NAAC battles to secure government funding for farm contractors

After years of exclusion, agricultural contractors finally have the opportunity to unlock potential funding in post-Brexit agricultural policy.

This is the message from the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC), which has been lobbying the government to try to get contractors the recognition it believes they deserve.

“There has been a lot of dramatic reporting about the Defra ‘Health and Harmony’ consultation being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – but for contractors it really is just that,” says Jill Hewitt (below), NAAC technical and political adviser.

See also: NAAC farm contractor charges 2018-19

“For years, contractors have been specifically excluded from agricultural funding under EU law and therefore unable to access grants for capital investment, upskilling or innovation.

However, in the current Brexit negotiations we have the opportunity to make a positive change and it is important that we take the initiative.”

The NAAC is not only seeking access to capital grants, but also for formal recognition of agricultural contractors within legislation, policy making and across the industry.

“An estimated 91% of farmers now use a contractor and many rely on their services either providing specialist operations or for whole farm management.

‘Farmers without land’

“Contractors have effectively become ‘farmers without land’, offering advice, skilled labour, high-capital-cost machinery and professional services to land owners,” Ms Hewitt says.

“They must not be forgotten in the new agricultural landscape and the NAAC will be working to ensure that the future of agriculture firmly embraces professional contractors.

“Their services can bring out-of-reach capital investment into reality for many farmers – technology that may have been unsustainable for one farmer alone.”

Farmers have been given access to high-tech, expensive machinery through contractor investment while contributing to the government’s targets to reduce ammonia emissions in particular.

However, for contractors to invest, the NAAC insists that they must have equal opportunities, recognition and access to agricultural funding and training to have the confidence and incentives to take calculated risks, push the boundaries and introduce new technologies that can propel the farming industry forward.