A new scheme offering grants of up to £300,000 to enable farmers and landowners in England to add value to agricultural products is now open.
Defra has released guidance on a new ‘Adding Value’ grant which is the third stream of funding being offered through the Farming Transformation Fund (FTF). Previous rounds of the FTF have been structured around the themes of water management and improving farm productivity.
Farmers, growers and processors are able to apply for funding to invest in capital items to add value to agricultural products (both crops and livestock). The grant will cover a maximum of 40% of total eligible project costs, with a minimum grant set at £25,000 (meaning £62,500 total project costs), and the maximum capped at £300,000 per applicant business.
Various capital items are eligible for funding. For example, applicants can request funding for equipment to process milk into cheese, sort and process grain and retailing equipment, including milk vending machines. Second-hand items are also eligible for grant funding, if they meet the eligibility criteria set out in the guidance.
To maximise the chances of being awarded funding, applicants should look at how their projects fit in with the main grant priorities:
- increase, improve or introduce new processing capabilities
- grow your business – to improve business resilience
- process products for the first time
- shorten supply chains
- encourage collaboration and partnerships
- improve environmental sustainability
The Rural Payments Agency will be allocating extra points to projects that provide additional benefits, such as collaborating with other businesses or being environmentally friendly (i.e. using renewable energy or sustainable packaging).
The first stage of the application process involves using an online checker to see whether a project meets the grant priorities. Following that stage, the projects that score the highest will be invited to submit full applications, competing for part of the total funding pot of £30m.
The online checker is open until 21 July 2022 and applicants who are invited to submit a full application will have until 31 January 2024 to do so.
This grant is Defra’s replacement for the two grants that were previously available under the Growth Programme and the Countryside Productivity Large Grant scheme.
Although probably not intended to be so, these grants were quite exclusive. The average amounts awarded to projects were over £250,000 and £400,000 respectively, so large amounts funding very significant projects. Only about 150 projects were funded by these grants, and they were not successfully accessed by many farming or land–based businesses (despite thousands of initial applications being made – and accepting that many were speculative).
We hope that this new grant is much more accessible to smaller businesses; the lower minimum grant level (£25,000 grant) and ability to buy second-hand equipment are positives but the application process needs to be as simple as possible. It needs to be light touch and able to identify projects that will genuinely ‘add value’. This is not easy, but Defra and the RPA need processes that are much better than they were for previous grants.
Given one of the priorities is improved environmental sustainability, farmers who would like to be ahead of the curve in terms of reducing their emissions and managing resilient agricultural businesses may also wish to consider how they can demonstrate the environmental performance of their projects on an ongoing basis, for example, by carrying out a carbon audit. This can be a valuable tool, helping farms to improve their business as well as environmental performance.
If you are interested in this grant and would like further information or help with your application, please contact farming consultant Marie Charles.