The Basic Payment Scheme may be the part of CAP reform that grabs all the headlines, but the implantation of new rural development schemes across the UK will also provide funding opportunities.
England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have all had to devise a new Rural Development Programme (RDP) to run from 2015 to 2020.
Some of the detail is yet to be released, but millions of pounds have been allocated to schemes that will help improve the environment, increase the productivity of farming and forestry and grow the rural economy.
Applying for these schemes is the only way farmers can unlock the cash that has been moved from Pillar 1 of the CAP (direct payments) to Pillar 2 (rural development).
In addition to the RDPs, diversification grants are available from some charitable bodies, such as the Prince’s Countryside Fund.
Simon Haley of Reading Agricultural Consultants, which specialises in rural grant applications, and Abby Cook of Kite Consulting highlight some of the current, and forthcoming, funding sources available across the UK.
Farmers will also be able to apply to agri-environment scheme, such as Countryside Stewardship in England or the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme in Scotland.
England, Scotland and Wales
DairyCo economic consultancy scheme
The scheme offers £800-worth of consultancy support for dairy farmers who have run into financial trouble on the back of the milk price cuts.
Qualification is if a business has suffered, or is about to experience, a ‘sudden reduction’ in income and is struggling to pay bills, stay within borrowing limits or ‘have no idea’ of their current financial position. This offer was initially open to 30 April 2015, although this may be extended.
This 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.
All projects must support one or more of the Leader priorities, which include supporting micro and small businesses and farm diversification; boosting rural tourism; increasing farm and forestry productivity; and the provision of rural services and of cultural and heritage activities.
Applications must be made to local action groups (LAGs) in summer 2015, with grants expected at 40%.The money allocated will last over the next four years, so there will be other chances to apply.
Countryside productivity scheme
The first £5m tranche on offer is for innovative technology items, including LED lighting, remote crop sensors and controlled atmosphere storage areas.
Grants are on offer to arable, horticultural and livestock farmers in addition to forestry contractors and woodland owners.
There are separate application forms for the small grant (£2,500 to £35,000) and the large grant (£35,000 to £1m) at up to 40% of the total eligible costs of the project.
The deadline for the first round of the Countryside Productivity Scheme is 30 June 2015, with another round expected in the autumn.
Applications can only be made in response to a ‘call for applications’ for grant funding. The grants that are available will reflect the priorities set by the 39 LEPs that have European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) funding.
Grants will be targeted at business development, business start-ups, renewable energy, small-scale tourism infrastructure, tourism co-operation, and food processing, and rural broadband grants from 2016.
The minimum size for business development grants will be £35,000. Business start-up grants are limited to between €40,000 (£28,000) and €70,000 (£50,000).
Successful applicants will usually need to demonstrate through their business plan that they will be able to create at least two new jobs, in order to score well on value for money at appraisal.
Countryside Stewardship water capital grants
Formerly known as the Catchment Sensitive Farming scheme, the new scheme offers capital grants of up to £10,000 per holding for infrastructure works which will help reduce water pollution from agriculture. Applications closed on 30 April 2015.
These grants are only available to economically viable small or medium-sized farm businesses that have land in a Catchment Sensitive Farming target area. It is suggested there is likely to be another round of water capital grants later this summer.
Rural Development Programme
Scotland’s Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014-20 is still subject to European Commission approval, but the LEADER element will provide support for farm diversification.
Under the food processing, marketing and co-operation element of the SRDP, there will also be business development grants to support enterprises in the food and drink sector.
Rural Development Programme
Full approval of Wales’ Rural Development Programme is not expected until July, so the detail of diversification projects eligible for funding is not yet clear. However, potential areas under consideration include renewable energy and processing.
Another stated priority is enhancing competitiveness of all types of agriculture and enhancing farm viability.
Farming Connect offers seminars that are fully funded and provide farmers with an overview of farm diversification, together with information on specific themes or sectors.
They are intended to give farmers a realistic overview of what is involved in planning and developing a successful farm diversification project. Held at different locations across Wales, each seminar lasts for around two hours.
Rural Business Investment Scheme
The Rural Business Investment Scheme will offer support for the creation and development of non-agricultural businesses, including farm diversifications.
Funding of up to 50% for private businesses and up to 75% for Social Economy Enterprises will be available.
The maximum grant for new businesses is £50,000, with an upper limit of £90,000 for existing businesses.
Agri-food Processing Investment Scheme
Agri-food Processing Investment Scheme offers support for the introduction of new technologies to develop new or improved products, including the processing and marketing of local artisan and premium products. Funding of up to 40% of the project costs is available, up to a maximum of £500,000.