Good news for EU agriculture fund despite looming Brexit

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Rural businesses in West Norfolk have been told they will continue to get funding from a £9 million EU funding initiative until Brexit takes place.

It is from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), delivered via Defra. This is managed by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and distributed via the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).

The Local Action Groups (LAGs) deliver this funding under the ‘Leader’ approach, decentralising the decision and funding powers allowing the partnership to support the rural economy at a local level.

The LAG is made up of representatives from businesses, community organisations and public authorities, and plans to help micro and small businesses and community organisations create and sustain employment within the respective LAG area.

The RPA will still have responsibility for the allocation of RDPE funds and has applied two conditions to future funding: that projects provide good value for money, and are in line with domestic policies.

Further confirmation is expected of specific arrangements for the Leader programme, but it is not expected that changes will disrupt committed projects and all projects working through the application process will be guaranteed payment if approved.

Lynn Collison, chairman of West Norfolk LAG, said, “West Norfolk has a funding pot of £1.58 million to spend before we exit the EU.

“We now have the green light to carry on, and want to see more projects coming forward so that we allocate 100 per cent of our grant funding.”

Since the programme started in November 2015, the five LAGs (Brecks, Broads, Waveney Valley, Wensum and Coast and West Norfolk) have awarded £692,463.

West Norfolk LAG has funded two projects under priority 1 (increasing farm productivity):

Belmont Nursery, Terrington St Clement was awarded funding of £33,155 to enable the cut-flower and bulb growing business to make better use of rainwater collected on the glasshouses, in cooperation with neighbours.

Mark Eves of Belmont Nursery said: “Some people don’t apply for grant funding because they are fazed by the process, but it’s worth investing the time and effort – and there are people on hand to help you.”

Laurels Farm, Terrington St Clement received a grant of £32,405 to install a new pumping system, weather station and scanning probes to improve the efficiency of water use on the farm.

Mark Means of Laurels Farm said: “This is such great news and will mean a vast improvement in the timing of irrigation to the crops grown on the farm.

“The farm’s sustainability has greatly increased and given a real boost to our fresh produce production in west Norfolk.

“All the staff are proud of what’s being achieved together with their skills and efforts.”

Priorities for funding in west Norfolk are:

1. Increasing farm productivity

2. New or existing micro and small businesses (non-agricultural) and farm diversification

3. Rural tourism

4. Provision of rural services

5. Cultural and heritage activity

6. Increasing forestry productivity

Rural businesses in west Norfolk, including those involved in agriculture and forestry as well as rural community organisations, can find out more about how to apply for funding at www.norfolklags.co.uk. Please note that this funding is for rural projects, so businesses and organisations situated within King’s Lynn are not eligible for the programme.