What rural grants are on the horizon for my business?

The farming industry is going through a lot of change at the moment, with the phasing out of the BPS and the introduction of ELMS (Environmental Land Management Schemes) under the Agricultural Bill..

There is still much that is unknown about how future grants and environmental schemes will be structured over the coming years, how and who will be able to access the grants, and it can be difficult to keep track of what is coming up, what is closing down, and how to make the best use of the schemes that are available. Here’s a summary of what is on the cards.

The Farming Investment Fund is a new grant that will open in Autumn 2021 and will enable farmers and, also farming contractors for the first time, to apply for funding to invest in equipment and technology to help improve productivity. The grant will be split into two sections.

The Farming Equipment and Technology Fund will provide smaller grants to enable farmers to buy equipment, technology and small infrastructure. This is likely to be very similar to the Countryside Productivity Small Grants scheme that closed last year and involved an online application choosing items from a set list and at a set grant fund price.

The Farming Transformation Fund will award grants for larger and more complicated projects that improve productivity and create employment opportunities on farms. Eligible investments are likely to include robotic or automated technology and applications, on-farm water storage infrastructure and equipment for storing, sorting or processing products. It remains to be seen whether this will extend to supporting diversification projects like the previous RDPE grants did, or whether it will remain specifically focused on improving agricultural performance.

Beyond the farming investment fund, there are also several environmental land management schemes being piloted, that will be launched from 2022 onwards.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive will launch in 2022 and will initially be available to BPS recipients, however by 2024 Defra intend to open this up to all farmers. The scheme will reward environmentally sustainable land management with actions grouped into packages that enable farmers to choose what is best suited to their land. The more complex Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes are also being piloted but will not launch until 2024.

In the meantime, existing multi-annual and capital grant Countryside Stewardship Schemes remain open for applications up to 2024. Crucially, any CSS agreement starting after 2021 will be able to transfer to a new scheme if that was more advantageous once the new schemes become available.

At a more industry structure level, 2022 will also see the launch of the Lump Sum Exit Scheme whereby farmers wishing to leave the industry will be offered the chance to take a lump sum payment. The consultation period with farmers ended on 11th August, and rules are due to be set out in the later part of the year ahead of a launch in 2022.

Also in 2022, Defra are set to launch a New Entrant scheme. Further information is to be provided in November 2021, but is expected to set out how to attract new blood to the industry.

There is a lot of new schemes on the horizon, and our message is to start talking to your professional advisors now about the future of your business so that, when the grant schemes launch, you are ready to benefit from them.   

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