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The Somerset Guardian, 6th December 2023

Farming has created our landscape and continues to be an important economic and social force. Ensuring the competitiveness of British farmers is one of the priorities for the Environment Secretary, Steve Barclay, so it is encouraging to hear to this week that he has set aside a further £45 million of taxpayers' money for farming innovation.

From 11th December, farmers in England will be able to apply for grants of up to £100,000 to prepare projects that will attract investment from the private sector. The sums can be used alongside food production for activities such as measuring the tradable effects of woodland creation or peatland restoration so that farmers can attract private sector investors interested in carbon capture and flood management.

From 18th December, farmers, growers and foresters in England will be able to apply for some of the £850,000 Research Starter funding to galvanise new projects and from January 2024, businesses in England can bid for a share of an initial £30 million for robotics and roof-top solar equipment as part of the second round of the Improving Farming Productivity grant. Under the scheme, the Government will make a 40% contribution to innovative technologies that can help farmers speed up processes like harvesting and milking. As the future of our economy is one of automation and high skills rather than one based on low cost migrant labour this is the right route for farmers to take.

From 15th January 2024, businesses in England can apply for a portion of the £7.8million Large Research and Development fund, which will allow agricultural development that makes growing food more efficient and profitable helping consumers and farmers alike. In 2024, the Government will also extend the range of Farming Innovation Programme grants to include the Accelerating Development of Practices and Technologies grant so that businesses in England will be able submit applications to use experimental technologies and techniques on farms.

The funds honour the Conservative’s manifesto commitment to spend £2.4 billion per year on farming for the rest of this Parliament, which is something I am sure will be welcome news to the agricultural sector in North East Somerset. Please visit the DEFRA website for further information.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance:

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