£35m grant fund could help farmers bridge a looming 'financial gap'
PUBLISHED: 11:43 21 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:58 21 January 2020
The clock is ticking for applications to a £35m grant pot which could help growing East Anglian farms and food businesses bridge a looming potential financial gap, said rural agents.
The latest round of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme closes next month, with a February 16 deadline for initial expressions of interest.
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 one of three categories - business development, tourism infrastructure and food processing.
Farm agents said the funding could be vital for businesses which currently rely on the financial support of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) which currently distributes the EU's land-based subsidies - and which is due to be phased out in favour of environmental incentives as part of the post-Brexit policies outlined by the government this week in its new Agriculture Bill.
Jason Cantrill, senior associate director in the Norwich office of rural property specialists Strutt and Parker, said: "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."
READ MORE: Could new Agriculture Bill spark a new dawn for farming and the environment?
Mr Cantrill said businesses who are interested in submitting 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 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," he added.