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https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/2024/01/30/the-current-offer-for-horticultural-growers-and-farmers/

The current offer for horticultural growers and farmers 

Brussel sprouts
Credit: Michael Brown

The horticultural sector is a vital part of the UK economy. It contributed £4.3 billion in 2022. Ornamental growers make a significant contribution to promoting wellbeing and contribute £1.5 billion to the economy.  

Growers nourish the nation. Every year, they produce more than 3 million tonnes of over 300 different fruits and vegetables.

Many horticulture growers and farmers are already benefiting from our schemes and grants, helping us to meet our commitment to produce at least 60% of the food we consume in the UK as they take care of the environment.  

The horticulture industry in England is diverse. As such, we have a range of different offers available for farmers and growers. 

Whether you grow carrots or strawberries, daffodils or apples there is support you can access to help increase your productivity, improve the environment and innovate.  

In this post, we’ll summarise the schemes and grants horticultural famers and growers can access now. It follows the post we published yesterday which looked at the new environmental land management actions for the sector.

A recap 

This year will see the biggest upgrade to farming schemes since the start of the agricultural transition. We're increasing payment rates by an average of 10% for Sustainable Farming Incentive and Countryside Stewardship agreements.  

We will make around 50 new actions available this year, including actions to support uptake of precision farming. This will enable horticulture farmers to reduce their use of costly pesticides or fertilisers, as well as improve yields, productivity, air and water quality, and benefit biodiversity and soil health.  

We go into more detail about the support available to the sector through Countryside Stewardship and SFI in this post.  

By offering payments which support agricultural technology, such as for robotics, automation and solar technologies, we are helping farmers and growers adopt new technology or practices, so they can grow more, sell more and have more resilient businesses.  

Not only will there be more choice, but the way you access the offer will improve. From summer, there will be a streamlined single application service to help eligible farmers and growers apply for Sustainable Farming Incentive and Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier actions. It will replace separate application windows and processes.  

Farmers and growers can also sign up as a member to access the full complement of resources from The Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture (TIAH). TIAH, which is part-funded by Defra, will play a pivotal role in creating a highly skilled, technically proficient workforce.  

Our extended offer builds on what’s already there and works well for businesses, food production and the natural environment.  

The update to the Agricultural Transition plan on GOV.UK sets out further details of our progress and plans.  

Environmental land management schemes  

Farmers and growers producing field horticulture crops and permanent horticulture crops are eligible for a range of funding under our environmental land management schemes.

These schemes pay for sustainable farming practices and help us to achieve our 25 Year Environment Plan ambitions and carbon net zero goals.

Farmers and growers can be in more than one scheme, as long as the actions they undertake are compatible and we’re not paying for the same actions twice.  

Countryside Stewardship provides financial incentives for farmers, foresters and land managers to look after and improve the environment. Farmers and growers in the horticulture sector can be paid to deliver a range of actions including establishing flower mixes for wildlife, managing hedgerows, or creating and maintaining traditional orchards.  

The Sustainable Farming Incentive rewards farmers and growers for farming practices that help produce food sustainably and protect the environment.  

Farmers and growers can pick and choose from a range of actions on soils, integrated pest management, nutrient management and for farmland wildlife to create an offer that works for their business.

The actions available now are summarised in the following table. Even more actions will be available in the summer. 

Code  SFI Action   Payment Rate

(per year unless stated otherwise)

Field horticulture
crops 
Permanent horticulture crops 
Soils 
SAM1  Assess soil, test soil organic matter and produce a plan £6.00 per ha plus £97 per agreement Yes Yes
SAM2  Multi-species winter cover crop £129 per ha Yes Yes
NEW Multi-species spring, summer or autumn cover crop £153 to £163 per ha Yes
SAM3  Herbal leys £382 per ha Yes
Integrated Pest Management
IPM1  Assess integrated pest management and produce a plan £1,129 per agreement Yes Yes
IPM2  Flower-rich grass margins, blocks, or infield strip £798 per ha Yes Yes
IPM3   Companion crop on arable and horticultural land £55 per ha Yes Yes
IPM4  No use of insecticide on arable crops and permanent crops £45 per ha Yes Yes
Nutrient Management 
NUM1  Assess nutrient management and produce a review report £652 per agreement Yes Yes
NUM3  Legume fallow £593 per ha Yes Yes
Actions for Farmland Wildlife
AHL1  Pollen and nectar flower mix £739 per ha Yes Yes
AHL2  Winter bird food on arable and horticultural land £853 per ha Yes Yes
AHL3  Grassy field corners and blocks £590 per ha Yes Yes
AHL4  4m to 12m grass buffer strip on arable and horticultural land £515 per ha Yes Yes

 

Farming Investment Fund   

The Farming Investment Fund offers grants to improve productivity and bring about environmental benefits. These are open to all types of horticultural business, across both edible and ornamental crops. 

