Farmers and food processing businesses looking to diversify or grow their operations are being urged to take advantage of £35m of grant funding, before the Expression of Interest deadline for this round of Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) grants closes next month.
Land and property specialists Strutt & Parker is reminding farm businesses in England that the deadline for initial applications to the government’s Growth Programme is 16 February 2020.
The programme is designed to create jobs and stimulate growth in the rural economy. Grants worth between £20,000 and £750,000 are available for projects which fall under three umbrellas – business development, tourism infrastructure and food processing.
Charles Garrard, Associate Director in the Cambridge office of Strutt & Parker, says: “This funding will be really useful for anyone looking to generate additional non-farming revenue streams, as they look to reduce their reliance on Basic Payments. While the government has now confirmed that it will make £3bn available in 2020 to maintain the level of funding for direct payments at the same rate as last year, farmers are conscious that BPS funding is now time-limited. Diversifying is one way that they can fill the financial gap they can see is coming.”
Mr Garrard says businesses who are interested in putting in an Expression of Interest form should start work on it as soon as possible, so they have the best chance of drawing together a strong business case.
Information required to complete an Expression of Interest includes current business turnover, details of the market demand for the project and a breakdown of total project costs.
“The scheme is competitive, so it is essential businesses put in an application which clearly explains how the project meets local priorities and offers value for money for taxpayers by creating jobs and wealth in the rural economy.”
The three options are as follows;
Grants for Food Processing: This scheme is designed for food and drink businesses that process agricultural and horticultural products. The grant can be used to construct or improve buildings and purchase new machinery and equipment that will be used to process meat, milk, grain and root vegetables. Examples of successful projects include a viticulture business investing in bottling facilities and fermentation tanks, and a dairy farm diversifying into cheese-making and raw milk.
Grants for Rural Tourism Infrastructure: This scheme is designed to assist in the cost of capital expenditure on tourism infrastructure. The grant will fund up to 40% of a commercial project, but up to 100% if a non-commercial project. Projects should be ones that will encourage tourists to visit, stay longer and spend more money in rural areas. Examples of successful projects include a business building a new visitor attraction for families and farm businesses diversifying into holiday accommodation (eg glamping or caravans).
Grants for Business Development: This scheme is targeted towards farmers looking to diversify into non-agricultural activity and small rural businesses. The grant can pay for the construction or improvement of buildings and purchasing of new equipment and machinery. Examples of successful projects include farms converting farm buildings to offices, workspaces and storage, farms diversifying into a tea room, wedding venue or activity centre and a farm establishing a metal fabrication business.