The new environment secretary Steve Barclay has used his first major speech to set out his commitment to British farmers and rural businesses.
In his keynote speech at the Country Land and Business Association conference in London on 30 November, he set out his vision for an innovative and productive agriculture sector, supporting the sector to continue to develop into a more sustainable and profitable industry.
Almost £45 million in competitions and grants are set to open in the coming weeks as part of the Government’s £168 million investment this year to support farmers to foster innovation, boost productivity and improve animal welfare.
This includes an initial £30 million on offer in the second round of the Improving Farming Productivity Grant, providing capital grants of £25,000 – £500,000 towards robotic and automatic equipment, with further funding potentially available depending on levels of interest. For the first time, it will also fund grants of between £15,000 and £100,000 towards solar equipment which can be fitted on rooftops and float on irrigation reservoirs.
Almost £8 million will also be available in the third round of the Large R&D Partnership, a competition specifically designed to boost industrial research and experimental development projects.
In his speech, Barclay said: “My pledge to you is that this government will always back British farmers who produce some of the highest quality food in the world, contribute billions to our economy, and to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for taking care of our countryside.”
In addition, the Environment Secretary also launched the third round of the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF). With individual grants of up to £100,000 on offer from a total £5 million, this round has been designed specifically to support farmers to prepare nature projects that will help attract investment from the private sector.
So far, Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme, run in partnership with Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has committed over £125 million in funding to date and supported 150 projects involving 400 organisations.