Open now:  

  • The Farming Transformation Fund: Improving Farm Productivity grant pays for capital items to improve productivity through the use of robotic and automated equipment, or the installation of solar equipment. Grants are worth between £25,000 and £500,000, covering up to 50% of the cost of eligible items for robotics and automated equipment.  For the solar grant, you can apply for between £15,000 and £100,000, covering up to 25% of costs. It is open until Thursday 21 March 2024. 

New rounds of the following funds and grants will open later in 2024: 

  • The Farming Equipment & Technology Fund will provide grants towards the cost of innovative equipment that will help improve productivity and/or environmental sustainability. The next round is planned for early 2024 and will include several new items of equipment suggested by the horticulture sector. 
  • The Farming Transformation Fund: Water Management Grant provides grants of between £35,000 and £500,000 for investment in irrigation equipment and the construction of reservoirs, covering up to 40% of costs.  

Farming Innovation Programme  

The Farming Innovation Programme is part of Defra’s investment in innovation, research and development. These funds can help horticulture farmers and growers to collaborate and explore ideas, check if an idea works in practice, develop a new product or service, and work on longer term innovations.  

These funds are open to horticultural businesses, across both edible and ornamental crops, as well as agri-tech businesses and research bodies. There are two funding competitions open for applications now:  

  • Research Starter EOI: funding to investigate solutions to improve productivity, sustainability, resilience or for Net Zero, for projects costing between £28,000 and £56,000. Open until 14 February 2024.   
  • Large R&D Partnerships: funding for larger projects costing between £3 million and £5 million.  It is open until 13 March 2024. 

Fruit & Vegetables Aid scheme  

Fruit and vegetable growers who are part of a Producer Organisation (PO) have also been able to access the EU-legacy Fruit & Vegetables Aid Scheme, which offers funding for actions that contribute to improved competitiveness, with particular focus on collaboration and productivity.

This has been funded by Defra’s Farming Programme since October 2020. Producer Organistations who take part have been awarded around £40 million per year in funding for a range of different measures, including those targeting improving product quality, along with environmental actions.  

At the No. 10 Farm to Fork Summit in May last year, the Prime Minister committed to replace the Fruit and Vegetables Aid Scheme  when it comes to an end after 2025.

Following this announcement, we have been working to gather feedback from the sector and are continuing to work with producer organisations, cooperative growers, independent growers, controlled environment horticulture and representative organisations to help inform our overall plans for designing the replacement.  

Energy support for Controlled Environment Horticulture  

We are aware of the unique opportunities and challenges faced by the Controlled Environment Horticulture (CEH) sector. We are working to improve representation of this sector in Defra's Farming Innovation Programme and Farming Innovation Fund. For example, we are exploring expanding equipment lists to cover vertical farming and glasshouse growing equipment. 

We are also working with other departments to increase representation of CEH in other department’s funding and support schemes.

We worked with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to ensure the CEH sector is eligible to apply for the upcoming Phase 3 of the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF). This is a £185 million fund for businesses to cut their bills and carbon emissions by investing in energy efficient and low carbon technologies.

Two application windows will run in 2024, with the first opening in the spring.

As CEH is a newly eligible sector, we hope to hold a Q&A session with the IETF team soon. If you would like to be added to the invite list please email: defrahorticulture@defra.gov.uk 

Working with the horticulture sector 

We want to create an offer that is workable for every farmer and farm type in England. With that in mind, we’ve worked hard to ensure that the opinions of growers are not only heard, but also shape our schemes and support for the sector.  

We are also supporting the sector beyond our schemes. In December, we launched a review to improve fairness in the fresh produce supply chain.

The Fresh Produce Supply Chain Review seeks the views of the industry on issues including the fairness of contracts between producers and purchasers in the sector, and how supply chain data can be used to support transparency in the negotiation process.

All stakeholders with a link to the fresh produce sector are invited to share their views before the review closes on 22 February.  

We also announced that in both 2023 and 2024, 45,000 visas will be available to support horticultural businesses. This will help to tackle labour shortages and rising input costs. 

Learn more at our webinars

At 11am on Wednesday 31 January, we’re hosting a webinar specifically about the Improving Farm Productivity grant for horticulture farmers. Register to attend. 

At 2pm on Monday 12 February, you can learn more about our range of funding support on offer through our farming schemes. Register to attend.  In this webinar, we will explain what is available for horticulture farmers and growers across both the edible and ornamental sectors in the current offer. You’ll be able to put your questions to the team.  

