Vicky Ford MEP

Member of the European Parliament for the East of England

12 NOV 2011

East of England MEP encourages farmers and rural businesses to apply for £20 million of EU funding

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, is encouraging local farmers and rural businesses to apply for a new tranche of EU money that has today been released by Defra. The new £20 million Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS), which is designed to help farming, forestry and horticultural businesses to become more efficient at using resources, forms part of the EU Rural Development Program for England (RDPE). Defra describe the scheme as aiming to help businesses to become more competitive and more profitable, whilst reducing the impact of farming on the environment.

Mrs Ford explains: "This news is incredibly welcome especially as it can be used towards capital investments. Water shortage, for example, was a huge concern to many of our farmers during this very dry spring, threatening the harvests and thus pushing up food prices for all of us. To date rural businesses in certain areas of the countryside have been able to apply for this EU money but others have not been able to. This has been particularly noticeable in the East of England, I hope that this new funding can help create a more level playing field.

"At a time of real shortage of public money this must not be treated as a "free handout" from Europe. Tax payers from the East of England are major contributors to EU budgets. I would like to see more of the money we pay to the EU coming back to our local area but I would also like to see it well spent on projects that will bring real long term benefits.

"I am told that farmers, foresters, woodland owners, agricultural contractors and horticulturalists can apply for grants of up to £25,000 each to invest in energy and water efficiency, soil quality projects and improvements to animal health and welfare so their businesses can grow in an environmentally friendly way. I would encourage qualifying companies and individuals in the East of England to look into the scheme as soon as possible".

The FFIS grants are for capital items and will cover up to 40% of the total investment in non-upland areas. The maximum grant allowable per project is £25 000. The minimum grant is £2,500. Grants will be assessed by Defra on a competitive basis. Bids can be submitted from next Wednesday 16 November 2011 until 17 January 2012. Potential applicants should seek advice from to http://rdpenetwork.defra.gov.uk/funding-sources/farm-and-forestry-improvement-scheme

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My Political Priorities

Economic Stability must come first. Without a strong economy we can not deliver a strong society. I work with businesses and consumers to keep Britain open for business, cutting red tape, boosting trade opportunities and helping to deliver jobs and growth for all.

I support Science and Research which is key to delivering better medical care, healthy food as well as the Innovation and Creative Industries which bring improved lifestyles for all our families.

Strong home Security is vital in today's uncertain world, which requires robust policing and defence and deep international relationships that we can depend on. I work with others to achieve this.

I care about the Countryside and the Environment and making sure that rural and urban communities flourish.