The first phase of the new Countryside Productivity scheme is now open, giving farmers, foresters and land managers in England the opportunity to apply for grants worth £5 million.
The £140 million Countryside Productivity Scheme, administered by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), is part of the new Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).
The grants are intended to encourage farmers and foresters to invest in improved infrastructure and new technology, for example LED lighting in livestock housing, water management systems, slurry systems and remote crop sensors.
The scheme includes small grants, worth up to £35,000 per business. One small grant can be used to apply for a range of small grant items.
Large grants that could provide between £35,000 and £1million per business are also available. These can be used for a mix of large grant items in one application.
Grants may cover up to 40 per cent of the total eligible costs of the project, with the applicant required to cover the remainder. Claims for the cost of projects will be paid in arrears.
Applicants can apply for more than one Countryside Productivity grant, as long as they are for different projects. However, the selection process for the funding is competitive and the RPA may give priority to applicants who have not previously received funding under the scheme.
Farming Minister George Eustice said: “We want the UK farming industry to be the best in the world and this funding is an important boost for farms looking to invest for the future.
“This new funding will support farmers to buy new technology which will increase their productivity and help them to become more competitive and profitable.”
Farmers and researchers are also being encouraged to notify their interest for a separate set of grants which will be made available later this year under the European Innovation Partnership.
The scheme is designed to develop practical ways to make farming more sustainable and productive, supporting ‘bottom-up’ projects led by farmers. Funding between £5,000 and £150,000 per project will be available to operational groups that are combinations of farmers, forest managers, researchers, land based or agri-food businesses and non-governmental organisations.
CLA president Henry Robinson said: Innovation has a critical part to play in meeting this challenge. The CLA has been calling for Government to continue investment in the research that drives development of new technologies, and we are pleased that funding has been made available to help farmers to put these new technologies to good use.”
Tom MacMillan, innovation director at the Soil Association, welcomed the new innovation. He said: “The European Innovation Partnership (EIP) is great news for British farmers, recognising that so many of the best innovations in agriculture come from the ingenuity, experimentation and hard graft of farmers themselves. It celebrates that unsung investment by farmers and builds on it.”