and equal treatment at Government level to allow us to invest in the new technology and innovation coming our way.
My aim is to retain a high political profile for the industry, whilst also making certain that members can rest easy at night, confident they have all the information and back-up they need to sustain a legally compliant, safe and professional business.’
Jill is a Fellow of the Institute of Agricultural Management and is a Churchill Scholar.
The Land Drainage Contractors Association (LDCA) has merged with the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) to form a stronger political voice for land drainage contractors. Forming a new section of the NAAC, the contractors will reap the benefits of being part of a larger organisation, whilst retaining and consolidating their lobbying power.
Originally part of the NAAC, the LDCA broke away in 1984 but, as the industry has changed, positive agreement has been reached to re-unite the sector and go full circle back into the NAAC fold.
Commenting, Nigel Wyatt, new Chairman of the new NAAC Land Drainage section said, ‘It’s a huge positive step for land drainage contractors to amalgamate with the NAAC. Membership of the Association will bring us each additional individual benefits and industry credibility. I am looking forward to a new partnership and becoming integrated within the Association.’
Numerous issues are now firmly on the NAAC Land Drainage radar including endorsing the benefits of land drainage to increase crop yields and mitigate flood risk. The sector will be engaging with Defra to ensure that messages are reinforced and the professionalism of the sector is promoted.
‘With an estimated 90% of drainage work in the UK carried out by contractors, this is an important area for the NAAC,’ said Duncan Russell, NAAC Chief Executive. ‘We will be putting on training courses and technical seminars and updating and guidance and Codes of Best Practice on land drainage. All will be available soon on the NAAC website.’
Tenders that had stipulated LDCA members should also now be reviewed to specify NAAC Land Drainage contractors. All members agree to comply with the NAAC Code of Conduct and insurance requirements. In addition, the NAAC will be publishing specific guidance on land drainage.
The National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) is delighted to announce that international sheep shearers will be able to enter the UK this year, in a time-limited window, providing a vital source of professional and experienced staff to assist UK contractors in removing the wool of millions of sheep this summer.
A special Home Office concession will continue to allow this very specific group of non-visa nationals to travel to the UK, particularly coming from Australia and New Zealand, between 1 April and 30 June. All those entering will only be allowed to stay for a three month maximum period (i.e. the latest expiry of leave would be 30 September), after which they are required to leave.
Commenting, Jill Hewitt Technical Consultant at the NAAC said, ‘it is important that shearers overseas know that they are welcomed by the UK and that contractors can assist them in organising their paperwork to join the shearing teams, with minimal hassle and cost.
We have continued to work with the Home Office and are pleased that UK shearing contractors can continue to access this source of expertise. Shearing is a highly skilled, physical task, and we rely on the additional labour from overseas to compliment UK teams and ensure that the national flock can be shorn professionally and efficiently. Adult sheep must be sheared each year to reduce the risk of external parasites and heat stress and it is important this is done compassionately to protect the welfare of the animals.’
Shearers arriving in the UK in 2019 will need to satisfy an immigration officer they are here, for a temporary period, to be employed as a sheep shearer. The NAAC is supplying its members with the necessary paperwork to smooth the entry process and is requesting that the NAAC is notified of all shearers visiting the UK so that rapid assistance can provided if any issues arise at customs.
Specific entry requirements include:
- The applicant is genuinely seeking entry for the purpose of undertaking employment, or providing services, as a sheep shearer, and must supply an appropriate contract of employment and
- The applicant will be able to maintain and accommodate himself without recourse to public funds, and
- The applicant will leave the UK at the end of their stay, and
- The applicant arrives in the UK for this purpose between 1 April and 30 June.
For further information contact:
Jill Hewitt, NAAC Technical Consultant Tel: 07889 511245 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Issued by: Springtime Consultancy
11 January 2019
Seed Processors take responsible approach to Erucic acid
The National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) mobile seed processors are taking a responsible approach to erucic acid testing in oil seed rape, continuing to encourage growers to test seed before farm saving. This comes after an NAAC pilot scheme in 2018, which highlighted a minority of seed samples intended for farm saving that had a high level of erucic acid; the results of which allowed growers to take informed decisions on whether or not to go ahead with processing and drilling, helping to minimise the risk of any additional financial penalty in the marketed crop.
The presence of high erucic acid levels in double zero varieties continues to cause problems for growers and crushers of oilseed rape. There are a number of possible reasons for this including previously having grown HEAR, weed contamination and possible links to levels in seed. Whilst it is not a safety concern for most consumers, oilseed rape contracts stipulate a maximum of 2% erucic acid and, currently, loads are rejected over 5%, with those between 2% and 5% incurring price penalties. There also remains an imminent threat that the European Commission may tighten up food standard to a maximum 2%, so it is important that farmers and seed processors get this problem under control and it is acknowledged that not testing seed batches prior to farm saving may exacerbate the problem.
