Farming opinion: The perfect opportunity to grow your business

Dan Cox Anglia Farmers' grant resource programmes manager.

Dan Cox Anglia Farmers' grant resource programmes manager. - Credit: Archant

The triggering of Article 50 this week has left the political and economic landscape ambiguous with uncertainty lingering over future funding. But as Dan Cox, grant funding programmes manager at Anglia Farmers writes, opportunities are still available as we begin our lengthy divorce from the EU.

British Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet, sitting below a painting of Britain's first Prime

British Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet, sitting below a painting of Britain's first Prime Minister Robert Walpole, signs the official letter to European Council President Donald Tusk invoking Article 50. The triggering of the Brexit process doesn't mean there aren't still grant opportunities available, says Anglia Farmers' Dan Cox. - Credit: PA

The UK is leaving the European Union but our departure isn’t affecting the grant funding opportunities – for now – with businesses being able to tap in to significant sums of money.

Not only are there opportunities for funding but the value is quite substantial. The most significant rural grant scheme currently available, launched by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), has a provision of £120m grant funding available for rural businesses to apply for.

The Growth Fund is part of the Rural Development Programme for England and is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

Grants are available across a range of investment types and are designed to facilitate the growth of the rural economy, leading to increased productivity, improved efficiency and the creation of new employment.

There are three main categories with different levels of grant available depending on where projects are located…

Food & Drink Processing: up to £1m grants available to support Food and Drink processing projects that introduce new or improved processes and techniques, leading to increased productivity and job creation, open new product markets to the business, adding value to supply chains and reducing the need for import.

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Business Development: up to £170,000 grants available to enable expansion and/or improve productivity across rural industries, create new skilled jobs, enable diversification of farming businesses into non-agricultural activities and generally help to improve the rural economy.

Tourism Infrastructure: up to £170,000 grants available to create new and sustainable visitor attractions or leisure activities or improve existing ones which; Increase the range of activities for visitors, increase the number and length of overnight stays in the area, extend the visitor season, encourage higher visitor spend and create year-round sustainable employment reducing the reliance on seasonal work.

The grants are generally up to 40% of eligible expenditure with support available for most capital costs of a project. There is a competitive application process with funding available on a first come first served basis so if you are thinking of applying for a grant, it is important to progress plans quickly.

New schemes like these show that there is still plenty of opportunity for businesses to benefit from EU funding. In the past two years I’ve had the pleasure of helping Anglia Farmers members access over £2m of grant funding and I currently have a further £3m of grant applications in progress at the moment. With Brexit making progress, confirmed this week with the triggering of Article 50, businesses looking to grow (the key is the title ‘The Growth Fund’) have the perfect opportunity to do so whilst there is still access to this pot of EU money.

Dan Cox, AF GrantResource programmes manager, Anglia Farmers Limited