A BULK fuel buying scheme for county farmers, which saw an average saving of 3p a litre, has expanded by a fifth over the past year, according to the Cumbria Farmer Network.

The initiative led to 1.4 million litres of fuel being ordered in the 12 months from 2012 to 2013 and generated £42,000 in savings for participating farmers, the network revealed during its annual general meeting.

And the scheme increased in size by 20 per cent over the period, the organisation’s gathering at Newton Rigg College was told.

The AGM, which had the largest turnout of members to date, was addressed by Cumbria Farmer Network’s managing director Paul Harper, who presented the organisation’s annual report and accounts.

He said overall membership of the organisation had increased during the year by 17 members to 579.

Benefits provided for members included group buying schemes, vouchers which gave a payment of up to £200 for the training of 15 to 40 year olds, support to cope with farming regulations and the opportunity to attend 84 knowledge transfer meetings.

Mr Harper said the Farmer Network had also been involved in a number of projects through the year leading to the organisation of meetings, training hill farm apprentices, educating the public and issuing grants and loans to young people with a farming-related business idea.

Although project funding had been reduced, the Farmer Network continued to work hard to ensure a wide range of membership benefits were supported, said Mr Harper.

He said the training voucher scheme had provided £22,000 in support to 113 members.

The meeting also heard presentations from Matt Bagley, head of Agriculture at Newton Rigg College, who spoke about plans and developments at the college and its farms and also from a couple who are working in partnership with beneficiaries of the loan and grant programme.