Rural businesses across Yorkshire are encouraged to apply for a share of £35m as part of a drive to boost productivity and create jobs.
A new round of government funding as part of a seven-year growth programme opens for applications on Monday and the grants total could be topped up by an extra £15m if enough “high-quality” applications are received.
Minimum payouts of £20,000 are available to rural businesses in England that are not directly engaged in farming, although farmers are invited to apply for funds to diversify away from their core agricultural activities.
The funding comes at a time when serious concerns are being raised about the ongoing sustainability of rural communities, partly due to a lack of high-quality, well-paid jobs.
As highlighted by The Yorkshire Post’s Dales in Crisis series, limited job opportunities are contributing to an exodus of working-age families from the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and a cocktail of socio-economic problems has seen North Yorkshire County Council set up an independent Rural Commission to identify how it can intervene.
The new round of government funding is aimed at boosting the rural jobs market, as well as making businesses more efficient.
Paul Caldwell, chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency which administers the fund, said: “We are looking to support applications from businesses with ambitious plans to grow their business and provide wider benefits to their local community.”
To date, 546 businesses have received a total of £99m, leading to more than 3,700 new jobs.
Previously in Yorkshire, Sheffield’s Our Cow Molly - a past recipient of The Yorkshire Post’s Farmer of the Year Award - secured over £160,000 for a new dairy processing unit, and North York Moors Railway Trust got £1.74m to preserve 50 historic train carriages and steam engines to boost tourism and stimulate local job creation.
Expressions of interest for the funds must be submitted by February 16, 2020.
Good farmland has not been used as effectively as it could have been for the last 15 years because of the type of financial support paid out to farmers, it is claimed.
The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers said more land would have been let out on tenancies if it was not for direct payments that see farmers paid for the size of their farmland.
The average length of Farm Business Tenancies fell to just 2.9 years in 2018, with both owners and prospective tenants showing caution ahead of a potential major restructure of farm support in the coming years, CAAV secretary Jeremy Moody said.