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Farmers and rural businesses are being urged to apply for a share of £138m in Leader funding, a programme dedicated to funding initiatives to help the rural economy.

The scheme, which is part of the Rural Development Programme, aims to create jobs and deliver growth in the rural economy.

Funding may be available to farmers seeking to diversify or increase their farm productivity by investing in new food processing equipment.

Farmers seeking a grant need to apply to one of the 80 local action groups, which cover 85% of rural England.

See also: Get ready for grants to aid farms and rural economies 

A full list of the groups, along with their email addresses and web addresses can be found on the Defra website.

Each area has been allocated a set amount of funding, which varies between £1.3m and £3m, and projects need to fit with the specific priorities agreed in each region.

In previous years, farmers have received Leader funding to diversify into farm shops, ice cream parlours and camping sites.

However, money has also been spent on community projects with no connection to agriculture, which has led to criticism from farm leaders.

They have argued that as the scheme is financed by money taken from farmers’ direct payments through modulation, the bulk of the money should be directed back to the farming community. 

Applicants may be asked to put forward an outline application in the first instance and then complete a full application if their first submission is successful. 

Once projects are approved payments are made to successful applicants through the Rural Payments Agency.

Businesses that have received Leader funding in the past

Town Farm, Buckinghamshire

Town Farm in Ivinghoe is a working farm at the foot of the Chiltern Hills running about 1,000 sheep.

Its owners successfully received funding to expand their business and they are now welcoming guests to their camping and caravanning site each year.

Lakes Free Range Eggs, Cumbria

The Lakes Free Range Egg Co produces and packs free-range and organic eggs sourced from 46 family farm suppliers located throughout Cumbria.

Leader funding enabled them to equip the factory with new egg packing and grading technology, leading to the employment of a further 11 people.

Big Fernyford Farm, Derbyshire

Big Fernyford Farm in Buxton received funding to transform its agricultural buildings into self-catering holiday accommodation.

It now provides a picturesque and authentic on-farm experience for families, leading to increased employment and additional income for the farm.

Stanza Stones Trail Bridges, Yorkshire

The 47-mile Stanza Stones trail bridges the expanse of the South Pennines landscape, linking six stones describing water in its many forms: beck, puddle, mist, rain, dew and snow, and each featuring a poem by Marsden-born Simon Armitage.

With support from Leader, the project was created by Ilkley Literature Festival in collaboration with Mr Armitage and managed by Pennine Prospects.