Farming minister Mark Spencer confirms workers on the visa scheme will no longer have to be paid more

The requirement for seasonal labour to be paid a premium over other farm workers has been dropped by the government.

In a significant win for the horticulture sector, Defra minister Mark Spencer confirmed at the NFU Conference in Birmingham that seasonal workers on the visa scheme will need to be paid the national living wage from 1 April, but not more as was previously indicated.

NFU president Minette Batters said growers “greatly appreciated the clarity” of Spencer’s announcement.

£168m in grants

The comments came as Spencer announced that more than £168 million in grants will be available to farmers this year to drive innovation, support food production, improve animal health and welfare and protect the environment.

He said the grants will drive the development of new technology and innovative ways of farming, with a focus on practical solutions that advance food productivity and deliver significant environmental and animal welfare benefits.

These could include robotic technology to support with harvesting, sensors on tractors to measure the levels of nutrients in soils, or improvements to slurry storage.

Defra cited the recent example of Jan Devos, a horticulturalist from Blue Ribbon Plants in Chichester, who received a grant of over £3,600 last year for a rainwater catching and filtration system. 

The grants, delivered through the Farming Innovation Programme (FIP) and Farming Investment Fund (FIF), will sit alongside the Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes, which pay farmers for a range of actions such as managing hedgerows for wildlife, planting nectar-rich wildflowers and managing crop pests without the use of insecticides.

’Healthy environment’

”The role farmers play in putting food on our tables as well as looking after our countryside is crucial,” Spencer said. ”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.

”Today’s funding forms part of the government’s commitment to spend around £600m on grants and other support for farmers to invest in productivity, animal health and welfare, innovation, research and development over three years, funded out of the £2.4 billion annual farming budget which is being maintained at its current level for the rest of this Parliament.”