Farmers have until 4pm on Friday 13 August to submit an Expression of Interest (EoI) in the second tranche of Tier 2 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS).
Covering projects costing more than £30,000 and with a maximum 40% grant of up to £250,000, it is a scheme that has the potential to transform a farm business.
While the Department has said that £12m is potentially available, a final decision to proceed will depend on the level of interest shown by farmers, and the ability of these farmers to get the money spent on time (FBIS is funded under the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme, and it must end by December 2023).
Either way, farmers must complete the EoI if they are to subsequently move to a full application stage. Ultimately the whole process will have to be underpinned by a robust business plan, so it is not for the faint-hearted.
Although the criteria that will be used to assess each project are not yet clear, it is notable that the Department will welcome proposals which “seek to improve environmental outcomes”. The examples given include low-emission slurry spreading equipment, precision technology such as GPS sprayers and grazing platform improvements to include laneways and fences.
It is a different emphasis from the first tranche of Tier 2 which mainly focused on construction-type projects. Any project which means cattle spend less time grazing will be ineligible in tranche 2.
The last time around 189 applications were received by the closing date in February 2017. By the end of December 2019, letters of offer had been accepted by 124 applicants, with total grant funding of £13.6m. Three-quarters of those projects were related to dairy or poultry. The average grant was £109,000.
If that average was the same in tranche 2, with total funds of £12m it would mean that 110 projects will be successful.