It was a highlight of my career yesterday when I sat in a Defra meeting and received final confirmation that contractors would be included, for the first time, in the new Farming and Equipment Technology Fund grant process because they are an important part of modern farming businesses. Instead of me relentlessly banging the drum for contractors, I was finally hearing it from Government.
Today (16 Nov 2021) the grants have gone live and it is a real line in the sand for our industry. The NAAC has lobbied for years, even decades, to get contractors formally recognised by Government as farmers without land. There is clearly a precedent set for this with Uber being a successful taxi firm without taxis, and Airbnb marketing accommodation without owning hotels. However, it has been a long, and sometimes tortuous, path to ensure that farmers, contract farmers and farm contractors can all operate on a level playing field, with equal and fair access to grant funding and training.
Finally, that landmark day has come. Whilst not every contractor will want to apply, and it won’t be life changing for individual businesses, this is a momentous day when we finally start to get the formal industry recognition our sector deserves and urgently needs. Government has recognised that contractors are vital as investors in innovative machinery which has the potential to improve productivity over a vast area of farmland, raising the credibility and status of contractors, and giving greater opportunities to innovate.
This is much more than one grant scheme. This is a massive step forward for contractors to be recognised as industry leaders, driving forward technology and innovation and offering the industry a skilled and vital workforce to increase productivity, whilst protecting the environment and operating safely and professionally. Exciting times and 16 November is a day I will never forget.