Opportunities in Agriculture for North East Farmers

9th March 2017

Farmers across the region looking to create jobs, diversify their business, and grow the rural economy could access grants and receive support through LEADER.

Providing grants to rural SMEs, farmers, foresters and communities, LEADER supports projects that create jobs and grows the rural economy. Supporting micro and small businesses, farm diversification, boosting rural tourism, increasing farm productivity, increasing forestry productivity, providing rural services and providing cultural and heritage activities are all LEADER priorities. This means that farmers across the North East have an opportunity of accessing funds for their diversification project.

LEADER delivers a bottom-up, community-led approach to rural and community development, promoting sustainable development in rural areas. An initial outline application will enable applicants to get a ‘yes, progress to a full application’ or ‘no’ answer at an early stage, reducing the risk of spending time and money developing an application for it to fail at an early stage.

The funding available will primarily be for capital expenditure, with funding of up to 40% of eligible costs, a minimum grant of £2,500 and no maximum limit. North East Farmers looking to submit an expression of interest can do so to Northumberland Uplands LEADER or Northumberland Coastal & Lowlands LEADER. There are no set deadline dates or application windows and the funding is open until 2020.

Another current diversification opportunity is Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units. For those businesses with a heat requirement CHP could provide a generous income stream through electricity generation and government incentives as well as heat cost savings. For farmers looking to become self-sufficient from the National Grid and produce their own energy, CHP is an opportunity worthy of serious consideration. CHP provides both heat and electricity through the gasification of burning woodchip or wood pellets. This gas is used to drive an engine which generates electricity and heat. The electricity can either be consumed on farm or exported to the grid. A constant demand for the heat produced through the burning process is needed and can be used for district heating, drying woodchip, heating warehouses, poultry sheds, or reversing the heat for cold storage etc. Through Renewable Heat Incentives (RHIs) from the heat generation, Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) on the electricity and also the potential value from the heat, it can also provide significant income generation.

With a 20 year guaranteed income (with connection prior to April 2017) and a payback between 3 – 7 years CHP systems are fast becoming a very attractive option. We are guiding and encouraging a number of clients to look at these systems as a form of diversification and often an alternative enterprise for younger members of the family. There are however a number of salesmen currently pushing expensive CHP units without managing the process, as well as selling maintenance agreements that only apply 9 – 5, Monday – Friday.

For further information on both LEADER and CHP please contact Louis Fell or David Hume in the George F White Alnwick office on 01665 603231.

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