Support for rural Welsh communities; new schemes launched under the Rural Development Programme

11 August 2015

Article by Katy Orford, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Photograph of rural community

Image from Flickr by Hefin Owen. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

The Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (RDP) was adopted by the European Commission on 26 May 2015. The RDP is a 7 year European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) programme, funded by the European Union and Welsh Government. At the end of July 2015 the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, launched four key schemes under the new RDP. Together these initiatives are worth close to £30m.

Rural Development Programme

The RDP is a 7 year investment programme of the Common Agricultural Policy, which aims to improve resilience in agriculture, forestry and rural communities. The £900 million grant aims to:

  • improve competitiveness in the agriculture and forestry sector;
  • safeguard and enhance the rural environment; and
  • foster competitive and sustainable rural businesses, and thriving rural communities.

Schemes

Four schemes recently launched under the new RDP are the:

  • Rural Community Development Fund which aims to improve community cohesion through measures like community transport and connectivity e.g. through internet provision;
  • Sustainable Production Grant which aims to improve agricultural business resilience;
  • Food Business Investment Scheme with a focus on jobs in the food sector; and
  • Part of the Co-operation programme which will start the process of creating innovative products and sustainable local collaborative strategic initiative projects on areas like woodlands, food innovation and the red meat sector.

The initial rounds of Expression of Interest for the schemes are now live (Table 1). Following this, projects will be ranked for prioritisation against other projects and, if successful, applicants will be invited to submit a full application with all supporting documentation. Further windows are expected to be announced shortly.

Table 1: Schemes opening for an initial round of Expressions of Interest

Rural Community Development Fund

Under RCDF the Welsh Government will offer grants, primarily aimed at LEADER Local Action Groups (LAGs) and other community-based organisations for investment funding across a range of interventions. These are designed to help combat poverty and reduce the impact of poverty in rural communities to improve conditions leading to future jobs and growth. Interventions will include:

  • helping people into work;
  • supporting people to earn more once in work (through increased hours worked and increasing skills); and
  • focussing on improving the early years of people’s lives.
  • Aspects of rural poverty the Welsh Government have identified as requiring attention include:
  • access to services;
  • fuel poverty;
  • in-work poverty; and
  • digital exclusion.

Sustainable Production Grant

The scheme’s objectives are to increase on-farm investment, increase technical performance, increase on-farm production and resource efficiencies.

The Sustainable Production Grant covers capital investments in equipment and machinery, and supports projects that offer benefits to improve the overall performance and sustainability of the agricultural holding.

The maximum grant threshold per enterprise for any individual investment project is £400,000, the minimum is £16,000.

Food Business Investment Scheme

Food Business Investment Scheme is designed to help primary producers of agricultural products in Wales to add value to their outputs by providing support to those businesses that do first and/or second stage processing activities. It is also designed to improve the performance and competitiveness of their businesses; to respond to consumer demand; to encourage diversification and to identify, exploit and service new emerging and existing markets.

The scheme covers capital investments in processing equipment and supports projects that offer benefits to primary producers, either directly or indirectly, in the agriculture sectors providing the raw materials. Micro, Small or Medium Enterprises (SME’s) are a priority for support.

The maximum grant threshold per enterprise for any individual investment project is £5,000,000, the minimum is £2,400.

Co-operation programme

Support will be a combination of grants to co-operative groups and funding of animators / facilitators who broker and facilitate co-operative projects. It will also include feasibility studies, supply chain mapping and gap analysis.