£20m funding now available for rural business

Tim Michie
Tim Michie

Valuable funding for rural business has recently become available and it appears not many people are aware of it yet.

The Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) has developed the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS) as a scheme to support and develop the use of resources efficiently in farming, forestry and horticultural businesses. This scheme aims to increase rural businesses’ profitability and resilience, whilst minimising the impact they have on the natural environment.

There is £20m available from the FFIS scheme and this will run until December 2013. The first round of the scheme is open from 16th November 2011 until 17th January 2011.

The FFIS funding is available so that farmers, foresters, contractors, woodland owners and horticulturalists can invest in new projects and technologies that will enable them to expand their business in an environmentally friendly way.

Funding will not simply be handed out to all applicants. The FFIS scheme is a competitive application process whereby each application is appraised against one another and then allocated funds accordingly. The grants are for capital items and the grant rate available is up to 40% in non upland areas and up to 50% in the upland areas, with a maximum grant of £25,000 per project and a minimum grant of £2,500. There is however, no guarantee of obtaining funding, or of knowing how much you will receive.

To be successful you will need to have an appropriate business activity and must also complete and submit a comprehensive application.

Eligible projects or technology must fall under one of the following key areas of activity:

1. Nutrient management involving improvements in the use of farm manures and slurries so as to improve soil quality and reduce reliance and use of artificial fertilisers. For example, the use of slurry injectors and separation systems and the use of precision farming through GPS would entitle a farm to claim under the activity of nutrient management.

2. Energy efficiency and water resource management through projects to reduce farm energy bills, carbon emissions and reliance on mains water supplies fall under the key areas of activities. This can be as simple as using pipe work to divert rain water into storage systems to supplement water requirements on the farm.

3. Projects that bring about significant improvements to animal health and welfare on farms are also eligible for the funding available under this scheme. Also projects that will be seen to improve the economic value of forests through improved processing efficiency and adding value to crop, for example the use of timber processors and forwarders and tractor-mounted forestry grabs will be eligible for funding.