A recent article in the Farmers Weekly has highlighted one of the frustrations that face farmers – the challenges faced when applying for government grants.
The farming magazine highlights the problems of poor rural connectivity and the ‘exacting series of hoops’ that people applying for grants have to go through. Add into that the fact that, for many grants, the equipment or service has to be paid for upfront and then claimed back. This process can cause further financial problems if the claim fails or the repayment process is very slow.
The process of a great application generally takes the following format:
Apply for grant; wait for grant approval; the farmer buys the items, ensuring the invoice and bank statement are available; supply photographic evidence of items being used; payment claim is sent to RPA; payment is eatery sent to the bank or the claim is unsuccessful.
The biggest issue with this system is that a farmer may be encouraged to buy something he or she cannot afford. The money is only released after the equipment is purchased and the interim period can be a long one. This can cause cash flow problems.
The paperwork associated with grant applications can also cause problems, particularly for time-poor farmers who do not have office support. All invoices and correspondence relating to the claim must be kept up to date and accessible. It is also really important that care is taken when filling in the forms as one wrongly entered code could lead to problems when claiming money back. For example: the code for a mobile sheep handling unit is FET69 and the grant is £3,568, while the code for a head scoop for a cattle crush is FET62 and the grant is £252.
When making a bid, it is worth checking which items are scored heavily by RPA. The items with a higher score are deemed better value for money and therefore more likely to receive a successful grant. The higher score your application gets, the more likely the chance of success. For example: a manual squeeze crush is worth 87 points and grant funding is £2060, while a hydraulic crush is worth £4,360 but only scores 62 points.
Once you have received your grant offer, it is important that you go online and accept the offer, purchase and instal the equipment; and upload photographic evidence to the RPA site.
The key message regarding grant applications is to ensure all the details you need are readily available and easy to understand. From the initial grant application through to the details of the purchases, make sure you log and record everything.