Defra unveils grants and funding for new tech and small abattoirs

The government has confirmed its plans to introduce funding to promote small, family-run abattoirs
The government has confirmed its plans to introduce funding to promote small, family-run abattoirs

The government has announced funding and support for farmers to boost food production and protect the environment, as well as aid for small abattoirs.

More than £168m in grants will be used to spearhead support for food production and improve animal health, Farming Minister Mark Spencer has confirmed.

The investment will support farmers through sixteen different grants and competitions around research and innovation.

The government has also confirmed plans to introduce funding to promote small abattoirs, which have seen a 20% reduction in the last decade.

Speaking at the NFU Conference in Birmingham today (21 February), Mr Spencer set out how the £168m grants would help drive the development of new technology.

These could include robotic technology to support with harvesting, handling equipment and cow mattresses to help prevent lameness in dairy cattle, he said.

The grants will be delivered through the government's Farming Innovation Programme (FIP) and Farming Investment Fund (FIF).

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

At the conference, the Defra minister also unveiled plans to roll out funding to promote smaller, rural abattoirs, which have seen a significant decline in the last ten years.

A network of smaller abattoirs distributed around the country is seen as crucial in supporting the rural economy.

Mr Spencer said at the Conference: “If farming is to flourish then we need to get the fundamentals right - abattoirs are key to the food supply chain and there is clearly a need to support smaller providers in this area.

“The availability of funding will help abattoirs to invest in new technology and improve productivity and animal health and welfare, allowing our agriculture sector to get its high-quality produce to market.”

The new funding, to be announced in full later this year, will help those abattoirs to add value by supporting the availability of local produce.

It will also help small abattoirs provide specific equipment to support the rearing of rare and native breeds, as well as encourage rural employment.

Responding to the new grants and support, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said farmers would be looking with interest to see how they could use it to improve their own productivity.

But funding alone would not fix the industry's productivity issues, the rural group's president, Mark Tufnell, warned.

"We know of many farm businesses who have scrapped plans for investment in, for example, farm reservoirs, because the planning regime is so woeful that it takes simply too long to receive the appropriate permissions.

"So any financial support from government needs to go hand in hand with regulatory reform to guarantee results."