Grants of up to 40% are available from today (Wednesday 29 February), to help improve farm competitiveness, agri-food, tourism, forestry, and to support small rural enterprises.
Rural Economy Grant scheme awards could be worth more than £1m each, with the first round running until the end of April and a second expected in autumn.
The £60m available will give farmers and rural entrepreneurs the opportunity to transform their business prospects for the long term as part of a £165m package of initiatives to unlock the economic potential of rural areas, said DEFRA Secretary Caroline Spelman.
A wide range of projects are eligible including new processing and packing equipment, measures to improve animal health and welfare and soil nutrient and water management. Funding is also available for accommodation, visitor services and activities as well as to improve the competitiveness, productivity and environmental efficiency of the forestry sector.
Small businesses will get priority through Rural Growth Networks, a £15m pilot project to help rural areas overcome barriers to growth, such as a lack of suitable premises and poor provision of infrastructure such as superfast broadband and mobile networks.
This scheme is part of DEFRA’s £100m investment in the Rural Development Programme for England, which was announced in the Rural Economy Growth Review in November 2011.
DEFRA has already allocated a separate £20m sum to the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme, while a £20m Skills and Knowledge Transfer Network will open for applications later this year.
The Rural Development Programme for England aims to improve competitiveness in the agriculture and forestry sector; safeguard and enhance the rural environment and foster competitive, sustainable rural businesses and thriving rural communities.
To find out more contact your local RDPE delivery team.