Defra has announced grants worth more than £168 million will be made available to farmers this year.
Farming minister Mark Spencer unveiled the new funding during his speech at the National Farmers’ Union conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, 21 February.
The grants are intended to encourage technological innovation, support sustainable food production, protect the environment and enhance animal health and welfare.
The funding is in addition to the Environmental Land Management schemes which pay farmers to provide environmental goods and services. It will be delivered through the Farming Innovation Programme (FIP) and the Farming Investment Fund (FIF).
Mr Spencer said: “The role farmers play in putting food on our tables as well as looking after our countryside is crucial. We know that sustainable food production depends on a healthy environment, the two go hand in hand.
"Helping farms invest in new technology as well as bringing in nature-friendly schemes will support the future of farming.”
Compassion in World Farming has responded to the announcement by arguing that more needs to be done to improve animal welfare in the farming industry.
Nick Palmer, head of Compassion in World Farming UK, said: “While Compassion in World Farming welcomes support for the farming sector, farmers need clarity in both the short and the long term on how Government support will evolve so that they can plan their future.
“We are still waiting for the crucial Animal Health and Welfare Pathway details, as a longer-term vision to help farmers shift to a more sustainable higher-welfare model is almost entirely missing. We urge Defra to bring forward the full strategy as soon as possible, including a real commitment to ending cruel cage and crate systems with support for the industry to adapt effectively.”
Funding is also being made available to help small abattoirs invest in new technology, increase their productivity, and improve animal health and welfare. The announcement follows a 20 per cent drop in the number of small abattoirs during the last decade, leading to increased journey times for some animals.
Mr Spencer added: “If farming is to flourish then we need to get the fundamentals right - abattoirs are key to the food supply chain and there is clearly a need to support smaller providers in this area.”