New grant scheme on offer to rural businesses

FARMERS and landowners in Northumberland are being encouraged to apply for a new grant scheme.

The Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS) will ensure businesses are more efficient and environmentally friendly.

And land agency firm Strutt & Parker is urging farmers, foresters, woodland owners, agricultural contractors and horticulturalists to consider applying for up to £25,000.

Designed to help rural businesses, the scheme will help firms become more profitable, resilient and more efficient at using resources.

It will also reduce the impact of farming on the environment.

Those eligible can apply for grants from £2,500 to £25,000 to invest in new machinery, green projects and improvements to animal health and welfare.

Eligible applications must be for projects that are over and above standard farm practice and fall within certain areas of activity: they must reduce reliance on artificial fertilisers by improving the use of manures and slurries; save energy and reduce carbon emissions; save and recycle water; improve farm animal health and welfare; or improve woodland management by processing timber more efficiently.

Ali Gray, a land agent in Strutt & Parker’s Morpeth office, said: “This scheme offers a very good opportunity and it should not be wasted. The scheme will not fund projects which are legislative requirements but eligible items include slurry seperation systes, GPS equipment for precision farming, electricity effiency devices, rainwater harvesting, timber processors, firewood processors and chippers.

“Livestock farmers can apply for grants for grants for EID readers, computer software, cattle crush upgrades, heat detection technology, parlour floor resurfacing, needleless injectors, percussion stunners, free farrowing systems and water softeners.”

The deadline for the first round of grants is January 17, 2012.

Depending on budget availablity, the scheme will operate on a four-month cycle until the end of 2013.