Agribusiness consultant, Charlie Fowler, takes us through his top tips for farmers, landowners and contractors looking to take advantage of new grant funding opportunities to drive farm productivity, improve water management and add value to agricultural produce.
The Farming Investment Fund is now open and those who are interested 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) – and both are set to close early in January, albeit on different dates.
The FETF funds smaller items of machinery and infrastructure and follows 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 and we expect a further £25,000 to be available in round two, due to open next year. 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 application window for this fund is set to close on 7 January 2022.
The FTF – which is open until 12 January 2022 - 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 is an excellent opportunity for farmers and growers to obtain public funding to subsidise investments in infrastructure and machinery.It concentrates on the key themes of water management, improving farm productivity and ‘adding value’, and offers grant funding of 40 per cent toward project costs. Grants of between £35,000 and £500,000 are available.
As BPS income tightens this is an ideal opportunity allowing on farm improvements to continue, enabling greater production efficiencies to be achieved. We have already had enquiries surrounding reservoir lining and robotic technology on farms all of which will be considered under this scheme.
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 for applying
- 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.
We have a wealth of knowledge across our agribusiness at Fisher German and our colleagues are ready and willing to help with applications for both existing clients and those who have not worked with us before. To find out more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Read more details about the grant funding here