Farm businesses will share a £35 million funding pot as the Government seeks to create new jobs, boost tourism and unlock growth in rural areas.
Defra’s Growth Programme, which opened again this week, provides grants for start-ups and businesses to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and machinery to grow their businesses.
The scheme has already granted £99m to 546 businesses across England, creating 3,771 new jobs in rural areas.
Sheffield-based dairy Our Cow Molly received £160,000 to invest in a new processing unit, which allowed brothers Eddie and Dan Andrew to produce higher quality fresh milk and ice cream – creating six new jobs.
NFU chief economics adviser Andrew Francis said reducing the grant threshold from £35,000 to £20,000 would help smaller farming businesses make the most of the funding.
But he said certainty over future funding would be critical to allow businesses to continue to invest.
Mr Francis said: “It is unclear what the future holds when it comes to funding streams for farm productivity, farm diversification and wider rural development.
“Farm businesses need clarity on the funding landscape under the proposed Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace the EU structural funds, of which the existing Growth Programme is part of.”
Defra said the cash pot could be increased to £50m if there were enough ‘high-quality’ applications.
Farming Minister George Eustice said: “I would encourage farmers to consider how they might use this funding to branch out and diversify their businesses, making the most of emerging trends and tastes, and looking ahead to new opportunities.”
Paul Caldwell, chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency, urged businesses to submit their expression of interest as soon as possible to ensure they have time to complete a full application.
The deadline for all expressions of interest is Sunday, February 16, 2020.