Tom Corfield, agricultural partner at Arnolds Keys - Irelands Agricultural, explores grant opportunities for farmers.

By the beginning of this month, farm businesses will have received their 50pc Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) advance payment – and perhaps for some, the amount will come as a shock.

Compared to 2020, the total payment received this year will be 35pc less for small farms. For the largest farms, it will be 55pc less. Though we have known for some time that BPS payments will taper off to nothing by the end of 2027, many will feel the financial impact of such a substantial reduction this year.

Eastern Daily Press: Tom Corfield, agricultural partner at Arnolds Keys - Irelands AgriculturalTom Corfield, agricultural partner at Arnolds Keys - Irelands Agricultural (Image: Arnolds Keys)

Fortunately, there are a number of potential sources of grant income and extended deadlines mean that there is still time to apply – provided you are quick.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has announced that the application deadline for the last round of the Countryside Stewardship scheme has been extended by four weeks to September 15. Get your application in by then and there is a good chance you could secure funding under a new five-year agreement starting January 1, 2024.

Another option to consider is the Sustainable Farming Initiative (SFI). There is no single deadline for applications here: agreements, which last for three years, can start at any time. The advantage of this scheme over Countryside Stewardship is its flexibility – you can start with one thing and then bolt more on later.

It’s a bit like a menu, where you can order the starter and then call the waiter back to order the main course when you are ready. However, with Countryside Stewardship, you have to order the whole meal, including dessert, up front. Contrast that with SFI, where new ‘dishes’ (standards) will be added to that menu next year.

Meanwhile, a new grant has been announced to help farms build housing for calves, to deliver health and welfare benefits. This grant can be for new buildings, upgrades or replacements, and will pay up to 40pc of the cost, up to a maximum of £500,000. This new grant complements the existing standalone capital grants, for which the payment rates have increased.

Finally, a recent government decision has made diversification more attractive. From July 26, 2023, the length of time a farm can operate a pop-up campsite has been increased from 28 days to 60 days. Given the cost of setting up the infrastructure for such sites, this is a positive change to help the farming sector.

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