15 August 2001
Rate relief boosts diversification

By FWi staff

FARMERS leaders have welcomed the introduction on Wednesday (15 August) of a rate relief scheme for producers seeking to diversify.

While agricultural land and buildings have usually been spared from business rates, if they are converted into other businesses they lost exemption.

But now some farmers converting farm buildings into a new business qualify for a mandatory 50% discount if the propertys rateable value is 6000 or less.

Local authorities have the option to increase the discount to 100%.

The relief applies to commercial operations like farm shops in converted buildings that have previously been in agricultural use.

National Farmers Union president Ben Gill said: “More and more farmers are being forced to find new ways to boost the performance of the farm business, particularly in light of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

“This rate relief will help ease one of the financial hurdles that has to be cleared by those needing to invest at a time of desperately low incomes.”

Ministers hope this will boost efforts to persuade more producers to diversify into other areas in the inevitable shake-up which will follow foot-and-mouth.

When the rate relief scheme was announced in March, rural business consultants said the rateable value cap was too low to benefit many businesses.

At present, the scheme will run for five years and would cost the Treasury 74m if 20% of those eligible apply.