Industry leaders have warned farmers not to miss out on a new grant scheme designed to help with purchases of smaller machinery and equipment.
The deadline for applications to the government’s £60m Countryside Productivity Small Grants Scheme is just weeks away, on 14 March.
The scheme is available to farmers in England and aims to help farm businesses purchase new equipment with grants of between £3,000 and £12,000 – up to 40% of the total cost.
Advisers and consultants are forecasting that it could be heavily subscribed and they are urging farmers to make applications well ahead of the deadline.
NFU dairy adviser Sian Davies said the scheme was a chance to make investments at a significantly lower cost and improve production efficiency.
“The future is uncertain and it is important not to miss out on these opportunities when they arise,” Ms Davies said.
“The online application has been designed to be as simple as possible and the list of 60 types of equipment looks practical so it is worth getting involved,” she added.
Each application will be automatically allocated a score based on a set number of criteria and if the application scores highly enough, a grant will be awarded.
Strutt & Parker farm consultant Helen Gosling added that the scheme could prove to be “incredibly useful”.
“At a time when farmers are looking for ways to improve efficiencies and manage their land in more sustainable ways then this funding could be invaluable,” Ms Gosling said.
Items that are eligible for funding include a range of livestock handling systems, crushes, calving detectors, weighing equipment, calf feeders, EID devices, pasture plate meters and electric scraper systems.
Arable farmers are able to apply for funds to help them buy precision-farming equipment, including GPS units, yield mapping devices, variable rate controllers and direct or strip till drills.
“If money is left over following the first round of applications, Defra has said it is possible that there will be further funding rounds,” she said.
“But, you can only submit one application and we know the scheme has been extremely popular in the past and so demand is likely to be heavy.”
However, despite welcoming the scheme, the NFU suggested that industry and the government should monitor equipment prices.
“Demand for certain pieces of equipment could jump if farmers do take up the opportunity to make purchases,” Ms Davies said.
“It is important that equipment supply matches this extra demand or farmers may face far higher prices that will negate the benefit of the grant itself,” she added.