Slurry Infrastructure grant – round 1

An image of a slurry storage unit

Photograph: Adam Fradgley

Applications for Round 1 of the Slurry Infrastructure grant closed on 31 January 2023. If you were offered a grant, read on to remind yourself of the application process and next steps you need to take.

What is the purpose of the grant?

The grant has been designed to enable farmers to go beyond the minimum of four months' storage required by the SSAFO (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) rules to help meet the Farming Rules for Water and spread slurries to meet crop need, rather than wasting them because of a lack of storage.

  • These first-year grants are aimed at covered slurry store construction projects, to enable farmers to get to six months storage capacity based on existing livestock numbers (meaning the typical number of animals you kept on the farm over the last year).
  • Defra is grant funding a range of storage types and situations which farmers can choose from a list which needs to meet regulatory and building standards. It will help replace, build new or expand existing slurry stores to provide six months' storage. 
  • Grant-funded projects will need to maintain six months' storage capacity for all animals on the holding for the duration of the grant funding agreement, irrespective of future livestock numbers. This means you’ll need to make appropriate upgrades to your storage and slurry management if you increase your herd size in the future.

Tom Bradshaw

This will help drive improvements that further reduce the environmental impact of those businesses, improve productivity and reduce input costs.”

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw

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Grant information

As with the other themes under the Farming Transformation Fund, there was a two-stage application process.

The first stage was an online 'eligibility checker' (available from 6 December 2022 until 31 January 2023) which if you were found eligible to apply for a grant, formed the initial application, then followed by the second full application process for those with the projects that scored strongest in the eligibility checker.

  • The minimum grant you could apply for is £25,000. The maximum grant is £250,000 for each applicant's business. The scheme used standard costs, meaning you got a fixed contribution towards the cost of the items you need and the storage you plan to build. The contributions are based on 50% of the current market costs. 
  • The grant is paid in arrears. You can make a maximum of 3 claims over the duration of the project. You must have sufficient funds to pay for all items in full before claiming your grant payment. You can use loans, overdrafts and certain other grants, such as the Basic Payment Scheme or agri-environment schemes.
  • Capacity increases to allow over 6 months storage is permitted, however, grant funding will be capped at 6 months based on existing livestock numbers. If you choose to exceed this any additional storage requirement will be required to be privately funded.
  • Regardless of how much you pay, you will only receive the standard amount listed for that item.

You can read more about the scheme at: GOV.UK | Slurry Infrastructure grant: guidance for applicants

All dairy, beef and pig farmers already using a slurry system were able to apply. You can use the grant to:

  • replace existing stores that are no longer fit for purpose
  • build additional storage, if your current stores are compliant
  • expand otherwise compliant storage, for example by adding another ring to a steel tank.

Eligible types of slurry store:

  • above-ground steel slurry stores
  • precast circular concrete slurry stores
  • earth bank lagoons without synthetic liner
  • earth bank lagoons with synthetic liner
  • stores using precast rectangular concrete panels
  • large volume supported slurry bags (over 2,500 cubic metres (m3)

The grant also funded items necessary for the basic functioning of new or expanded slurry stores, such as reception pits and slurry pumps.

You must fit new or expanded stores with an impermeable cover unless you are installing a slurry bag or using acidification. You cannot use this grant for a cover only.

The Slurry Infrastructure grant uses standard costs. You will get a fixed contribution towards the cost of the items you need and the storage you plan to build.

More information on what the grant can pay for can be found on the government's website: GOV.UK | About the Slurry Infrastructure grant, who can apply and what it can pay for

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Making your application

If you were eligible and your project was prioritised due to its environmental benefits, you will have been invited to make a full application. Invitations were sent to successful applicants in the final two weeks of March 2023.

Applicants then had until 28 June 2024 to submit a full application. This needed to include approved planning permission and a location and design check which will be carried out by the Environment Agency. A financial viability breakdown was also required as part of this stage.

Details of invited projects were also shared with local Catchment Sensitive Farming Advisors, who will get in contact to offer assistance.

If your full application was eligible and you met all the conditions, the RPA will have offered you a grant.

Further guidance on how to apply can be found on the government's website: GOV.UK | How to apply for a Slurry Infrastructure Grant.

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Applying for planning permission

Projects of this scale will most likely be subject to planning requirements and planning consent will have to be sought from the LPA (local planning authority) before starting any work.

Government departments and the relevant interested public bodies are aware of the challenges some of these applications may be subject to and have issued guidance – Slurry Infrastructure Grant and habitats regulations assessment

The NFU's environmental and business teams have looked at the planning process see – Slurry Infrastructure Grant – planning

How the RPA has prioritised projects

The RPA (Rural Payments Agency) will prioritise projects which have the greatest environmental benefit. If oversubscribed in the first round, RPA will prioritise projects in areas that need urgent action to:

  • reduce nutrient pollution from agriculture
  • restore natural habitats

You can find out more about how Defra identified these areas, if your farm is in one, and how RPA will shortlist applicants.

This is the first time Defra has run national slurry storage grants for many years. So a high demand is expected.

Not everyone will get a grant in the first round, however it is expected that Defra will host subsequent rounds in the future.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure as equal an opportunity is given to all those interested with this offer.

Tenant Farmers

If you are a tenant, you will need to confirm that you will have a tenancy agreement in place for the duration of the grant funding agreement (5 years after the date of final payment). You can still apply if your current agreement is shorter than 5 years if you expect it to continue.

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Defra's intention

As part of the ATP (Agricultural Transition Plan), Defra wants to support farmers to manage the nutrients in their slurry and manure well. This is an area that has not been effectively regulated in the past due to financial barriers.

The grant will allow livestock farmers who have a slurry-based system to store slurry in a safe, efficient way that maximises crop nutrition and minimises nutrient losses into the environment.

Defra have provided guidance for local authorities to advise them on the benefits of supporting farmers in their applications for the Slurry Infrastructure grant which will help farmers make improvements that reduce nutrient pollution.

Defra will continue to work on other elements that will impact on slurry management, that will be regulatory baseline and how nutrient management can be enhanced.

You can access the full range of guidance on the government's website: GOV.UK | Slurry Infrastructure grant.

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Demonstrating demand for funding

Levels of applications were a key indication of the willingness to make improvements to storage, illustrating the demand for support across the industry.

NFU Vice President David Exwood explains why the Slurry Infrastructure Grant represents a huge opportunity for farmers across England.

“With the ever-increasing pressure on businesses from financial challenges, regulatory demands and focused inspections, there has never been a more vital opportunity to lay bare the demand for government support.

“Grant funding offers the opportunity to make improvements, but we must demonstrate that the demand for funding is there to deliver public goods in exchange for public money. Therefore, applications that demonstrate the intention to make improvements to slurry storage are still encouraged.”

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