Defra has announced £35 million of guaranteed funding for rural businesses to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and machinery.
The move is part of the government’s Growth Programme, which provides grants for rural start-ups and businesses. It has so far given £99 million to 546 local businesses in England, creating 3,771 new jobs in rural areas.
Farming minister George Eustice said: “This next round of funding will help more businesses to grow and local areas to prosper – and I would urge any rural enterprise to look into what this scheme could do for them.
“I would also encourage farmers to consider how they might use this funding to branch out and diversify their businesses, making the most of emerging trends and tastes and looking ahead to new opportunities.”
The minimum threshold for grants has been reduced from £35,000 to £20,000 for this round of funding, meaning small or micro-businesses can also be eligible. The maximum grant is £750,000 for food processing businesses, or £180,000 for all other rural businesses.
Paul Caldwell, chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency added: “The Growth programme provides funding to the 98 per cent of the rural economy in England that isn’t directly engaged in farming. From heritage railways to creameries and vineyards, small and micro-businesses have benefitted from the investment available under the Growth programme in recent years.
“We are looking to support applications from businesses with ambitious plans to grow their business and provide wider benefits to their local community.”
The programme opens for expressions of interest from Monday 4 November and closes on Sunday 16 February, 2020. Initial submissions should outline how the project meets the scheme’s criteria, through creating new jobs, increasing turnover or improving productivity. If the project is found to be eligible, applicants will be invited to submit a full application.
A handbook is available on gov.uk with more information on which projects are eligible and how to apply.