Grants 'boost 1000 rural businesses'

ONE thousand rural businesses will benefit from the first grants under a new government scheme, claim ministers.

The £20m Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme will turn business plans into reality, said farm minister Jim Paice.

Farmers, foresters and horticulturalists will receive up to £25,000 to invest in green projects and new machinery so their businesses can grow in a more sustainable way.

The Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme will fund profit-boosting schemes that:

* save energy and reduce carbon emissions;
* reduce dependence on artificial fertilizers through better use of manures;
* improve soil quality;
* improve animal health and welfare;
* save and recycle water; and
* promote woodland management by processing timber more efficiently.

Mr Paice said: "Grants of thousands of pounds will allow businesses to adopt greener and more efficient ways of working that will protect and improve the environment as well as grow the rural economy."

Over the coming weeks successful applicants from the first round of the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme will receive letters to notify them of their success

Further funding will be available through a second round for applications opening in May.

Grants of £2500-£25,000 will cover 40% of the total cost of projects, with up to 50% funding available for projects in upland areas.

This scheme is part of Defra's £100m package of investments through the Rural Development Programme for England announced in the Rural Economy Growth Review in November 2011.

The £60m Rural Economy Grant scheme is open for entrepreneurs in rural areas to apply for life-changing grants, which could be worth more than £1m each, to grow their businesses. The new £20m Skills and Knowledge Transfer Network will start delivering training later this year.

Applicants to the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme were assessed on their ability to meet one or more of six objectives.

Some grants are available to enable farmers to improve soil quality and reduce their use of artificial fertilisers through better use of farm slurries and manures.

Others will help businesses to reduce or recover energy, saving money and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Farmers, foresters and horticulturalists can apply for funding that will help them to save, recycle and reuse rainwater, or to improve the health and welfare of farm animals.

Money will also be invested in new mechanical equipment to process timber more efficiently, giving land owners a financial incentive to manage woodland and improve biodiversity.

The first round of the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme closed in late January.



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