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Mark Gibson: Farmers face tough calls, but funding is there to help

SCHEME: Farming businesses can get support to help them reduce the impact of storing and spreading slurry.

The time has come to take a short but well-deserved intake of breath as show season is upon us – an opportunity to socialise is something farmers will look forward to.

Our own recent whisky tasting event was testament to the local farming community’s desire to get back to normal.

While a brief respite from spring work is welcome, the stresses and strains of running a business are always there – with many farmers contemplating what the future holds for them.

As the UK public struggles with inflation nearing 10%, Scottish farmers – according to farm business consultants Andersons – are faced with agri inflation of 30% with high feed, fuel and fertiliser prices the main culprits.

Fertiliser prices have gone through the roof.

There will be some tough decisions to be made this back end.

Arguably, with wheat futures for November 2022 still north of £330 at the time of writing this article and 34.5%N back to a “reasonable” £630 compared to the dreaded £900 in early spring, the numbers for many still stack up.

However, industries such as poultry, pigs and soft fruit face greater uncertainty with the additional fear for the latter of a lack of migrant labour this summer due to the current conflict in Ukraine.

However, opportunity lurks around every corner – if you look for it.

As government targets for carbon neutral become a reality, there is financial aid out there in terms of grant funding.

Diversification is always talked about but now, more than ever, farmers I speak to are looking at land and thinking what else they can do, be it agritourism or field-to-fork supply chain.

The conflict in Ukraine is adding to concerns about the availability of  seasonal farm labour.

I have outlined three grant schemes currently open in relation to farm business opportunities.

Firstly, the new round of Food Processing Marketing and Cooperation Grant scheme opened with the deadline for submissions being June 19. The scheme is set up to provide grant funding to Scotland’s food and drinks sector – including agricultural – to encourage people to buy and eat local healthy food.

What is fresher than milk direct from the local dairy farmer or lamb butchered and sold on site at a farm?

The grant is available for new and existing food processing businesses, with millions of pounds invested in earlier rounds.

There are grants to reduce the environmental  impact of spreading farm slurry.

Eligible costs range from the capital purchase of land to machinery purchase and marketing and innovation aid, with applications made through the rural payments website.

The second revolves around reducing the environmental impact of farming through the Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant Scheme or (SACGS) which closes for applications on Wednesday.

SACGS provides support for farming businesses so they can invest in equipment to reduce the impact of storing and spreading slurry and digestate.

The scheme is set to support 40% of eligible costs to a maximum of £20,000 per business on the purchase of new equipment.

Items that qualify range from slurry store covers to dribble bars and shallow injection systems at a cost of £30,000.

Finally, for those farms involved in agritourism, the Electric Vehicle Charge Point Tourism Recovery Fund is open, with applications to be made by September 8. The grant supports up to 75% of the installation cost of any on-site EV charging point up to a maximum £15,000.

The charging point must be made available for resident or guest use – not for staff only.
The above opportunities will be discussed across farm kitchen tables across Scotland, and some will be right for the business and some won’t.

Farming businesses should engage with their business professionals to ensure that any opportunity doesn’t pass them by.

Mark Gibson is a partner with Thomson Cooper accountants.

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