Countryside Productivity Small Grants Scheme:
Katie Hilton, Associate, Cheffins says:
“As the new year begins farmers need to start preparing themselves ahead of new rounds of grant funding which will be available imminently. The RPA is set to open a new round of funding for the Countryside Productivity Small Grants Scheme to the tune of £30m as pledged by DEFRA. This is available for specific pieces of farm equipment to make it easier for farmers and agricultural businesses to embrace technology, which has long been on the agenda for DEFRA. The scheme offers grants of between £3,000 and £12,000 with the funding covering up to 40 per cent of the cost, which will allow farmers to embrace new innovative pieces of equipment in order to increase productivity in a sustainable manner.
The ease of accessibility to the Countryside Productivity Small Grants Scheme means that it is popular, and we are urging farmers to start preparing early in order to make the most of the funding on offer. According to DEFRA, farmers claimed a total of £15m-worth of funding in the first round of the scheme which opened in 2018 and with this year’s pot now at double that level, farmers need to act fast to make the most of the options available. Now is a great time for farmers to start researching the type of equipment which might be of interest, where to source it and to ensure that it sits within the scheme specifications. Types of equipment available are likely to be similar to those offered during the last funding round, including direct or strip till drills, yield mapping devices, GPS units and variable rate controllers. Offerings for livestock farmers include weighing equipment and livestock handling systems. It is known that following industry feedback, a number of new items are available in this second round of funding including nitrogen-measuring devices for fertiliser application and fruit ripeness spectrometers.
Whilst farmers do need to start putting plans and budgets in place, it is important not to place any orders until grant applications have been approved. There are no set guarantees that this type of funding will be on offer post-Brexit, so we would urge farmers to take action now and make the most of the EU money available.”
Countryside Stewardship Scheme:
Katie Hilton, Associate, Cheffins says:
“Natural England is set to release a new funding round for Countryside Stewardship in early 2019 and this, again, is something which farmers need to start planning for. We advise farmers to think carefully about what kind of options will work best for them and their farm wildlife. For example, where will these plots be best placed and what type of seed mix would be best suited to each situation. Quality often prevails over quantity both in terms of where the options are placed and what they comprise of. However, this will always need to be balanced with ensuring that any Countryside Stewardship Scheme fits in well with the farming system. CSS provides an excellent opportunity to be paid for capital or environmental options, whilst allowing farmers to keep the most productive areas of the farm within farming use. As with funding from 2018, many of the options pay very well with a series of different options, allowing farmers to identify the least productive parts of their land to enter into the scheme whilst also streamlining farm operations. The key here is that CSS schemes provide excellent opportunities to diversify incomes and maximise the efficiency of land use, giving possible advantages over any successor schemes offered by the UK government following Brexit.
Farmers and landowners may be tempted to take a wait-and-see approach to agri-environment schemes but we would encourage them to carefully consider this new round of Countryside Stewardship funding. Although the easiest thing may be to do nothing, consider that this is EU money, available now, that with careful planning could provide a good return to the farm business whilst providing much-needed habitat and resources to our farm wildlife."
For more information contact Katie Hilton on 01223 271959.