Steve Barclay outlines funding available in first big speech

New Defra secretary Steve Barclay has used his first major speech to set out his commitment to backing British farmers and being on the side of rural businesses.

Steve Barclay

Steve Barclay

Image: Richard Townshend

In his keynote speech at the Country Land and Business Association conference in London on 30 November, Barclay 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, Barclay confirmed.

That 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, helping increase energy resilience and take-up of renewable energy generation on farms.

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, and a further £850,000 through the Research Starter Round 4 competition to identify and accelerate new agricultural solutions, funding growers or foresters who have bold, ambitious, early-stage ideas. 

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.”

Cash for nature projects

In addition, Barclay 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 £5m, this round has been designed specifically to support farmers to prepare nature projects that will help attract investment from the private sector.

He said the move was “a further step forward in meeting the government’s target to stimulate at least £500 million of private sector investment into nature recovery in England each year by 2027 – rising to at least £1 billion each year by 2030. ”

Alongside these new competitions opening in the coming weeks, 2024 will see the extension of the Farming Innovation Programme grants to include the Accelerating Development of Practices and Technologies (ADOPT) fund, where businesses will be able to apply for a share of £44m to test and trial new technology and techniques on farms.