In 2018 NAAC mobile seed processors encouraged growers to test oil seed rape before saving, with some achieving a 100% level of erucic acid testing. This voluntary testing scheme is to be extended into 2019, aiming to get all seed tested before farm saving to help growers tackle and stamp out the problem.
The NAAC has also published guidance on farm saving oil seed rape, in partnership with the NFU, which is available at www.naac.co.uk/industry-information/. The guidance highlights further the importance of testing and advises growers on growing, managing and testing seed prior to farm saving.
Commenting, Robert White, NAAC Mobile Seed Vice-Chairman said, ‘Mobile seed processors see themselves as part of the solution to this problem – helping their customers make well informed business decisions. Our growers will not thank us if we don’t highlight any potential issues at an early stage. It might cost us a contract or two but we must take a long term view that what is good for our customers will ultimately be better for us.’
Testing for erucic acid is now common and usually costs around £50-£60 per test and results are back within a week. Mobile seed processors will be able to offer and organise the testing service so that growers can make an educated decision from a position of knowledge. Farm saving oil seed rape is still a very cost-effective method of getting quality seed in the ground and testing for erucic acid should be viewed as a positive way of ensuring good crop management.
Attached: Copy of NAAC Guidance on Erucic Acid if Farm Saving Oil Seed Rape 2019
For more information please contact: Jill Hewitt, NAAC Technical Consultant on 07889 511245.
Issued by: Springtime Consultancy.
Calling all NAAC members!
Join us for a fun, informative and social weekend in Shakespeare’s County 15th-17th February 2019.
Full itinerary and prices can be obtained from Head Office – please call us on 01780 784631.
Agricultural contracting is an industry full of innovative individuals, always looking for the next opportunity, whilst supplying farmers with a source of skilled labour, high capital cost machinery and professional services, effectively operating as ‘farmers without land’.
It is estimated that 91% of UK farms now use a contractor, with National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) figures suggesting that contractors apply 70% of slurry, harvest 85% of sugar beet and buy 98% of self-propelled forage harvesters.
Contracting can take a number of formats from businesses offering individual specialist farming services (such as drilling, harvesting or crop spraying, either uniquely or as a package); to more complex contract, whole farm and joint farming arrangements. All have become an integral and important part of farm business management.
So where do you start if looking to become an agricultural contractor?
According to Charles Baker, Managing Director of R C Baker Ltd and NAAC Chairman, ‘Contracting can be a viable option for enterprising new entrants, providing they go in with their eyes open, do the right research and ensure there is a market for the services proposed. Commitment is essential from clients, ideally for five years if whole farm contracting, to allow for confident investment in new machinery and labour.’
‘Getting the costings right is then a vital step to make it work. Overheads can be crippling and, with machinery replacement costs escalating at 5-6% each year, it is critical that jobs are carefully calculated to make certain that capital is wisely invested and a return is possible. If it doesn’t pay, why are you doing it?’
NAAC’s Top Tips when starting out as a Contractor
- Identify a market for your services, before you invest in machinery. Try not to just offer the same services as your local, already established, contractors – a niche market is ideal. Competition is healthy but if your local contractor has loyal customers you may struggle to get work unless you seriously undercut and that is usually dangerously unsustainable (see below).
- Know your costs. Make sure they are your costs as everyone’s business and aspirations are unique and be certain you account for everything including labour (and yes that includes your time if self-employed), depreciation, fuel, maintenance, tyres etc.
Account for ‘dead time’ when you are not directly earning money. As a contractor, especially if employing staff, you can have considerable time travelling or doing repairs and maintenance work, or standing in the yard waiting for better weather.
Costs need to be worked out to know the rate each job needs to be charged to break even. A margin must then be added. You should not be tempted to under-cut other contractors just to gain swathes of hectares as it can quickly degenerate to just a short-term numbers game. Vast amounts of hectares worked mean little if there is no profit or income to reinvest, making the business unsustainable and inevitably fail.
3.Invoice promptly. There is nothing to be gained by doing 60+ hours a week in the tractor seat if your paperwork is weeks out-of-date and invoices are not being sent out. Your business will not survive without income as you will continue to be billed for finance, fuel etc. Prompt invoicing is a sign of a well-organised, professional business. If there is the opportunity, get invoices out as soon a job is completed. If you are too busy, consider getting outside help to keep on top of the paperwork.
