The UK agricultural sector is undergoing the biggest policy shake-up in 60 years with the Agricultural Transition well underway in England. Next year’s BPS payments will have at least halved from their former level.
Farmers need to focus on what they can do to replace the income provided by BPS. Funds released by DEFRA are being redirected to a suite of new schemes and grants. Not all of them will be relevant to you, but it is important to keep abreast of what is available and whether or not it makes sense on your farm.
We already have the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS), which has been given a recent overhaul with increased payment rates and additional options. The scheme will eventually replace Local Nature Recovery as part of the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS).
New standards will be released in June for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), with further standards due to be rolled out in 2024. The different levels have been dropped and the ‘pick and mix’ approach allows greater flexibility to help actions with existing farm systems and practices.
A key funding priority is improving farm productivity and grants to help farm businesses adapt to changes in legislation and aimed at improving efficient agricultural production.
Here we take a look at some of the key grants currently available and due to be launched over the coming months:
Farming Transformation Fund
Available as part of the Farming Investment Fund, this grant is split into four themes: improving farm productivity, water management, adding value and slurry infrastructure, each with specific aims and objectives. Grants under this scheme are for larger scale capital projects designed to aid businesses to invest for the future.
The most recent grant to be released, the Slurry Infrastructure Grant, is aimed at providing additional slurry storage on farms.
We have been busy advising clients for this fund and have so far been successful in assisting clients with the initial application stage, all of whom have been invited to submit full grant applications which we are currently helping to progress. As an example, under the adding value theme we are looking at a grant for food processing facilities.
Farming Equipment and Technology Fund
For smaller items this useful grant, which is the second half of the Farming Investment Fund, provides funding for one off items including direct drills, mobile sheep handling systems, electronic identification reading equipment for sheep and heat detection collars for cattle. Our team has been successful in obtaining many items on behalf of clients. The second round of this grant opens in late February. Additional items have been added for this round, with grants of between £1,000 and £25,000 available for eligible items.
Future Farming Resilience Fund
This fund was established to provide free support to farmers and land managers to assist with adapting to the changes during the first few years. The aim of the fund is to provide advice on the changes during the Agricultural Transition period, identify how your business could adapt to reflect the changes and give tailored support and advice specific to your business.
Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF)
Diversified incomes are very much a hot topic at the moment. A useful grant will be the Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF), which is a £110m fund to provide investment to help boost rural businesses and upgrade community facilities. The fund is likely to offer grants to convert farm buildings to visitor accommodation or event spaces. The fund will be available from April 2023 to March 2025 and will be delivered through local authorities.
Farming in Protected Landscapes
The fund will run until March 2024 and is available to farmers within AONBs and National Parks. Grants are available to support projects which help with nature recovery or climate change, provide opportunities for people to enjoy the landscape and improve existing natural features, such as hedgerows. Grants of up to 100% are available, but are generally between 40% and 80% where there is a commercial benefit.
Grants and funding are unlikely to replace income lost from BPS. Cost savings, such as ensuring your rents are in-line with market conditions, may be part of the solution. This special farming review covers other opportunities for farmers, including the emerging biodiversity net gain market, carbon sequestration, woodland grants and ELMS.
With government policy announcements picking up pace and new markets emerging, we have an experienced team to assist you and your business. Please get in touch.
Read our full Farming Review