With Brexit on the horizon many farmers are keen to increase productivity and efficiency and to add value to the food they produce. Defra has recently released £40 million of new funding to help innovate through the Countryside Productivity Scheme. Two separate funding streams - Improving Farm Productivity and Adding Value to Agri-food - complement existing grants for water and forestry management.
Both new funds can furnish farmers with 40 per cent of eligible project costs but come with set rules and priorities, making it essential to read the detailed guidance issued by the Government before making an application.
Here are some practical tips on what to look out for when compiling a compelling case:
- It may be obvious but make sure your business is eligible. The funds have different criteria and nuances. For example, if you are considering a grain processing or storage scheme, you have to apply as a cooperative or group of farmers, not as an individual.
- Remember that you are in a competition. You may love your idea and think it can’t fail, but the funding is competitive and those making the decision will need to support the best applications. Make sure your proposal matches Defra’s stated priorities as closely as possible.
- Get approvals in place. It sounds simple but issues such as planning can hold back a project for months. If you don’t have the relevant permissions then the bid is likely to get turned down before it has even been assessed.
- It takes longer than you think. For example, the process of getting competitive quotations that conform to the funding requirements takes time. Make sure you allow for this and don’t rush these steps as you will end up with the project being sent back for additional information.
- Don’t start the project. If the scheme starts, the funding will not be approved. If you need to press on, you may be better off not going for the grant.
For those farmers keen to share in the latest grant funding it’s the start of a challenging process, but a successful bid will make a big difference to their future business.