Rural businesses across the country are set to benefit from £35 million in funding to create new jobs, boost tourism, and unlock growth in the countryside.
The government's Growth Programme, which opens for expressions of interest on Monday 4 November, provides grants for rural start-ups and businesses.
Firms can use the funds to purchase state-of-art equipment and machinery to grow their business or open up opportunities for tourism.
The scheme has already granted £99 million to 546 local businesses across England, creating 3,771 new jobs in rural areas.
In Sheffield, the farmers behind the brand Our Cow Molly secured a grant of more than £160,00 to invest in a new processing unit, which allowed them to produce higher quality fresh milk and ice cream – creating six new jobs.
The funding could be increased to £50 million if there are enough applications, Defra says.
Farming minister George Eustice said the next round of funding will help more rural businesses to grow and local areas to prosper.
“Our dedicated fund for rural businesses has created more than 3,700 jobs and supported a diverse group of businesses, tourism operations and start-ups to unlock their full potential.
“I would encourage farmers to consider how they might use this funding to branch out and diversify their businesses, making the most of emerging trends and tastes and looking ahead to new opportunities.”
For this funding round of the Growth programme, the threshold for minimum grants has come down from £35,000 to £20,000, meaning that more small or micro-businesses can be eligible for a grant for their projects.
Interested parties need to send an Expression of Interest form to the Rural Payments Agency, outlining how they meet the criteria for the scheme – from creating new jobs, increasing business turnover, and improving productivity.
If the Rural Payments Agency considers the project to be eligible, the applicant will then be invited to submit a full application.
The deadline for all Expressions of Interest is Sunday 16 February 2020.