Farmers diversifying into non-agricultural businesses and small rural enterprises starting up or expanding will be the main beneficiaries of proposed increases to rural development funding limits announced by DEFRA.

The changes could mean that Regional Development Agencies will be allowed to raise the funding limit on some Rural Development Programme for England grants from 50% to 100% funding.

“I want to make it easier for rural businesses to benefit from rural development funding in this economic downturn,” environment secretary Hilary Benn said.

“Many businesses are finding it hard to get credit or finance from the private sector in the current climate, so they need to be able to benefit fully from help that is available from the government.”

DEFRA will now seek approval of the proposed changes from the European Commission so they can be implemented as soon as possible.