More than £168 million in grants are to be made available to farmers this year
More than £168 million in grants are to be made available to farmers this year, farming minister Mark Spencer has announced.
Money will be available to boost food production, pay for equipment and automation, and fund smaller abattoirs.
Speaking at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, Mr Spencer said the money will come from the farming innovation programme and the farming investment fund and will sit alongside the environmental land management schemes (ELMs), which pay farmers for improving biodiversity on their land.
ELMs have taken five years to draw up and are the replacement for the EU common agricultural policy.
Farmers can be paid for planting hedgerows and maintaining wildflower meadows and peatland.
Mr Spencer said: “The role farmers play in putting food on our tables as well as looking after our countryside is crucial. We know that sustainable food production depends on a healthy environment, the two go hand in hand.
“Helping farms invest in new technology as well as bringing in nature-friendly schemes will support the future of farming.”
The Government said it wants to offer £600 million out of a £2.4 billion budget to support productivity and animal welfare through grants and other measures.
It also said it wants to support small abattoirs which are “crucial” for the rural economy.
Mr Spencer said: “If farming is to flourish then we need to get the fundamentals right – abattoirs are key to the food supply chain and there is clearly a need to support smaller providers in this area.
“The availability of funding will help abattoirs to invest in new technology and improve productivity and animal health and welfare, allowing our agriculture sector to get its high-quality produce to market.”
Compassion in Farming said they welcomed the new grants, but said it was unlikely to deliver significant changes.
They called on the Government to use grants to influence farmers towards more sustainable agriculture and away from methods that use crates and cages.
Nick Palmer, Head of Compassion in World Farming UK, said: “We are still waiting for the crucial Animal Health and Welfare Pathway details, as a longer-term vision to help farmers shift to a more sustainable higher-welfare model is almost entirely missing.
“We urge Defra to bring forward the full strategy as soon as possible, including a real commitment to ending cruel cage and crate systems with support for the industry to adapt effectively.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is also to address delegates at the NFU conference where he will pledge that half of all public sector food will be locally and sustainably produced.
Also speaking was NFU president Minette Batters, who warned that “the clock is ticking” for farmers and growers facing inflation, avian flu, labour shortages and climate change.
She said costs in agriculture have risen almost 50% since 2019 and UK egg production has fallen to its lowest level in nine years.
She added: “This was also the year that the potential impact of climate change really hit home. The extraordinary temperatures we experienced in July topped the previous record by almost a degree and a half.
“While many parts of the country have experienced huge amounts of rainfall recently, impacting farming operations over autumn and winter, some counties still remain in official drought status.
“The clock is ticking. It’s ticking for our planet, as climate change necessitates urgent, concerted action to reduce emissions and protect our environment.
“And it’s ticking for government – to start putting meaningful, tangible and effective meat on the bones of the commitments it has made.
“Commitments to promote domestic food production, to properly incentivise sustainable and climate-friendly farming, to put farmers and growers at the heart of our trade policy, and to guarantee our food security.”