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South of England Farming Conference

From Uncertainty to Opportunity

A very positive message was given at the SEAS Conference last night, chaired by BBC Presenter Charlotte Smith. 

These uncertain times will undoubtedly create opportunities but the industry must embrace change, harness the best technology, and drive productivity. 

Kent Farmer Owen Piper explained how his family farm had already developed a diverse range of enterprises including the introduction of a vineyard as part of a plan to ‘future proof’ their business.

Julian Marks, Group Managing Director of Barfoots of Botley outlined how their business is successfully growing, processing and packing a range of specialist crops, working in the UK and across the world to maintain a continuous supply chain for retailers whilst overcoming a multitude of issues. 

Jane King from the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board and Richard Self of Co-operatives UK stressed the importance of sharing data and working together through co-operatives to add value whilst building a strong support team around you. 

Well done to the conference organisers.

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RDPE Growth Programme

On Monday 4th November DEFRA announced the re-opening of the EU-funded RDPE Growth Programme, part of the Rural Development Programme for England. DEFRA have confirmed £35m of funding is available, with the potential to increase to £50m, dependant on the quality of applications.

The Growth Programme, designed to create new jobs and growth in the rural economy, will provide grants in three areas; Business Development, Rural Tourism Infrastructure and Food Processing.

The Business Development grant is for small businesses and farmers diversifying into non-agricultural activities. The scheme will fund businesses hoping to start a new rural diversification enterprise alongside giving businesses the opportunity to advance current enterprises. Funding can help pay for construction or improvement of buildings and new equipment and machinery.

The Rural Tourism Infrastructure grant can assist with the funding of capital expenditure on tourism projects such as:

  • Holiday accommodation including campsites, glamping pods, log cabins or caravan parks
  • Conversions of farm buildings into new visitor attractions including cafes or a farm park
  • Expansion of current tourism attractions
  • Infrastructure connecting existing footpaths, bridleways and cycle ways

The above examples are area dependent; please check the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Handbook for your LEP area.

The maximum grant available for Business Development and Rural Tourism will be £175,000 and will cover up to 40% of the projects total eligible costs.  The minimum grant has been reduced from £35,000 to £20,000, allowing smaller businesses to benefit from the funding. This means each project must have a minimum total eligible cost of £50,000.

The Food Processing grant is for food and drink businesses that process agricultural and horticultural products such as meat, milk or soft fruit. The grant can be used for various aspects such as machinery, building construction, energy saving equipment and professional fees.  The Food Processing grant will also cover up to 40% of the projects total eligible costs. The maximum grant available for Food Processing will be £750,000 and the minimum grant will be £20,000.

The application process consists of two stages. An ‘expression of interest’ form must be complete before midnight 16th February 2020, which must include the business turnover and balance sheet, details of any previous public funding your business has had and whether the enterprise will be linked to another business. If your ‘expression of interest’ is successful in the application process and the RPA considers your business to be eligible for a grant, you will be invited to submit a full application, which must include final project costs, supplier details, key dates and proposed project outputs.

The ‘expression of interest form’ and the detailed handbooks can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rdpe-growth-programme

If you are interested in submitting an ‘expression of interest’ form for any of the above grants, please contact a member of the team and we will be happy to guide you through the process.