Farmers are being advised to do their homework early if they want to benefit from a new grant scheme later this year.
The most recent round of the Farming and Forestry Production Scheme (FFPS) had twice as many applications as grants available, with those putting in their applications towards the end of the eight-week window less likely to succeed.
The FFPS will replace the Farm and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS), which offered grants targeted at specific areas to improve farm productivity.
Farmers who might want to claim should start their research now, identify the best kit for the job and get quotes in preparation for applying, says consultant Mark Wheeler of Brown & Co.
The new Rural Development Plan for England (RDPE) will support three main areas:
- Managing the environment
- Growing the rural economy
- Increasing farming and forestry productivity
Under this heading about £140m is expected to be available and businesses will have to bid for a share of the funding to:
- Help innovate, use new technology and use the latest research in the business
- Improve skills and training
- Co-operate and collaborate with other farmers, foresters and others in the land-based sectors
- Support projects that benefit the environment in a number of ways – for example, to help tackle tackle environmental problems as well as improve the amount or quality of agricultural produce
Once applications open, follow the guidelines to the letter, says Mr Wheeler – the applications are time limited and competitive, so everything must be in place.
There is no guarantee the new scheme will be the same as the 2014 scheme, however, many elements will be the same. It is expected that applicants will have to be BPS claimants.
The last scheme (FFIS) offered a minimum of £2,500 and a maximum of £35,000, with the amount claimed being a maximum of 40% of total costs (maximum of 50% in a severely disadvantaged area). Applicants had to be able to fund the whole cost of the equipment before the grant cash was paid out to them.
It is expected at least three written quotes will be needed for equipment under the new scheme, with a requirement to show which is the preferred one – this may not necessarily be the cheapest quote, but the preferred choice should be supported and explained in the application, says Nick Hiscox of GSF Livestock Equipment, which manufactures cattle handling equipment.
Many applicants do not realise that decisions on FFIS grants could be appealed, he says. “We have successfully appealed on behalf of clients and had the grant increased from what was originally awarded, so the client could get 40% of the actual cost of their preferred quote.”
It is important to establish exactly the right type of equipment. In most cases that means getting out to look at the kit, he advises. “Get three quotes based on equipment you have seen or that you are confident is right for you.”