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12 comments

  1. Comment by Cathy posted on

    Thank you for setting out the latest offers.
    We have a mixed SA organic farm ( 170a) with livestock , pasture and viticulture , the latter now being the most important representing a big investment by us . We are in a CS agreement which is quite minimal as it was started when the ongoing support post BPS was even more uncertain and unclear than now. Question: Obviously vines are a “permanent crop” , do you classify it as horticulture? If not how is it classified in terms of these latest schemes/ funds/ offers?
    FYI We are growing grapes for wine . Our entire farm is managed for wildlife being 100% organic.
    Please can you clarify? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Replies to Cathy>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Hello Cathy,

      I'm pleased you found the post useful.

      In the SFI Handbook, vines are classified within 'Permanent crops' as 'Horticultural permanent crops' (Land that’s used for commercial orchards, bush fruits, hops and vines.) You'll find this information on page 112: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sfi-handbook-for-the-sfi-2023-offer

      There are a range of SFI actions that can be applied to vineyards in England. They include actions to improve soil health, enhance nutrient management and actions for farm wildlife (amongst others!) You could even consider IPM2 ‘Flower rich grass margin, blocks or infield strip’ for alleys between vines, using species selected which deliver IPM benefits. For your particular enterprise, it's worth checking out grants under the Farming Investment Fund and Farming Innovation Programme too. They're listed on this page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/funding-for-farmers

      I hope this helps,
      Sarah

      Reply
      • Replies to Sarah Stewart>

        Comment by Cathy posted on

        Thanks very much for clarifying Sarah.

        Reply
  2. Comment by Tony William Powell posted on

    Hi,

    I note that you have included payments for plans, presumably whole farm plans relating to Soils, Integrated Pest Management, and Nutrient Management; why not adopt one for Actions for Farmland Wildlife? Imagine how pleased some of the more vociferous campaigners and environmentalists would be if whole farm plans were adopted for conserving and enhancing wildlife populations, such as farmland and woodland birds, flowering species, butterflies and moths, etc. Granted, many of your SFI actions and other schemes are aimed at such approaches, but I feel it would be an honourable thing to set out on every farm holding and business venture, whether large or small.

    Kind Regards

    Tony

    Reply
  3. Comment by David Evington posted on

    When will details of the Farming Equipment Technology Fund be announced for 2024 and what will be the application window? I ask because many of the pieces of equipment required for precision farming will fall under this rather than the Farming Transformation Fund.
    Also I missed the webinar on 31st January about the Improving Farm Productivity grant for horticulture farmers. Can you provide a link to view it?
    Many thanks

    Reply
  4. Comment by David Evington posted on

    Sarah - thank you for your helpful reply.
    I'm working on my SFI application and have a question on action AHL3 grassy field corners and blocks. In the handbook summary table on page 16 it is described as a total or part parcel action. But in the detail on page 77 there is a bullet point saying it's a part parcel option. Please would you clarify which it is as we want to put some entire parcels into it. Fyi the application software seems to allow full parcel entry.
    Thank you.
    David Evington

    Reply
    • Replies to David Evington>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Hi David,

      You're very welcome. AHL3 can be used on field corners or field edges, but there are no limits on the how big these can be and we currently allow whole parcels to be entered.

      Best wishes,
      Sarah

      Reply
  5. Comment by David Evington posted on

    Hi Sarah,
    Thanks very much for your swift reply. The speed of response is impressive and this is a very helpful service.
    Regards,
    David

    Reply
  6. Comment by Sarah posted on

    Hello,

    I have no farming background and totally overwhelmed lol. Who should I ask or where should I look for information regarding grants/funding and setting up a lavender farm in the UK. We have just found a perfect spot after a long time searching. The Estate Manager is really keen to help us get started but I also wish to do my share of research and gain a deeper understanding. Before we cultivate, I wish to ensure everything we do is sustainable and habitat friendly as possible. And whether there is support out there for start ups like ourselves. Our estate manager also mentioned about carbon capture because it’s a perennial shrub. Thank you, Sarah

    Reply
    • Replies to Sarah>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Hi Sarah,

      Wonderful to read that you're setting up as a grower. Perhaps the best place to start (aside from this post!) is with the dedicated Sustainable Farming Incentive site: https://farming.campaign.gov.uk/

      We're preparing to open the scheme up to people who haven't claimed BPS in the past. Essentially, the Sustainable Farming Incentive pays farmers, growers and land managers to carry out sustainable farming activities. When you take out an agreement, you can add as many actions as you like - there will soon be over 100 actions to choose from (there are a few area limits on actions that take land out of food production). Perhaps start with the IPM actions first, but all of the actions listed in this post are worth exploring. SFI provides a regular income, but we do have grants as well. They are listed here: https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/2024/03/12/grants-available-in-2024/

      Every payment for farmers, growers and land managers can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/funding-for-farmers

      I hope this helps.

      Best wishes,
      Sarah

      Reply

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