What do Defra’s new farm productivity grants mean for rural land managers?

CLA Chief Land Use Policy Adviser Susan Twining reviews the latest Defra announcements on grants and competitions for research and innovation
A cornfield

It has been a busy week for Defra announcements. To accompany plans for a new round of productivity grants, the government has also revealed new competitions for research and innovation, the opening of the Annual Health and Welfare Review, and plans for support for small abattoirs.

These follow the announcements made in January, which set out details for new Sustainable Farming Incentive standards and payment rates, plans for developing Countryside Stewardship, a new round of the Landscape Recovery scheme and additional funding for the Farming in Protected Landscape scheme.

This is all good news. The picture of future government support is gradually taking shape. There is enough information now to consider the options ready for application for the Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes when they open.

The latest on Environmental Land Management

The most recent announcement on productivity and slurry grants provides some short term clarity on plans for 2023, and the first steps for the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway. The recent publication of new guidance for land managers on Biodiversity Net Gain will also provide welcome clarity on how to deliver biodiversity units for the private sector market. The CLA will provide more analysis on this next week.

The new grant announcements are welcome news for the industry, particularly those who have plans for new equipment. There is a total of £168m across a range of grants and competitions for research and innovation. In summary:

  • Round two of the Farm Equipment and Technology Fund (FETF) is open now for applications for productivity and slurry, with animal health and welfare grants opening in March
  • The Annual Health and Welfare Review is now open for cattle, sheep and pigs
  • New Water Management theme under the Farming Transformation Fund is opening in the spring and plans for future rounds on robotics and automation, and housing for calves
  • Plans for new Farming Innovation Programme competitions for research and innovation

What does this mean for members?

There is a lot of information on these schemes, but the key points for CLA members to focus on are:

Currently open:

Farm Equipment and Technology Fund 2023 - Productivity and Slurry Annual Health and Welfare Review

  • Closing date for applications: 4 April 2023.
  • It is competitive.
  • Grants of £1,000-£25,000.
  • There is a list of eligible items.
  • It is open to farmers, forestry owners and contractors in England.
  • Click here for guidance

Annual Health and Welfare Review

  • Funded annual vet-led visits for tailored advice and tests.
  • You need to register interest at gov.uk to be invited to apply.
  • Open to farmers with more than 11 beef or dairy cattle, 21 sheep or 51 pigs registered in England.

Opening in March

Farming Equipment and Technology fund 2023 – Animal Health and Welfare

  • The closing date is to be confirmed.
  • It is competitive - £20m available.
  • There are grants of £1,000 - £25,000.
  • The aim of this fund is to improve the health and welfare of livestock, such as handling, biosecurity, automated monitoring, etc.
  • For a list of eligible items click here
  • Click here for guidance

Opening later in 2023

New rounds of Farming Transformation Fund

  • Expected themes:
    • Water Management - grants for reservoirs and improving irrigation
    • Automation and robotics - grants for investment in technology
    • Livestock - grants for upgrades or new housing for calves
  • Grants vary but typically £25,000-£500,000 depending on the theme.
  • It is competitive.

Support for small abattoirs

  • Funding to help abattoirs invest in new technology, improve productivity and enhance animal health and welfare.
  • Details are still being developed.

In addition, applications for Countryside Stewardship schemes to start in January 2024 are open now, and we expect applications for SFI 2023 standards to open in the summer. The England Woodland Creation Offer is also available for applications.


There is a lot more information available from Defra and the Rural Payments Agency:

The CLA is here to help you identify what you need. We are running a second round of the Agricultural Transition Roadshow, with events taking place across England in March and April. You will hear from CLA policy experts, Defra, the Rural Payments Agency and others to help you understand what options are right for you. For a list of the events and how to book, click here.

You can also contact your regional adviser for more information or visit our dedicated Agricultural Transition Hub.

Agricultural Transition (England)

Find out the latest about the transition here

Key contact:

Susan Twining
Susan Twining Chief Land Use Policy Adviser, London