It was welcoming news to hear on the morning of the 7th October that the Countryside Productivity – Small Grants Scheme has re-opened for applications. This is the third and final round of the scheme making it your last chance to apply. In the past this has given a significant helping hand to many farming businesses over the years, wanting to increase the productivity of their enterprises.
As most farming businesses will now be aware with the UK’s departure from the EU, and the recent passing of the Agricultural Bill through parliament, businesses will need to be able to adapt quickly to operating in an environment of reduced direct subsidies. Therefore, there has never been such an important time for businesses to look at ways to manage and reduce their operating costs in an effort to improve overall profitability.
To use the example of a lowland livestock farm, on average, labour makes up over 45% of businesses fixed costs. Therefore, any attempts to reduce this labour requirement, or to improve the overall output for the same quantity of labour, would be a practical way of improving the overall efficiency of the business.
For this example, the addition of a livestock handling system or an automatic weigh crate, may significantly speed up some of the regular tasks on the farm, therefore improving resource use, and thus potentially improving profitability.
The scheme is offering grants at a 40% rate on a range of agricultural items aimed at improving productivity. An extensive list of over 80 pieces of equipment is now available, with items on offer to suit all farm business types. Popular items include sheep and cattle handling systems, direct drills, slurry handling systems and livestock cameras.
To qualify, the grant received needs to be between £3,000 and £12,000, which at a 40% level means a total spend of between £7,500 and £30,000.
The deadline for applications closes on the 4th of November, with the items having to be purchased and in situ, following an agreement, by the 31st March 2021.
With this being the third and final round of this scheme, those who may not have been considering investments of items such as these in the near future should consider their longer-term requirements.
2020 has undoubtedly been a challenging year for many agricultural businesses. However the support offered through the government-backed ‘Bounce Back’ loans, and now the re-opening of this scheme will certainly be of benefit to a broad range of the agricultural sector, which will assist with re-energising the industry, and improve its longer-term resilience.
If you would like any further details on the Small Grants Scheme, including advice on whether this is the right scheme for you or guidance on any other agricultural matters, please feel free to contact the George F. White Farm team on 0333 920 2220.