East Anglian farmers urged to take up EU grant funding to improve their businesses while schemes last
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East Anglian farmers are being urged to snap up new European Union-backed grants offering substantial levels of funding while they are still available.
Katie Hilton, an associate at land agents Cheffins said £200m Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Countryside Productivity Scheme and the £138m LEADER scheme could offer farmers a competitive edge in the post-Brexit economy and urged farmers to consider applying before deadlines pass.
“Even if the grant scheme you are interested in has a longer application window, consider an application sooner rather than later whilst the funding pot is still relatively full,” she said.
“Now, more than ever, optimal business performance is key and this funding could represent a much-needed leg-up to achieving a competitive edge.”
The Countryside Productivity and the Growth Programme are pitched at larger projects with funding levels starting at around £35k, representing a grant covering 40% of costs, she said.
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“This means that the minimum total project cost would need to be £87.5k. This is all about building strong foundations for the eastern region’s farming, food and drinks sector and with such chunky levels of investment available the opportunities seem difficult to ignore.”
She pointed out that some LEADER groups had reported that only a portion of the total grants available between 2015 to 2020 had been used by local farmers.
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“For example, the Cambridgeshire Fens LEADER group has only funded approximately £383,000-worth of schemes to date, leaving around £700,000 in its overall £1.1m pot,” she said.
“The funding system has so far seen a varied uptake locally which is concerning bearing in mind that all funding needs to be committed from the LEADER Local Action Groups by March 2019.”
Although there was increasing pressure to commit the funds, strong applications and good preparation by applicants was key, she said.
“The LEADER programme is only accepting applications until the autumn of 2018 so funds are time-limited. With money to spend, LEADER is actively seeking new projects. The clear message is that now is the time to strike whilst EU-backed funds are still making themselves available.”