Welsh Mountain ewes, flock standing on hill farm© FLPA / John Eveson/REX/Shutterstock

Cash-strapped farmers in Wales who are struggling to pay for improvements to their businesses can now apply for grants of up to £12,000 from a new £40m government scheme.

With the average annual income of many Welsh farms less than £20,000, farmers have been unable to invest in much-needed capital improvements.

The Welsh government’s new small grants scheme, which will support farmers to improve animal performance, crop management and reduce carbon emissions, has been described as a “welcome help’’ by one farm leader.

See also: RPA clears first BPS payment target hurdle

Farmers Union of Wales “younger voice” chairman Darren Williams, said farmers were continually striving to make their farms more efficient.

“With many farm incomes well below the £20,000 mark, finding the money to invest in what is needed can be impossible.

“This scheme should therefore provide welcome help on that front, while seeing investment on farms that have paid into the Rural Development Plan for years, but not received anything.’’

Welsh farmers had seen about £120m transferred from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 supports over the past three years. Mr Williams said the rules should therefore allow every farmer to access the scheme, not just a select few.

Grant scheme aims

The scheme is designed to help farmers reduce carbon emissions and improve resilience and competitiveness through 80 items linked to animal health, genetics and performance, crop management, energy efficiency, resource efficiency and ICT. Projects can be funded by up to 40%.

Announcing the scheme on Friday (6 January), Welsh environment secretary Lesley Griffiths described it as a boost for farmers following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

“The new support will be of considerable assistance as our farmers begin to consider how best to shape their businesses to thrive in a post-Brexit world.’’

The first application window is expected to open from April 2017.