Business Clinic: Are there vineyard grants for young farmers?

Whether it’s a legal, tax, insurance, management or land issue, Farmers Weekly’s experts can help. Here Chris Turner, partner at Carter Jonas, points would-be wine producers to some sources of funding.

Q My husband and I have bought some land in West Sussex and plan to plant a vineyard. We are 34 and 35, are there any grants available to help us get started?

A The increasing popularity and performance of British wine, on both the national and international stage, has made many landowners look to viticulture as a potential income stream.

However, whether you’re an established enterprise or a new entrant in the market, having the right type of land to support growing vines is really just the beginning.

As with any new venture, a robust business plan will be key – not easy to achieve in the current climate. More widely, the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the structure of future payment schemes is an obvious concern.

See also: Business Clinic – legal issues for diversified businesses

Aside from BPS, recently there have been two main grant options which are relevant. First is the Rural Development Programme for England Growth Programme grant, aimed at promoting projects which create jobs and growth in the rural economy.

The scheme is closed to new applications at present, but watch this space – the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has suggested that it is set to open for new applications at some point next year.

The efficiency grant specifically could be a viable option for you if you are planning to process the wine yourself; it is designed to improve methods in food production and add value to agri-food. This would be an ideal pairing with any new vineyard enterprise.

The other option would be Leader funding, which is available to local businesses, communities, farmers, foresters and land managers for projects that create jobs, help businesses to grow, and benefit the rural economy.

Leader is a French acronym, from Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l’Économie Rurale.

Applications are made to your Local Action Group (LAG). In England, a total of £138m became available under the scheme in 2015. There is no application deadline as such, but the scheme will close in 2020.

An LAG is made up of people from the local community and the local public and private sector. They meet every six months to review submissions and decide which will receive funding.

It is a competitive process. Success depends on supporting priorities set by an individual area, (Central Sussex Group in your case) as well as one or more of the six national Leader requirements.

These are to support micro and small businesses and farm diversification; boost rural tourism; increase farm productivity; increase forestry productivity; provide rural services; and provide cultural and heritage activities

More locally, the LAG is interested in supporting job creation and the local rural economy, and developing rural business. The potential applicant makes an expression of interest and then proceeds with the main application.

The maximum amount you can apply for is £75,000, or £100,000 for food and drink processing projects. Grants will usually be limited to a maximum of 40% of the project’s eligible costs.

A higher support rate may be available for applications by not-for-profit organisations to support projects that are not intended to generate an economic gain.

A new vineyard should meet many of these requirements. Wine tourism is likely to increase over the next decade, which will bring many opportunities to the South East, with other parts of England already a popular destination for staycations.

Like Bordeaux, Tuscany or Cape Town, Hampshire to Kent is now a hub for viticulture and wine tourism is set to play a role in the region’s success – bringing with it many tertiary benefits.

In your area, applications for Leader funding are closed, though given that the overall scheme is set to end next year, a final round of applications may open in the coming months.

My advice is to keep up to date with all new announcements regarding Leader funding in your area, as well as the Agriculture Bill. This is likely to provide more support for diversification in some way, though the acronyms may change!

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