Farmer in field with herd© Juice/Rex/Shutterstock

Farmers have just one chance to get their hands on a new productivity grant, a countryside adviser has warned.

The deadline for applications for the Countryside Productivity Small Grant Scheme is 14 March and grants will be awarded shortly after that date, said Adam Lockyear from Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) South West.

The £60m scheme has a single-stage application process, which means farmers will quickly receive either a yes or a no decision.

See also: New £60m small grants scheme – all you need to know

Adam Lockyear, FWAG South West

Grants from £3,000 to £12,000 will be provided for equipment such as livestock handling systems, crushes, weighing equipment, arable GPS units, yield mapping devices and direct or strip till drills.

It will pay out 40% of the total equipment value. So for a grant of £3,000 the minimum equipment cost will need to be £7,500, which must be paid upfront by the applicant before being claimed back.

Mr Lockyear said the scheme is straightforward and simple to follow, with the application taking approximately 15 minutes to complete, once all the required information is at hand.

Info required:

  • Single Business Identifier (SBI) – should be in Rural Payments Agency (RPA) documents
  • Customer Reference Number (CRN) – should be in RPA documents
  • Email address
  • Business address
  • Farm size
  • Stock numbers and type
  • Number of employees.

Tips for application

  • Make sure the details you put in the application match what is on your Basic Payment Scheme claim for your particular business. Then when they do the cross-checks, there should be fewer questions.
  • You can only have one grant from the scheme. If successful, you will not be able to apply for a future round.
  • You cannot save an ongoing application and come back, so make sure you’re prepared.

Mr Lockyear said: “If you meet the eligibility criteria, I suspect you’ll be successful – £60m is a lot of £12,000 grants.

“This block of funding expires in 2020, but you should make the most of these opportunities once they arrive. Further rounds depends on demand and the budget, so there’s no guarantee.”

All farmers are eligible for the scheme, but agricultural contractors are ineligible, and the grants cannot be used for second-hand kit.

How to make sure you get your money following a successful application

Mr Lockyear explained that, once notification of a successful application is received, farmers should purchase all equipment in order to claim back their grant money within 150 days.

A claim form will then need to be submitted to claim back the previously approved funding, including evidence of the money going through an account.

If, after a successful application, a farmer decides to withdraw from the scheme for any reason depending on their individual circumstances, this must be completed within 14 days of receiving the grant order.

But the RPA must be informed, otherwise you cannot apply for future rounds.

Tips if successful:

  • All items must be purchased before claiming and all must be claimed for at once.
  • You will receive a grant of up to 40% of the standard cost set out in the handbook (available online). If you get kit for less, that’s fine as long as it meets specifications. You can negotiate your own price, or if it’s on offer it is still eligible. You will still get 40% of the specified standard cost.
  • Items must be retained for five years. If you sell/pass on equipment before this the RPA must be informed.

Tips for claim form:

  • Retain invoices: must describe item; include item code from Annex 3; be addressed to same person in application; include supplier’s name and address, VAT number and date.
  • Cash payment is not eligible – there must be a paper trail.
  • Provide bank statement: must show cheque, Bacs or card payment.
  • Statements must include: bank’s logo and name, account holder name in full, account number, account balance, sort code, transaction date/type and amount.
  • Screenshots of online banking okay or report from banking system.
  • May be asked to provide photos (take some just in case) to have a record of hardware on site.

Mr Lockyear was speaking to farmers about the application process at a demonstration event planned by the Exmoor Hill Farming Network.