THE £60 million of funding on offer under the new Small Grant Scheme provides an opportunity for the region’s farmers to update farm equipment.

However, Joanne Metcalfe from the Sedgefield office of rural chartered surveyors YoungsRPS, says the window of opportunity is short, and they need to act fast to avoid disappointment.

Opened last week and with a deadline for applications of March 14, the scheme was launched by Farm Minister George Eustice.

It is designed to help farmers of all types with the purchase of new equipment to help improve animal welfare or with resource efficiency and nutrient management.

Run as part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Countryside Productivity Scheme, and administered by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), farmers in England may be eligible for grants of up to 40 per cent of purchase cost on qualifying farm equipment.

Under the scheme the minimum eligible grant has been set at £3,000 and the maximum at £12,000. This means part funding is available for projects with a total cost of anywhere from £7,500 to £30,000.

Once accepted, farmers have five months to complete the purchase for which they must pay themselves before being refunded the grant money.

“Although launched at a dairy event the funding is not just available to dairy farmers,” said Joanne. “There is a wide range of equipment which could be eligible for funding.

“On the livestock side such items might include handling systems, crushes, scales, footbaths and EID readers as well as trailing shoe slurry systems. On the arable side GPS equipment, yield mapping equipment, shallow injection systems, grain stirrers, and much more.

“It is many years since the agricultural industry saw grants like this for equipment.

“Those interested will need to complete an online application form available on the RPA website and anyone requiring assistance with this or more information on what equipment might qualify should get in touch without delay.”