MORE THAN £20m in grant aid has been committed to 1500 farm business projects in Wales through the Welsh Assembly‘s Farming Connect initiative.

Farm Improvement and Farm Enterprise grants, partly financed by EU Objective 1 cash, have been channelled through the initiative since September 2001, and approved applications relate to a total investment of over £54 in a wide range of projects.

“One of the most encouraging aspects of the take-up of these grants is that more than 73% have been awarded to farm businesses with a young person in the partnership,” said Carwyn Jones, the Assembly‘s rural affairs minister.

“The very high take-up has demonstrated that many farm businesses are addressing the challenges of CAP reform and reacting to an increasingly competitive global market by investing in the future.”

He added that many of the projects would also provide substantial benefits in terms of environmental improvements and animal welfare as well as supporting the rural economy.

Only £2m of available funding had not been allocated, and outstanding applications were being considered in strict date order.

But some additional money could become available where projects are not completed.

Mr Jones has also announced that 6205 Welsh farmers have registered for Farming Connect‘s business planning service and 2997 plans have been completed.

Local facilitators have provided technical advice to almost 14,500 farmers, and 1629 have taken advantage of computer training schemes.

More rural development funding will be made available from 2007.