A £25m grants scheme has opened to fund a wide range of new equipment and technology on farms in England.
The third and final round of the Countryside Productivity Small Grants Scheme offers grants of £3,000-£12,000 to individual farmers to improve efficiency and benefit the environment.
As in previous rounds, the funding covers up to 40% of equipment costs, so the minimum total value of kit purchased is £7,500 and the maximum is £30,000. Applications must be received by midday on 4 November 2020, so the window is a small one, warn advisers.
The funding of all items is aimed at helping to improve technical efficiency, animal health and welfare, resource efficiency, or nutrient management. The grants are available for the livestock, dairy, arable and horticultural sectors, with eligible equipment including:
- Nitrogen-measuring devices for calculating fertiliser application
- GPS light bars
- GPS auto steer
- Cover crop rollers
- Vaccination guns
- Robotic slurry pushers
- Cameras for monitoring livestock
- EID panel readers for sheep and cattle.
Farmers who applied in earlier funding rounds can also submit a new application to receive further grant aid. However, the combined total value of their applications must not exceed the £12,000 threshold.
Although this is the final round of the scheme, powers have been included in the Agriculture Bill for a similar support system, with further detail on productivity grant support from 2021 to be released later this year.
“This is a really good opportunity to get useful bits of kit,” said Savills food and farming consultant Georgina Sweeting. “While the opportunity is there and there’s money to be had, people should be grasping it.”
The process and the list of eligible equipment is very similar to that for the last round, she said, save for the ability for those who got funding previously to apply again. Just two items have been removed from the list.
“It’s also important that applicants realise that if they put in for several pieces of equipment, they must purchase all of those items or they risk losing the funding. Quite a few have slipped up on that in the past.”
Ms Sweeting suggested that it would also be worth checking with suppliers that stocks of equipment applied for under the scheme are available, or will be available in time, as there have been issues with the timely supply of certain popular types of equipment in previous rounds.
Productivity grant application tips
- All equipment types must be taken from a specified list of eligible items that are set out in guidance notes on the government’s website.
- The list includes a standard cost, which is the maximum fixed price Defra will pay out on and all applications are assessed by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).
- Grants can meet up to 40% of the eligible cost of an item, or up to 50% for farmers based in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
- Applications for grants of less than £3,000 will be rejected.
- Check the farm details held by the RPA before applying, especially email addresses and phone numbers – they must exactly match the details on the application form.
- Check the availability of items to be applied for, to make sure they will be available within the timescales of the scheme.
- Do not order, buy or pay deposits of any sort for items on the application until you have accepted your grant funding agreement.
- If you applied for round one and two and were successful, but your applications did not reach the £12,000 maximum, you can apply in round three. However the grant value of your round three application must be £3,000 or more. So, if you received more than £9,000 in total from rounds one and two, you will not be eligible to apply under round three.
- Information and guidance on the scheme is available on the Gov.uk website.
- Applications can be made online on the RPA website.