Farm contractors in England will be eligible to claim 40% equipment grants from next year that are currently open only to farmers, Defra has said.
The department will have full control of the criteria for productivity grants from next year as the money will be coming from the UK Treasury instead of the EU farm budget, so it is free to set its own rules on funding and eligibility.
Tim Mordan, Defra deputy director for innovation, productivity and science, said businesses would be able to claim up to £25,000 and funding would still be for 40% of the total cost of a project.
The scheme would be launched at some point in 2021, Mr Mordan said, together with a separate programme for farm infrastructure projects that would pay out larger sums. Details are still being worked on in consultation with industry.
Jill Hewitt, chief executive of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, said the change to productivity grants would help contractors pioneer new technology and invest in machinery.
She said large machines could be shared across a number of land managers to protect soil health, air and water quality, biodiversity and the environment while also pushing productivity boundaries.
“This can bring out-of-reach capital investment into reality and allow forward-thinking farmers to access new machinery and ideas on their farms, which may be unsustainable for one farmer alone,” she said.
“Productivity funding will ensure contractors have the confidence to invest in the industry, encouraging them to take brave but well-thought-out decisions to lead the sector forward.”