October 4, 2008

Farming: Where is the Money Going That is Meant for North’s Farmers? ; The Decision to Spend Modulated Money on Schemes That Have No Relation to Agriculture is Raising Questions Among the Farming Community.

By Karen Dent

THERE is fresh controversy over the fate of money supposed to support farmers amid claims it is being diverted to rural concerns that have nothing to do with farming.

As The Journal reported earlier this week, the Hexham-based National Beef Association (NBA) raised concerns that the Government and Government agencies may see the funding as the only pot of money available to them in these difficult economic times.

NBA director Kim Haywood said she was worried single payment money was being directed through the new Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) to pay administration costs for organisations, rather than being used to help hard-pressed farmers. She is also unhappy that funds are being used for countryside projects that are not farming-related.

"I am trying to set up a meeting with key personnel in Defra and the Government to explore funding and how it is used. What has been the uptake on the Rural Development Programme and what has been successful? Is the money being spent? Who is using it?" said Ms Haywood.

"The NBA is very keen to know what this money is actually being used for in the farming community and on farms to help farmers restructure."

Under CAP funding, pillar one money is paid to farmers based on their productivity and pillar two is paid for introducing environmental or public benefits in their land management. Pillar one funding is expected to be removed in five years' time.

"Farmers need SP single farm payment for temporary capital to help them restructure their management for 2013 and beyond when pillar one support is expected to be removed entirely and their only income will come from the market - unless they are prepared to sign up to highly restrictive environmental schemes funded by pillar two money," said Ms Haywood.

"We haven't had the turnaround in the marketplace to keep the beef industry sustainable. We've already seen a huge decline in the number of sheep and cattle kept in the UK. That's a huge concern. If we lose our livestock industry, we lose the land managers and lose the ability to feed this country. The only funding that farms can really get access to bridge the gap between farm returns and funding is this money."

The RDPE scheme has been sold to farmers as a simplified programme which is easier to access. Funded partially by voluntary modulation in addition to money from national Government and Europe, it runs until 2013 and has a pounds 3.9bn budget. In the North East, it is administered by One-North-East. (ONE)

Two different pots of money are available - up to pounds 10,000 per project for smaller schemes and a higher rate fund that has up to pounds 140,000 available for larger projects which are able to prove their scheme has wider benefits for the community, such as creating or safeguarding jobs.

The NBA is unhappy that modulated money - farmers' money - is being used to fund non-farming schemes.

Ms Haywood said: "Other organisations can put in applications that have nothing to do with farming. These people are very familiar with putting in applications for funding and farmers are not.

"These community groups are getting access to a lot of funding that is not directly to do with farming. The public needs to know how this money is being spent. It's public money."

A Defra spokesman said the RDPE money was used solely to fund rural projects and none was diverted into administrating the scheme or to fund regional development agencies such as ONE.

However, he said there was provision for landowners who were not farmers to apply for the money and admitted there was some consternation among the farming community that people other than farmers could apply for it.

ONE said that the region has more than pounds 3m in RDPE funding to help farms diversify, build skills and collaborate with each other to try new markets. It said potential applicants should contact Business Link as their first port of call.

ONE's RDPE manager, Adrian Sherwood, said: "More than 300 farms and related businesses have used the service so far this year.

"Farmers and organisations such as the NFU have worked with us very closely on the development of RDPE with investments in areas such as land-based skills - where a Northumberland farmer is leading a steering group to make sure funding goes to those areas where it is most needed."


SINCE the new funding came online at the start of the year, ONE has allocated more than pounds 3.2m from its approximate pounds 7.3m annual budget.

The various pots of available money include:

pounds 1m (2008-2009) micro-enterprise fund - to support farms looking to diversify and become more sustainable.

pounds 1m (2008-2009) collaborative processing and marketing fund to support facilities that can transform a supply chain and add significant value to agricultural products.

pounds 600,000 (2008-2009) for farms looking to move into supplying the biomass market to help with the costs of equipment and training.

pounds 600,000 (2008-2009) to help farms develop new skills, specifically focused on land-based businesses.

A further fund is still under development to help farmers diversify by developing assets such as vacant farm buildings.

In five rural areas of the region (called LEADER areas), community partnerships - which include farmers - are planning how to use their share of at least pounds 4.5m RDPE funding over the next three years.

(c) 2008 The Journal - Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.