New Grant Opportunities for Farmers and Food Businesses

New Grant Opportunities for Farmers and Food Businesses

Defra has announced another round of FFIS (pronounced fizz) which is a grant scheme for a number of very specific things where the maximum grant has gone up to £35,000 and the rate is up to 40%.  There are items under nutrient management (including some precision farming kit); animal health and welfare; energy efficiency; water management (including rainwater harvesting); and forestry (including forestry trailers, cranes and forwarders as well as some chipping machines).  The Scheme is open from 4th February until 4th April; claims must made in time to be paid by 31st January 2015.  Those who had an award from earlier rounds of FISS are eligible to apply again but priority will be given to new applicants.  Defra’s RDPE network web site has the complete applicant’s handbook: (http://rdpenetwork.defra.gov.uk/assets/files/New%20Offer/DEF-PB14063-RDPE-FFIS-2013-WEB.pdf)

Other grants for agriculture and food production announced recently include two funds from the Cambridge-based Eastern Agri-tech Growth Initiative.  These are designed to boost the industries significantly by investing in new market and supply chain development and the development, application and commercialisation of R&D..  There is a Growth Fund, aimed at improving in agricultural productivity through the introduction of new products and improvements to existing processes and energy efficiency.  There is also an R&D and Prototyping Fund, which can support planned research critical to the development of new products or processes.

Businesses must be in specific local authority areas but all Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire seem to be included, together with some other eastern region districts.  Applications are generally a two-stage process, the first of which determines eligibility and fit with the schemes’ objectives.  Both schemes are designed to improve productivity and profitability; increase employment; and increase the collaboration between research organisations and commercial companies in the food and farming sectors.

Local Action Groups (LAGs) will be an important source of farm and rural business development funds when the next round of RDPE starts in 2015.  A LAG is made up of local business people who will have clear ideas of what sorts of projects should be supported and will be allocating grants to do this in their own patches.  The LAGs that operated previously have been successful and Norfolk County Council is taking steps to put together six  which will cover the county; they have a programme of meetings scheduled for February.  The funds come largely from modulation and it is important that farmers go to these meetings and volunteer for the LAGs, to ensure that the money is spent wisely.

Meanwhile, it is not too early to start preparing for the next round of RDPE grants.  With less money in total, the scheme will be very competitive and proposals will have to be thorough and convincing if they are to win funds.  If you have a development in mind, groundwork on planning it should start any time now!

Richard Rampton