Farmers and other rural firms in England have an opportunity to tap into £35m of grant funding, providing a welcome opportunity to anyone looking to diversify or grow their business.
The announcement that the Government has reopened the Growth Programme is timely, as more and more people consider starting a new venture.
We know that generating additional revenue streams is a priority for many farmers at the moment, as they look to future proof their businesses, given the prospect of Basic Payment being phased out over the next eight years.
This funding will be invaluable for anyone looking to diversify for the first time, or for businesses who have already diversified, but want to take their operation to the next level.
There are three strands to the Growth Programme – with the funding supporting business development, tourism infrastructure and food processing.
The biggest change from previous rounds of the scheme is that the minimum grant level has been reduced to £20,000, with the aim of helping smaller businesses to access funding.
Given grants typically fund up to 40% of a project, this means that the total cost of a project must be at least £50,000.
However, the Food Processing option is the exception to the rule, which has a maximum grant of £750,000 with 20% of eligible costs covered, depending on the goods your business produces.
The £35m funding pot will be available across England, excluding Cornwall and the Isle of Scilly, which will have its own ring-fenced budget.
Applicants need to submit an Expression of Interest by 16 February 2020, with final decisions on funding expected during Summer/Autumn 2020.
The three options are as follows:
Grants for Food Processing: This scheme is designed for food and drink businesses that process agricultural and horticultural products. The grant can be used to construct or improve buildings and purchase new machinery and equipment that will be used to process meat, milk, grain and root vegetables. Examples of successful projects include a viticulture business investing in bottling facilities and fermentation tanks, and a dairy farm diversifying into cheese making and raw milk.
Grants for Rural Tourism Infrastructure: This scheme is designed to assist in the cost of capital expenditure on tourism infrastructure. The grant will fund up to 40% of a commercial project, but up to 100% if a non-commercial project. Projects should be ones that will encourage tourists to visit, stay longer and spend more money in rural areas. Examples of successful projects include a business building a new visitor attraction for families and farm businesses diversifying into holiday accommodation (e.g glamping or caravans).
Grants for Business Development: This scheme is targeted towards farmers looking to diversify into non-agricultural activity and small rural businesses. The grant can pay for the construction or improvement of buildings and purchasing of new equipment and machinery. Examples of successful projects include farms converting farm buildings to offices, workspaces and storage, farms diversifying into a tea room, wedding venue or activity centre and a farm establishing a metal fabrication business.