Visiting farms is one of the best parts of my job.
I am lucky to get the chance to meet the agricultural businesses who are, in the words of Farmers Guardian’s campaign, ‘The Backbone of Britain’.
They are proud and passionate about their work, and rightly so.
Farming is a complex business; a combination of traditional husbandry and scientific modernity. On many occasions, I have seen how new technologies can help farms become more efficient and productive.
From GPS tracking and precision farming to badger-proof feed holders and robotic milking machines, new equipment can make a huge difference.
But, too often, farmers struggle to invest in new equipment and infrastructure because the capital required upfront is too high. This is why we are supporting farmers through the Countryside Productivity Small Grants scheme.
This scheme helps farmers access the latest equipment and infrastructure by offering grants to farmers with specific requests. The grants can be used for a huge range of projects, including electronic identification of livestock, improved application of manure and guidance systems for precision farming.
In the first window of applications, which opened earlier this year, we awarded grants worth £23.5 million to more than 3,500 successful applicants.
Some farmers, however, have found it difficult to meet the scheme’s 150-day deadline in regard to items for livestock handling.
Last week we set out how we will remedy these challenges and the Rural Payments Agency wrote to affected farmers explaining that they can now take delivery of their equipment after the 150 days, and payment will follow provided their claim has already been submitted.
As most farmers already know, many of the items offered through the scheme are available in many different stockists, so people may want to shop around when looking for items so they can claim as quickly as possible.
I am delighted to announce there will be a second round of funding later this year due to the overwhelming popularity of the scheme.
This gives more farmers the chance to apply for equipment which can positively impact their business, and any farmers who withdrew their applications because of short supply will have the option to re-enter the next round.
New equipment can revolutionise our work, whether in the office or in the field. It can save time, increase output and, ultimately, improve productivity and profitability.
We are on the cusp of great change, including many opportunities for the very farmers who feed the nation and protect the natural landscapes we all love and cherish.
By using innovative technology to enhance centuries-old expertise, British farmers will once more lead the world and be #proudtofarm.
*Read more about FG’s Farming: The Backbone of Britain campaign at www.fginsight.com/proudtofarm