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Anticipating and Explaining the Farming Investment Fund

by Darina Ward, on Sep 30, 2021 10:24:35 PM

October is on the horizon and it should hopefully bring with it a new system of grant funding for farmers and rural businesses with which the Growthviser team will be well-placed to assist – the new Farming Investment Fund. But what is the Farming Investment Fund, are you likely to be eligible for it and is it for ‘farmers like you?’ and the activities you run on your farm?

What is the Farming Investment Fund?

Any farmer who has been a fan of the Countryside Productivity Scheme, which has largely proved popular in recent years, should welcome the Farming Investment Fund. Although we don’t have the exact detail from Defra yet, the information that has come out of the agency suggests that this new fund will reward similar actions and activities on the farm, namely:

  • actions that increase agricultural productivity, if they are based on sustainable processes that will prove beneficial for the environment
  • the desire to invest in new technology and equipment that can achieve better productivity achieved in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

The Farming Investment Fund (FIF) will have two different funding avenues within it – the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund and the Farming Transformation Fund.

How the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund should operate

 We expect the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund (FETF) to be similar to the Countryside Productivity Small Grants Scheme, focusing on lower-value grants of between £3,000 and £12,000. In this way, it will support farmers’ investment in smaller-scale infrastructure projects, as well as the purchase of equipment and technology that falls within this price range.

Will I be eligible for the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund?

Your eligibility for the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund will really depend on whether you are focused on sustainable, environmentally concerned farming and able to demonstrate that you will boost sustainable farming on your farm, through your purchases. However, it will also depend on whether or not what you wish to purchase is an ‘eligible item’, appearing on a list that will be published by Defra.

This is similar to the situation now but we believe that the current list is being updated, so more eligible items may appear on it, when the fund comes into force. Whereas the Countryside Productivity Small Grants Scheme was very focused on the needs of the livestock farmer, the new list should be equally attractive to arable farmers, contractors and those engaged in forestry projects.

If you can demonstrate that you seek a grant for something that is on the list, an application for the grant will need to be raised and this will then be assessed. The amount of grant funding available, to use against the total cost of your purchase, is likely to be 40% of your capital outlay. If successful, it is likely that Defra will make an offer, to which you will have to agree. You will have to purchase the item being funded, within an agreed timeframe, and then claim back the element that is grant-funded. In other words, you will need to find 100% of the capital outlay upfront and then reclaim the 40%.

What is the Farming Transformation Fund

 Again, as we write (September 2021), full details are not available but we believe this fund will be similar to the Countryside Productivity Large Grant Scheme.  

This fund will most likely be geared towards supporting projects and farming actions that promote a certain theme within farming and land management, with those themes being heavily influenced by environmental concern and climate change mitigation. Productivity boosting will almost certainly be integral to the projects that will be funded by this scheme but those which assist flooding, lower emissions and which handle goods in more sustainable ways, are likely to be big winners when it comes to successful grant applications.

Examples could be on-farm reservoirs, to collect and retain water, but could equally involve the use of robotics and automation. They could be enhancing processes in terms of pesticides or nutrients or introducing efficiencies in areas such as the storage, sorting and processing of farm products. They could just as likely be focused on agri-food and the strengthening of the food chain. Until we see the exact detail, these are the best-guesses, from what Defra has said so far.

Who is eligible for the Farming Transformation Fund?

If you are adding value, in any of the ways described, you are likely to be eligible. However, you will need to optimise your application, so that your eligibility shines through, when the grant funders initially examine expressions of interest – the likely ‘stage one’ to this process. If it is then felt that your project could qualify, you will be asked to submit a full application.

The important thing to note is that this will be scored, using the funding criteria, to assess whether or not what you plan to do is aligned with the goals of the Farming Transformation Fund. Getting your application right and on-point will be crucial.

For this reason, the Growthviser team is watching developments carefully, so that it can begin to assist clients with their applications, as soon as the Farming Transformation Fund officially opens. The scheme recognises that farmers may not be able to handle their own applications but we see our role as being far more than that.

Our approach is to marry up grant funding and R&D tax reclaims, to maximise the total return and benefit to farmers. That is one thing we shall continue to do. However, our role also involves explaining how actions will improve both a farm’s position and the situation for the wider community, area, supply chain or country. Collating and marshalling all of this information, in such a professional way, is one reason why our clients are typically very successful with their grant applications.

With Defra accepting that farmers may need an agent’s assistance, they are allowing experts like Growthviser, who have permission to use the Rural Payments System, to help farmers potentially access this funding and grow their businesses. With the Farming Transformation Fund running until 2025/26, farmers have every opportunity to take advantage of this funding, if they have the right expertise and backing for their applications.

Other Funding Changes for Farmers 2021/22

 There are various other funds becoming available for farmers and we can expect this trend to continue, as the country goes through the post-Brexit transition process and as the farming community sees the phasing out of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

The Agricultural Transition Plan is already underway, with different schemes being rolled out, in line with the vision of the new Agricultural Act 2020. One of these is the pilot scheme for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), which is the first of the three Environmental Land Management schemes we are expecting to see.

Summary: the Farming Transformation Scheme and other farm grants

We should not have to wait long now to know the full detail of the Farming Transformation Scheme and other grant funding for farms is also on the horizon. What is absolutely certain is that any grants awarded to farms will go to ones which have expressed, with clarity, that their actions will assist growth and profitability, as well as benefiting the wider environment and positively impacting on the country’s climatic future. This is a trend likely to be set in policy for generations to come