East of England farmers offered £65m funding for business projects

Farmers in the East of England can now apply for £65m of DEFRA funding towards developing rural business projects.

As part of the new long-awaited Rural Development Programme for England, the East of England Development Agency is looking for farmers hoping to develop regional projects, new markets and new products.

The programme replaces the Rural Enterprise Scheme and grants for processing and marketing and vocational training, which closed to new applicants in 2006.

The £65m funding is part of a £3.3bn grant which has been split between nine Rural Development Agencies across England to fund projects until 2012.

Carl Atkin of farm consultant Bidwells said groups of farmers would be encouraged to apply for funding to develop sustainability and diversification projects.

“The main thing about the new scheme is the funding will be for fewer, bigger projects,” he said.

“Whereas it was quite easy for individual farmers to get £20,000, grants are going be larger, for £100,000 to £300,000.

“Collaboration is now the name of the game. The EEDA wants big, strategic projects that have eight to ten farmers involved.”

Farmers in the East of England interesting in applying for funding should visit www.eeda.org.uk/rdpe for more information.

Other RDA’s across England will begin accepting applications for funding in the coming weeks.