A £60m rural grant scheme will turn ambitious business plans into reality, claims the government.
The Rural Economy Grant scheme was launched by Defra secretary Caroline Spelman on Wednesday (29 February).
Grants – which could be worth more than £1 million each – would enable entrepreneurs in rural areas to take life-changing opportunities, she said.
The scheme would help rural businesses grow, increasing both their competitiveness and profits.
Up to 40% of project costs is available in the five business areas of farm competiveness, agri-food, tourism, forestry, and micro enterprise support.
Mrs Spelman said: "Businesses in rural England can play a significant part in helping to rebuild the nation's finances.
"From today, they have the chance to turn their most ambitious and innovative business plans into a reality – boosting profits, supporting a thriving rural economy and improving the natural environment."
Mrs Spelman said the grant scheme would give farmers and rural entrepreneurs life-changing opportunities to transform their business prospects.
"It's part of a £165 million package of initiatives to unlock the economic potential of our rural areas, which have been overlooked for too long."
The Rural Economy Grant scheme would enable businesses to maximise opportunities from the increasing global demand for food.
For instance, grants may be available to help companies buy new processing and packing equipment, allowing them to target new markets.
Rural businesses can take up new opportunities in the growing tourism industry by applying for funding for accommodation and visitor services and activities.
Grant support is also available to improve the competitiveness, productivity and environmental efficiency of the forestry sector.
The Rural Economy Grant scheme will prioritise support for small businesses in Rural Growth Networks.
The £15 million pilot project aims to help rural areas overcome barriers to growth, such as a lack of suitable premises or slow broadband speeds.
The first round of grant applications runs until the end of April. A second round of applications is expected in autumn.
For information about how to apply, click here.
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