PM to announce major innovation boost for farmers feeding the nation: 20 February 2024

The Prime Minister will announce a major new package of support for rural communities to protect British farming for the next generation when he addresses the National Farmers Union annual conference in Birmingham

  • Prime Minister set to announce £220 million package of funding for technology and innovation to protect British farming for centuries to come
  • Speaking at the National Farmers Union Conference today [20 February 2024], he will tell the audience he is determined to ensure all farmers and producers are treated fairly and acknowledged for the central role they play in every aspect of British life
  • Comes as bureaucratic red tape set to be slashed to spark diversification and investment in rural communities

The Prime Minister will announce a major new package of support for rural communities to protect British farming for the next generation when he addresses the National Farmers Union annual conference in Birmingham today [20 February 2024].

Delivering the keynote address at the annual conference, the Prime Minister will tell farmers that their vital contribution to the British way of life must be protected for years to come.

He will announce that the government will do that by opening the largest ever grant offer for farmers in the coming financial year, expected to total £427m, including an unprecedented package of funding for technology and productivity schemes. The package will ensure the government delivers on its commitment to maintain the farming budget for England at £2.4 billion per year.

Around £220 million will be injected into the future-focused technology and productivity schemes to ensure farmers can access new equipment, including kit which increases automation to reduce reliance on overseas workers. It will also fund cost-saving energy measures, such as rooftop solar, to safeguard land for food production.

The multi-million-pound funding pot will also increase support for processing, packing and retailing on farms.

The funding doubles investment in productivity schemes, growing the grant offer from £91 million last year to £220 million next year to keep up with demand for the scheme from farmers.

And in the spring, the Government will double the management payments for the sustainable farming incentive scheme, putting up to an extra £1000 in farmers’ pockets. More than 11,000 farmers already in our schemes will be eligible for the payments, which help farmers and producers to improve soil health, optimise fertiliser, protect waterways and enhance and preserve hedgerows - helping farmers generate income from unproductive corners and edges of fields. It will be further extended in July, opening up to the Countryside Stewardship mid-tier, ensuring there is a single front door to make the application process even easier.

Almost half of farmers in England are now receiving support from the UK Government through new schemes created post-Brexit. These are ensuing those working the land and producers get support tailored to their needs.

The Prime Minister is expected to say:

"While the importance of farmers will never change – farming is going through its biggest change in a generation. And as farmers do so, this government will be by their side. They have been dealing with soaring global prices in things like fuel and fertiliser. So, we’ve been working hard to get inflation down – from 11.1% last year to 4% now. And we’re increasing payments in our farming schemes by an average of 10 per cent.

"They are also at the forefront of innovation – from gene editing to boost resilience to disease, to automation to help harvest crops. And while thanks to you we enjoy good quality food all year-round global events – including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – have put food security back at the top of the agenda. We’ll never take our food security for granted. We’ve got a plan to support British farming – and we’re going further again today."

He will add:

"I know how important my neighbours - our farmers - truly are. You help to employ millions, add billions to our economy, shape the landscape, but most of all, you produce the food we need – food that is some of the best and highest quality anywhere in the world."

The Prime Minister will also announce that the Government will cut bureaucratic red tape around permitted development rights so farmers can easily develop buildings and diversify earnings through farm shops, commercial space and sporting venues. The move delivers on the Government’s pledge to consult on the plan last year.

It is expected to benefit the broader rural community by increasing job opportunities and commercial units available, helping local residents to develop small and medium enterprises in rural communities, and connecting communities more with their local farms.

The Prime Minister is also expected to announce plans to ensure all farmers and producers are treated fairly, with new regulations set to be laid in Parliament for the dairy sector, ensuring they have reasonable and transparent contracts. Similar regulations for the pig sector will come later this year, with the egg sector expected to follow.

A new supply chain fairness review of the poultry sector is also set to be launched, and DEFRA are expected to consult stakeholders on whether the sheep and beef sectors should follow.

And underlining the importance of the food sector, the Prime Minister will tell the audience that the Government will publish an annual Food Security Index at the next Farm to Fork Summit this spring. The UK-wide index will capture and present the key data needed to monitor how we are maintaining our current levels of food security across the country and is expected to be UK-wide. The Prime Minister is also expected to announce that the Farm to Fork summit, the first of which was hosted last year, will become an annual tradition, ensuring Westminster continues to listen to the concerns of the farming community directly for years to come.

Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP