Farmers forced to abandon slurry grant scheme

A grant scheme designed to pay for slurry store covers is being abandoned by famers after it has been proven to be impossible for them to meet its strict deadlines.

The Farming Ammonia Reduction Grant was open to a number of farmers across the UK and the NFU believes that while many were aware of what it had to offer, many have been forced to withdraw their applications.

Introduced as part of an EU aid package for dairy producers, the scheme offered payments of £61/sq m for self-supporting covers and £11.20/ sq m for floating covers on slurry stores.

However, following its success the manufacturers of slurry store covers have been unable to create the extra capacity to meet demand, so farmers are finding themselves unable to get a cover fitted and paid for by the grants deadline at the end of July.

Michael Oakes, NFU Dairy Board Chairman, said: “There just isn’t the capacity in the industry to deliver the number of covers needed in the timescale.

“There are farmers out there who have been given the go-ahead that they can have a grant, but they can’t get a cover on farm, never mind have it fitted and paid for by the required timescale.”

Chris Hundsdoerfer, Director of Skipton-based tank specialist Reliant Installations, added: “On smaller tanks, in some instances, the costs were way above the £61/sq m. Farmers were led to believe it was 100 per cent funding, but when they got the quotes and realised it wouldn’t cover the costs, they just walked away.

“I don’t think many farmers will be putting covers on at all. I must have quoted for 15-20 covers, but because of the amount of grant available and the timescale, I am only actually fitting one.”

There are currently no plans to extend the deadline to help farmers as under EU rules Natural England, the agency delivering the grant nationally, only has until 30 September to process the claims, undertake inspections and issue the payments.

More than £15.9 million was made available to fund the scheme and it is understood that any underspend will be reallocated to the Small Dairy Farmers Scheme.