Act quickly, or miss chance to claim funds

FARMERS have been urged to act quickly if they want to apply for funding under the £10m Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS) for England.

The scheme opened on Tuesday and closes for applications on April 4th. It is open to all farmers and rural land-based businesses irrespective of whether they have claimed before.

However, if the third round is oversubscribed Defra has said priority will be given to first time applicants.

The grants range from £2,500 to a new maximum of £35,000 per applicant but the rate remains at 40pc in the lowlands and 50pc in Severely Disadvantaged Areas.

Any item claimed must be identified within the FFIS handbook and fall within one of the five priority themes to reduce energy usage; improve the management of manures/farm nutrients; improve water resource management; improve animal health and welfare; improve the use of forestry resources.

Andrew Wraith, head of agribusiness at Savills, said: “Although many of the items are of value in themselves they should be considered in context with other funding opportunities such as the Catchment Sensitive Farming Scheme and the Woodfuel Woodland Improvement Scheme to bring additional benefit.

“Items such as slurry separators or covering slurry lagoons may also assist with NVZ requirements, particularly if you are getting tight on storage due to rain.”

Jessica Card, Rural Practice Surveyor at George F White, said the first two rounds were very popular and attracted thousands.

“This round is likely to be the last bearing in mind we are now in the transitional year for CAP Reform therefore it is vital for applicants to start the application early.

“Regionally, during the first two rounds mobile cattle handling systems and crushes proved the most popular along with GPS systems for tractors.”

Miss Card said supporting documents required include three quotes for each item of expenditure, the latest two years of accounts, confirmation of private funding and planning consents.

Paul Dennison, of Strutt & Parker’s Northallerton office, said: “Grant applications will be processed as and when they arrive so we do advise that anyone interested in receiving this assistance should apply as soon as possible.

“The monies will be paid out in arrears so applicants also have to consider whether or not they have the ability to pay for the project which has to be bought and installed by the end of January 2015.”

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