Defra will offer new Farming Investment Fund grants to agricultural contractors in 2021 and beyond, the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) has announced.
Contractors have been specifically excluded from farming grants in the past, however, the NAAC and other groups have been lobbying for some time for official recognition of this sector as a vital and integral part of UK agriculture.
The representative organisation says more than 91 per cent of farmers use a contractor and are increasingly reliant on the external input of specialist machinery, skills and labour, making owning certain machinery no longer necessary or financially viable.
Commenting on the grant funding, Jill Hewitt, NAAC chief executive says: “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 contractors kit. It also sets an important precedent, recognising the importance of professional contractors in modern farming.
“Professional contractors can offer solutions to many of the current environmental and productivity dilemmas. They can invest in high-tech equipment and it is right that they should have access to grant funding to spread the investment and expertise over a greater number of farms’.”
The new Farming Investment Fund grants are expected to support innovation and productivity, it adds. 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.