4.Chase payment. Your customers will expect to pay when a professional job is completed. A creditor’s money is a far cheaper source of cash flow to a contractor than a loan from the bank!
5.Get Properly Insured. Inevitably things can go wrong and it is necessary to be properly insured for the operations you carry out. We all make mistakes but in contracting these can be expensive.
6.Be Safe. Working alone for long hours can be a perilous occupation, both mentally and physically. Don’t take risks, as the time saving will never be worth the price you pay by cutting corners on safety for you or your employees. Get ahead on the health and safety paperwork before the physical workload becomes too pressured, as it is important to keep up-to-date, be well aware and avoid risks.
7.Be well-informed and enjoy it! Contracting has the potential to prove a fantastic way of life if you are forward thinking and take a professional approach. Take the opportunity to network with other contractors and get as much information on legislation, safety and technical issues as you can absorb. Join the NAAC to keep up-to-date on contracting issues, giving you access to a range of services such as a transport helpline and member’s health and safety package. Get involved with meetings and training events to be social, keep you well informed and keep looking ahead to new innovative ideas and technology.
No Excuses – When it comes to Safety
Time never stands still for agricultural contractors. The British weather keeps them under constant pressure and there is always another customer waiting for them to arrive. Maintaining a professional service can be difficult when working long hours, whilst managing a team of operators working in a variety of locations.
However, it is vital that safety remains a top priority when planning work and organising machinery and staff, as there can never be any excuse for cutting corners.
Prior training for the team will stand the business in good stead, but it is important to have regular refreshers to make sure that standards don’t slip if work pressure increases. Machinery must be kept in roadworthy condition at all times and operators must be instructed to take care to switch off before any repairs or unblocking is carried out. Whilst it may be tempting to save a few precious seconds the consequences can be devastating. In addition, it is important that each new customer supplies instructions about potential hazards to avoid ‘accidents’.
Whilst not an exciting prospect to implement, high standards of health and safety must be a top priority for every contracting operation and the NAAC has been assisting its membership, with a free package available to all members. This gives them detailed instruction to put together their own tailored records, alongside free access to a health and safety consultant, encouraging businesses to take responsibility and ownership of their own safety procedures.
We have all seen the statistics in the press that farming has the highest fatality rate per head of workers. We read far too regular reports of deaths in our industry, indiscriminately claiming the lives of children, parents, husbands, wives and grandparents, yet it seems we may be becoming immune to these horrifying facts.
We are expert at absolving the blame, taking a somewhat macho attitude to safety, convincing ourselves it’s because we work alone, or have an ageing workforce or perhaps that we are under work stress and therefore cutting corners is acceptable? Well it really isn’t. For those families that have suffered the trauma of losing a loved one, or a valued member of the team, no amount of time saved will have been worth it.
Accidents do happen, but not at the rate of shocking statistics we see in agriculture. It is time to stop making excuses and take full responsibility. Contractors can lead the way, setting an example with professional standards and making certain that they work in partnership with customers.
We urgently need to encourage new entrants to farming and so we must take proactive steps to equip everyone with the confidence to question unsafe practices and make our industry a much safer place to work.
Jill Hewitt is the Technical Consultant at the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) and has worked alongside agricultural contractors for eighteen years.
For further information contact:
Jill Hewitt, NAAC Technical Consultant Tel: 07889 511245 email: email@example.com
Charles Baker – New NAAC Chairman
Looking ahead and seeking new opportunities has been key to Oxfordshire-based contractor Charles Baker’s business and, as newly voted in Chairman of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC), his forward-thinking approach will be vital in tackling the current challenges facing the industry.
‘In my term, my aim is to significantly increase NAAC membership, as the best way to represent our sector is to have a strong and powerful voice,’ commented Mr Baker. ‘Inclusion in the political arena, particularly at this crucial point in agricultural history, is so important and I cannot emphasis enough to other contractors the importance of getting involved and pushing our sector in front of politicians and the Government. We are a professional and vital part of the agricultural industry, with an estimated 91% of farmers using our services and it is crucial that we can be formally recognised as ‘farmers without land’, having become an integral part of farm business management.’
‘We must stand together, united as professionals, and be enabled and financially supported through changing agricultural policy so that contractors can feel confident to invest and take brave but well-thought out decisions to support the farming industry, bringing forward new technology and machinery, alongside skilled and trained staff.’
