Farmers are urged to be quick in applying for some of the £10m which Defra has available for improvement schemes and equipment.
The third round of the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS) is providing grants of between £2,500 and £35,000 for projects ranging from better use of energy to animal welfare and forestry management.
The Rural Development Programme for England scheme is particularly looking for applications that will make more efficient use of resources to maximise profits while reducing the enterprises’ environmental impact.
Farming and forestry businesses have until April 4 to submit their applications for a share of the funding, which may be the last chance to apply for equipment.
Grant funding is paid at up to 50% in upland areas and 40% in lowland areas.
The FFIS is prepared to part-fund the purchase of top-of-the-range equipments/systems as part of its remit to improve best practice in the five areas of nutrient management, energy efficiency, water management, animal health and welfare, and forestry.
Tim Sedgewick, of North East and Cumbria-based H&H Land and Property, advises farm businesses to act quickly to take advantage of the opportunity.
He said: “Applications will be considered as soon as they are submitted so it’s worthwhile applying well ahead of the deadline date.
“However, be aware that applications, as with the current Single Payment Scheme this year, must be made online.”
“The scheme will fund projects such as heat exchangers for milk cooling, slurry separation systems, GPS equipment for precision farming, roofing for silage pits and manure stores, rainwater harvesting, firewood processors and chippers.
“Livestock farmers can apply for grants for EID readers, computer software, cattle crush upgrades, heat detection technology, sheep weighing and turning crates, mobile livestock handling facilities, cluster flush systems and many more.
“This scheme, however, will not fund legislative requirements.”
Defra is processing applications as soon as they arrive and not all eligible applications will be approved or receive the full amount they are bidding for because of the limited amount of money in the pot.
Tim added: “Grants operate on av competitive basis so applicants making the strongest case are more likely to improve their chances of securing funds.
“Applications for structural improvements, such as roofs over silage pits and mulch middens, require planning permission which needs to be obtained prior to funding being paid.
“Farmers also need to be able to find the money to buy and install the equipment initially because grants are paid in arrears.”
The top grant rate of £35,000 per applicant has increased from £25,000 in the previous two rounds of the scheme.
Defra said that businesses which were successful in the earlier rounds are still eligible to apply but if the scheme is oversubscribed, those who have not yet received a grant will be prioritised.
Suitable schemes for application include:
Energy efficiency: equipment which reduces or recovers energy on farm.
Nutrient management: improvements in the use of farm manures and slurries to improve soil quality and reduce reliance on artificialfertilisers.
Water resource management: rainwater harvesting, recyclingand reuse systems to reduce reliance on mains water.
Animal health and welfare: projects which bring about significant improvements in farm animal health and welfare.
Forestry: projects which improve the economic value of forests through the efficiencies of improved processing and adding value.