A new round of LEADER funding begins in January 2015. This £140m pot will promote sustainable local rural development and is allocated by Local Action Groups (LAGs).

Ken Brown, manager of Hampshire-based Fieldfare LAG and David Webb, policy chair for rural affairs and tourism at the Federation of Small Businesses, told the FARMA conference how farmers in England could access funding.

What is LEADER?

A portion of funding from the CAP’s Pillar 2 is allocated to LEADER. This money is shared out to LAGs around England, which administer award funding. The current round (now closed) made grants available to farmers, foresters and rural communities. The emphasis of the new round will be on growth and jobs.

How can farmers access funding?

• Find out if your area is covered by a LAG. If not, you can establish one with other local people. The group must be able to represent the interests of its area and applications to form a LAG must be made by 14 March.

• Find programme managers at www.rdpenetwork.org and talk them through your idea for support and advice

•  Expressions of interest for the next round must be made by 31 May

What can funding cover?

• Priorities for the new round are not yet decided. In the past, funding has supported farm diversification, increasing productivity of farming and forestry and rural tourism, as well as other rural community needs

• Funding has previously covered capital investment, including buildings and equipment, skills training and adding value to products

• There is no lower limit for funding, but the upper limit varies between groups. Money is yet to be allocated for the next round, but Mr Brown believes each group will be given about £10,000-£15,000

Tips for creating a good application:

• Explain what your project will look like – what do you hope to achieve, how will it make a difference?

• Take your fund manager’s advice – they will advise on how to meet criteria

• Avoid using lengthy, fluffy language

• There is no need to use a consultant – you are applying to local volunteers, many of them also farmers

• Write simple cash flows and be realistic and truthful

• Put aside enough time – about 40 hours are neded to write a good application

• Be patient – it is a complicated process, don’t expect a quick win

Similar schemes will operate in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.