Farmers looking to take advantage of new grant funding opportunities to drive farm productivity, improve water management and add value to produce have been issued tips for applying.
The Farming Investment Fund is now open, and property consultancy Fisher German has given a tips to farmers and landowners who have less than two months to apply.
The government fund is split into two strands – The Farming Equipment and Technology Fund (FETF) and the Farming Transformation Fund (FTF).
The FETF funds smaller items of machinery and infrastructure, with grants of between £2,000 and £25,000 available. The application window is set to close on January 7, 2022.
The FTF offers businesses the opportunity to apply for more substantial projects which require a greater capital investment, allowing eligible beneficiaries to invest in their businesses to improve productivity, profitability and enhance environmental sustainability.
It concentrates on the key themes of water management, improving farm productivity and adding value, and offers grant funding of 40 percent toward project costs.
Grants of between £35,000 and £500,000 are available and the application window will close on January 12, 2022.
Charlie Fowler, agri-business consultant at Fisher German said the FETF scheme followed similar principles to the former Countryside Productivity Small Grants Scheme.
However, the minimum grant value has reduced to £2,000 and the maximum grant value has increased to £25,000.
“Businesses can apply for a total of £50,000 over the scheme’s duration," he said, "This is only the first round and we expect round two to open next year, allowing businesses to apply for a further £25,000.
“We have already received enquiries from businesses looking to purchase direct drills which the grant offers £25,000 towards, and in row weeders which the scheme offers £24,000 towards.
“The FTF grant funding is an excellent opportunity for farmers and growers to obtain public funding to subsidise investments in infrastructure and machinery.
“As BPS income tightens this is an ideal opportunity allowing on farm improvements to continue, enabling greater production efficiencies to be achieved.
“The January deadline should not put business owners off the idea of applying as the FTF is a two-stage application process, and the first stage can easily be achieved within the next eight weeks in order to meet the deadline.”
Top tips on applying for a grant
Fisher German has issued tips for farmers and land managers who are interested in applying for a grant:
• Fill in the application correctly - the schemes are competitive and applications can be rejected if errors are made.
• Accurate and honest financial forecasts - the FTF will require financial forecasts alongside a lengthy application form which should demonstrate the impact the investment will have on your business. A second pair of eyes from an external consultant is always helpful here prior to submission, as often the Rural Payments Agency will scrutinise the numbers to ensure the grant achieves value for taxpayers’ money.
• Ensure funds are available or can be made available should a grant be offered – the applicant business will have to fund all the costs of a project up front which can often lead to cashflow pressure. The grants are claimed in arrears and re-paid to the successful applicant upon completion of the project which must be evidenced.
• Ensure leased items are paid off – those who buy an item for the project using lease purchase or hire purchase must own this outright before they can claim any grant money towards it.
• Lengthy permission applications must be obtained by the end of 2022 – should the project require either planning permission or an abstraction licence where irrigation projects are being considered, setting the ball rolling on this is vital as it will be required to satisfy the grant requirements. The time it takes to receive either planning or an abstraction licence is often out of the applicants’ control and presents a risk in obtaining grant funding.
• Seek application support: those who are not experienced in the application process are advised to seek expert advice. Grants of these values do not come around particularly often, and in this instance, they are expected to be very competitive, so a strong application will be required.