SOUTH Down SF Assembly candidate Caitríona Ruane has urged farmers and food processors to ensure that they take up the opportunity to draw down funding from several recently-opened funding streams.
Ms Ruane added, “Prior to the closing of the Assembly, several new schemes were opened by DARD Minister Michelle Gildernew. Funding is being made available through the farm diversification measure of the RDP for the concept of ‘social farming’. While this is a relatively new concept in Ireland, it is well established across a number of European countries, seeking to utilize farming and agriculture as a therapeutic tool to provide health, educational or social care services for vulnerable people. This is both an innovative way to help sustain farm incomes, and a means to improve the range of health and social services in rural areas.
“The third tranche of the Farm Modernisation Scheme (FMS) contains some £1.4 million of funding, and is expected to open later this year. It will allow for small scale investments into farm businesses for modernising on-farm facilities, which is good news for the rural economy.”
“Funding is also available for large and small food processors. The Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme has re-opened, with over £11.6 million of funding available to support the agri-food sector through to 2015. There will be a specific facility for applicants from small processors, those seeking grant support of £50,000 or less for their projects.
“In an innovative move, Minister Gildernew also announced the setting-up of a ‘One Stop Shop’ through DARDs’ Rural Development Division, to deal with applications for both the PMG grants, and other available food processing grants,” said Ms Ruane.