Government urged to work more closely with farmers to deliver £30m rural grants scheme

A tractor ploughing a field near Fring. Picture: Ian Burt

A tractor ploughing a field near Fring. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Industry leaders have urged Defra to work more closely with farmers to ensure smooth delivery of a rural grants scheme whose latest £30m funding window was announced this week.

The government has committed the cash for further rounds of the Countryside Productivity Small Grants Scheme (CPSGS), which helps farmers buy the equipment they need to boost productivity and increase yields.

Ministers said the scheme was on course to grant more than £15m in its first round of funding launched in February, but the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said many applicants face complications in receiving the grant funding due to equipment availability issues, and subsequent deliveries falling outside of the eligibility period.

NFU chief economics adviser Dr Andrew Francis said: 'It's pleasing to see that the small grants scheme is being continued for a second round, following an initial first round which opened in the spring of 2018.

'Despite its success, many applicants faced difficulties receiving the funding due to equipment availability problems due to the popularity of the scheme. In order to deliver a scheme fit for purpose that delivers value to farmers and growers, it is crucial that Defra works more closely with suppliers in this round of funding to avoid a repetition of these problems.

'The NFU will continue to work closely with Defra on the design of future schemes post-Brexit, to ensure farmers have all the tools available to continue as productive, profitable and progressive farming businesses.'

Defra said the next application window for the scheme will open in early 2019, with £30m available for future funding rounds. Farmers are eligible for grants of between £3,000 and £12,000 covering 40% of the purchase price for equipment costing between £12,000 and £30,000.

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This could include equipment specific to cattle, sheep and pig farmers, as well as precision farming and resource management equipment for arable growers.

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