Farmers can beef up skills.
BEEF farmers in Warwickshire are to be trained in computer technology as part of a new pounds 1million e-commerce course.
Those in the county who sign up to the Farm Connections scheme will be given a laptop and full support and software training to help them develop their businesses.
The programme, which will also run in the South West and Wales, has been developed out of a partnership with Sainsbury's, Anglo Beef Processors and the Red Meat Industry Forum, an organisation set up to help the British red meat industry recapture and maintain a leading position in the marketplace.
The training will be part-funded by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands' Rural Regeneration Zone and will allow farmers to view a range of vital data, including information on carcass quality and the latest market statistics and consumer trends.
The aim of the course is to help up to 250 farmers in the West Midlands understand their costs.
Training for Farm Connections starts in the region this month and will run until March 2008.
Head of rural partnerships at Advantage West Midlands Ian Edwards said: "It is important that our region's farmers are not excluded from advantages open to all other small businesses and that during these difficult times for beef farmers, in particular, it is vital that they develop a competitive edge.
"We believe that this project will help with that."
A recent survey of 2,500 red meat producers in England revealed between only 20 and 30 per cent of them held farm accounts on computers, with only 50 per cent able to receive e-mail.
Farm Connections, which was launched in Oxford earlier in the year, is available to all suppliers of Sainsbury's Taste the Difference, So Organic and Jamie Oliver 21-day Matured Beef and has already signed up farmers from throughout the West Midlands.
COMPUTER BOOST... Farmers Helen and Peter Ford get ready for IT training, encouraged by Ian Edwards, head of rural partnerships at Advantage West Midlands.