In his own family run business, R C Baker Limited, Mr Baker is no stranger to innovation and, since the company’s formation in 1974, he has strived to offer new services to his customers, always on the lookout for productive and profitable opportunities that can add value to his farmer customers. Niche markets have been important to the business and, following the dairy industry crash in the early 90’s, when almost half of the silage business was lost overnight, restructuring was necessary which saw R C Baker diversify into plastic recycling, environmental work and, later, establishing itself as a specialist in the application of organic fertilisers, importing the UK’s very first Xerion/Kaweco tanker in 2008. In 2009 this growth and achievement was recognised when RC Baker Ltd won the coveted Farmers Weekly Contractor of the Year Award.
Today, Mr Baker works closely with his children Christopher, Stephen and Jennie as they continue to grow the business, aiming for a 30-50% growth in the next ten years. There are few jobs they can’t tackle, with their impressive and extensive line-up of kit, but they continue to focus on customer service and satisfaction.
Visiting clients is where Mr Baker now spends much of his time, having stepped slightly back from the day to day management of the business, alongside offering his expert guidance and new ideas.
‘It can be hard not to interfere but I have complete confidence in the family and I am delighted that, after twenty five years as a member of the NAAC, I now have the time to give something back through the Chairmanship. I am looking forward to driving the Association forward through this historical era in agriculture and, with the support of the NAAC team, I am passionate about putting the NAAC and contractors firmly on the political agenda.’
For further information contact:
Jill Hewitt, NAAC Technical Consultant Tel: 07889 511245 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Issued by: Springtime Consultancy
The National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) is calling upon all agricultural contractors to help influence Defra and get recognition in future agricultural policy, unlocking potential funding to help business have a more stable future.
Commenting, Jill Hewitt, NAAC said, ‘For years, contractors have been specifically excluded from most agricultural funding under EU law and therefore unable to access grants for capital investment, upskilling or innovation. However, with Brexit negotiations we now have the opportunity to make a positive change and it is important that we all act together.’
‘An estimated 91% of farmers now use a contractor’s services and it is vital that they are included in the development of new policy and legislation. The future of UK agriculture must embrace professional contractors as we can provide solutions to rural and environmental issues eg skilled, trained labour or high tech, innovative machinery and specialist services.’
Defra is currently consulting on ‘Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit’: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-future-for-food-farming-and-the-environment
This is an open consultation on future agricultural policy and payments. The NAAC is meeting senior Defra officials and will be submitting comments on the consultation to represent contractor’s interests but it is also important that individual contractors respond to strengthen the case.
Contractors are urged to spare half an hour to have a read and send individual comments to: email@example.com
The deadline is 8 May 2018.
The NAAC has announced its speakers for Contractor 2017, to be held on 14th December at the Peterborough Showground.
The Contractor 2017 event is being held in partnership with John Deere and is the only national event for the professional land-based contractor.
I urge all UK contractors to come along to Contractor 2017 on 14th December 2017 at Peterborough Showground and join us at the only event focussed entirely on agricultural contractors. We may be ‘Farming’s Best Kept Secret’, but we must not be kept hidden away or be forgotten about when it comes to farming policy, industry development and potential financial handouts.
With an estimated 91% of farmers using a contractor, we are an important part of the industry and many sectors are becoming increasingly reliant on our services. It is therefore vital in challenging political times that we stand together and fight to make sure our unilateral voice is heard.
This year’s event promises to be both controversial and stimulating, focussing on the future for contractors. The NAAC will examine the impact of challenges in the farming industry and the influence of Brexit, putting together a package of information from leading experts to help contractors make informed decisions how to take their businesses forward.
We are putting together high profile speakers, together with a huge exhibition hall jammed with exhibitors supplying machinery and services to contracting businesses.
Whether you are well-established or just starting out, a large business or a one-man band, I urge you to support your industry and join us at a day out you cannot afford to miss.
The National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) is delighted to announce John Deere as a new partner for its national conference and exhibition, Contractor 2017, being held at the East of England Showground on Thursday 14th December 2017.
The event, aimed specifically at contractors, will address the important role that this sector plays in the industry and examine how they may need to adapt to the changing needs of the farming industry post Brexit.
‘This is an exciting time for all involved with agriculture,’ says NAAC Chief Executive Duncan Russell ‘and it’s great to announce that John Deere, a name highly regarded by contractors, will partner this important event for the industry.’
Chris Wiltshire, John Deere’s Marketing Manager said ‘We’re very pleased to be associated with Contractor 2017, a specialist and unique event aimed at an increasingly important sector of the farming industry.’
John Deere will be showcasing new products aimed at contractors and large farmers to help improve the efficiency and management of modern agricultural machinery.
This is a must-attend day for contractors, featuring high profile speakers in the morning conference and a large exhibition of contractor specific machinery and services, with additional transport focused discussion and debate in the afternoon.