On-farm reservoir© Tim Scrivener

Defra has announced funding to help farmers improve their water management by building on-farm reservoirs or investing in new irrigation equipment.

The money is available as part of the first stage of the rollout of the competitive Countryside Productivity Scheme, with funds also available to purchase equipment that improves forestry productivity.

It is anticipated capital grants to help farmers invest in other pieces of new technology will be available later in the year.

See also: Government help on the way for reservoirs

The water management grants can cover up to 40% of the eligible costs of a project, with the minimum grant on offer being £35,000.

It can be used to help pay for the construction of a water storage reservoir (above or below ground) filled by either peak flow surface water abstraction, borehole or rain water harvested from buildings.

Alternatively, grants are available for abstraction points, pumps and pipework to fill the reservoir, boom or trickle irrigation systems, water metering equipment or software and sensors to optimise water application.

It is the first time for a number of years grant funding has been available to support the building of new reservoirs.

Only arable and horticultural businesses growing, or intending to grow, irrigated crops can apply for the water resource management grants.

Forestry productivity

The forestry productivity grants are also for a minimum of £35,000. The money can be used to pay for equipment that improves forestry productivity through felling, extraction or if it adds value through primary processing. The deadline for all applications is 3 April 2018.

More money on way

Rural affairs minister John Gardiner has announced that in total £200m will be made available over the coming months under the Rural Development Programme in England.

This is made up of £120m for projects that improve farm productivity, £30m to improve rural broadband and £45m to help rural businesses grow and invest in new equipment.

Lord Gardiner said: “This funding will make sure businesses in remote locations can get online, help farmers install cutting-edge technology, create new tourist hotspots and bring high-quality jobs to rural communities across the country.”

While the first tranche of money available is for reservoirs and forestry equipment only, funding for broadband, rural business support, on-farm food processing, arable and horticultural productivity and resource efficiency will also be made available later in the year.

A further £6.6m will be available for animal health and welfare projects.

CLA view

CLA senior rural business adviser Charles Trotman said with Brexit round the corner the grants were the right thing at the right time.

But Dr Trotman said Defra should ensure businesses are made aware of the opportunities available to them and ensure there is sufficient time and guidance for farmers on how to navigate the application process.

“A number of well-intentioned grant schemes have not had the desired effect because of weaknesses in how they are promoted and delivered. The CLA has a big role to play in helping businesses with this.”