The recent launch of the final round of Countryside Productivity Grants brought another shudder from agricultural contractors as, yet again, they were specifically excluded from applying.
Agricultural contractors operate as ‘farmers without land’ and are land managers, advisors and protectors of the countryside, providers of skilled labour and suppliers of high capital cost machinery and professional services to landowners. In many cases they are effectively farming the land. They deserve to be included in funding opportunities.
However a contractor cannot currently even apply to potentially purchase top of the range, low emissions slurry spreading machinery that could be used to benefit a wide range of local farms, giving customers access to the latest high-tech application machinery, minimizing soil damage and reducing emissions.
This clearly makes no sense and I feel passionately that the grant system must be overhauled post-Brexit to allow fair access to contractors. The NAAC has been in regular contact with the Government and we are hopeful that, in the future, contactors will be properly and fairly supported and encouraged to push the boundaries on technology and innovation, allowing farmers to access a broader and advanced range of high-tech machinery.
Agricultural contractors are well-placed to help the industry move forward into a new, more productive era of farming. Contractors must therefore be able to access the ‘public money’ to invest in ‘public goods’ on behalf of their farming customers, to ensure that that machinery is selected to protect soil health, air and water quality, whilst keeping the industry operating efficiently and profitably.