The NAAC is delighted that Defra will offer new Farming Investment Fund grants to agricultural contractors in 2021 and beyond. As part of the historic new Agriculture Act 2020, which will change the face of farming for the next generation, this is a momentous decision that will impact on contractors now and in the future.
Commenting Jill Hewitt, NAAC chief executive said, ‘Contractors have historically been overlooked in Government policy and the NAAC has worked hard to make certain that we are finally acknowledged and can access vital funding to help drive forward the industry. This will help contractors invest, bringing forward new technology and environmentally beneficial machinery to market, allowing landowners to minimise capital investment whilst sharing contractor’s kit. It also sets an important precedent, recognising the importance of professional contractors in modern farming.’
Contractors have been specifically excluded from farming grants in the past, and the NAAC has been lobbying for years for official recognition of this sector as a vital and integral part of UK agriculture.
Over 91% of farmers use a contractor and are increasingly reliant on the external input of specialist machinery, skills and labour. It is no longer necessary, or financially viable, to run all machinery in-house and contractors can bring new ideas and technology, fast-tracking access for farmers and driving productivity forward.
‘Professional contractors can offer solutions to many of the current environmental and productivity dilemmas’, said Jill Hewitt. ‘They can invest in high-tech equipment (eg low emission slurry spreaders) and it is right that they should have access to grant funding to spread the investment and expertise over a greater number of farms’.
When it comes to ‘public money for public goods’, the NAAC believes that contractors will offer a significant and sound investment.
The new Farming Investment Fund grants are expected to support innovation and productivity. This will open for applications next year and will be used to offer grants for equipment, technology and infrastructure for the future. It will be a competitive scheme split into two funds, for lower-value and higher-value investments, with grants available for a proportion of the total cost of investment
The fund will provide targeted support to businesses so that they can invest in equipment, technology, and infrastructure that will improve their productivity and deliver environmental and other public benefits.