Over the past seven years, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) has allocated funds across the UK through rural development programmes for England (RDPE), Wales (RDPW), and Scotland (SRDP).
RDPE grants in particular have been available to rural businesses and communities to safeguard and enhance the UK’s rural environment, improve the competitiveness of the agricultural sector and foster sustainable rural businesses and economies across the UK.
Recently, applicants have seen the funds drying up as the programme comes to an end. However, there are a number of more general business grants and funding that farmers should know about and take advantage of while they can.
1 The Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme
The Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS) that ran during 2012 offered grants from £2,500 to £25,000 for the areas of nutrient management, energy efficiency, water harvesting and animal health.
Following the conclusion of the second round of the scheme last year, around £16m of the available £20m funds has been committed, with provisional expectations that there is likely to be a further FFIS round launched in summer 2013.
Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme
2 The Technology Strategy Board Innovation Vouchers scheme
This is a £6m funding pot designed to encourage businesses to look outside their network for new knowledge and innovation that can help them to grow and develop.
Grants of up to £5,000 are available for businesses to pay for knowledge or technology transfer and to work with a supplier for the first time. Examples of such innovation could be development of a novel food or drink product for a particular target market, innovations in plant or animal breeding, improving intellectual property within a business, or for a specifically planned R&D project.
3 The Catchment Sensitive Farming Capital Grant Scheme
This is open again for 2013, with the application window closing on 30 April. Applicants can make a claim for a grant of up to £10,000 per farm business, with several new catchments and catchment partnerships entered into the scheme in 2013 in addition to the existing priority catchments. Capital works could be committed to watercourse fencing, roofing for manure stores, or pesticide loading and wash down areas for example.
4 Rural Economy Grant
Within the Rural Economy Grant (REG) support that was offered last year, £15m of funding was put aside for micro-enterprise support in five rural growth network (RGN) areas: Cumbria; Northumberland, Durham and Gateshead; Coventry and Warwickshire; Swindon and Wiltshire; and Devon and Somerset.
Each RGN will offer grants for capital projects or through links with community infrastructure hubs. Alongside funding support the RGNs will also act as centres to facilitate knowledge transfer, and to provide mentoring, training and skills development to enable businesses to grow and capitalise on new opportunities.
Rural Economy Growth Review
5 The National RDPE Skills Framework
The National RDPE Skills Framework is a consortium of 32 training providers that will provide subsidised training for farmers, foresters, food producers and other rural businesses until the end of the programme in March 2014, which will result in the acquisition of new knowledge and skills.
The six themes covered will include:
- Business management, leadership and ICT skills
- Knowledge transfer, innovation and technical skills
- Agricultural animal health and welfare
- Marketing and supply chain efficiency
- Resource use efficiency and
- Traditional rural skills and rural tourism
There will be evening workshops and one-to-one training support on offer, with 70% of the costs grant funded. Such courses will offer the possibility of gaining industry-recognised qualifications.
It also aims to improve the professionalism of the dairy industry in a similar way to the DairyCo Dairy Pro scheme by acknowledging the skills farmers already have and by giving a structure for continued professional training and development.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs