Farmers looking to secure grant money to improve farm productivity, by investing in new technology, should act quickly, according to Strutt & Parker.
The government has announced the next phase of the rollout of the Countryside Productivity Scheme (CPS) which falls under the umbrella of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).
It is making £40m available to fund projects that either improve farm productivity or help farmers and landowners add value to meat, milk or fruit through processing.
Paul Dennison, farm consultant in the Northallerton office of Strutt & Parker, said: “The part of the scheme relating to improving farm productivity is a valuable opportunity for farmers to access grant funding which will help them to build stronger and more sustainable businesses.
“However, farmers need to be aware that the number of grants that are awarded could be relatively limited as the minimum value of any grant is £35,000 and some grants could be offered that are worth up to £1m.
“Although the final deadline for applications is not until 3 December 2018, Defra has announced it is a single-stage application process with a decision on whether an application has been successful, or not, offered within 60 working days.
“This suggests it would be advisable for farmers to put in their applications sooner, rather than later, as funds may be more limited later next year.”
Mr Dennison said the latest announcement means there are now four strands to the CPS scheme which are:
- Improving forestry production (announced in July 2017)
- Water resource management (announced in July 2017)
- Adding value to agri-foods (announced in October 2017)
- Improving farm productivity (announced in October 2017)
The two new parts of the scheme – adding value to agri-foods and improving farm productivity – offer grants of up to 40% for eligible projects.
However, the minimum value of any grant is £35,000, which means a minimum project spend of £87,500.
The application deadline for the ‘improving farm productivity’ strand of the scheme is 3 December 2018.
For the ‘adding value to agri-foods’ strand, an Expression of Interest (EOI) will need to be submitted before 29 June 2018 and then applicants will be requested to move on to a full application if their EOI passes screening.
Examples of the type of projects that are eligible for funding under the improving productivity programme are:
- the use of robotic equipment and systems to aid crop and livestock production
- increasing the use of renewable energy produced on farm by improving energy storage and distribution
- the use of LED wavelength-controlled lighting to aid crop production
- more efficient use of livestock slurries and manures, and digestate
The application deadlines for water resource management and improving forestry productivity are 3 April 2018.
“The Countryside Productivity Scheme is competitive and not everyone who applies will get a grant,” said Mr Dennison.
“All applications will be assessed to see how well they fit the priorities for funding and which projects provide best value for taxpayers’ money.
“Farmers may find it useful to seek professional advice to help them build a compelling case for why their individual project does deserve funding and to help with the production of supporting information such as cashflow forecasts.”