Farmers urged to gather evidence to ensure grant success

12:00 PM January 30, 2022

Farmers must gather evidence to have the best chance of success in grant applications, says Simon Evans, agricultural partner at Arnolds Keys – Irelands Agricultural.

It has been a really welcome boost to see a sustained period of settled weather at the start of the year, which has enabled a general catch-up to take place among arable farmers, with late winter wheat being drilled, and some even considering starting to drill spring barley.

But that aside, this time of year often sees farmers retreating to their offices to get stuck into various administrative tasks, not least submitting applications for grants – whether it’s Environmental Stewardship applications, capital grants for hedging, fencing and creating tracks, or Farming Equipment and Technology grants.

Of course, these grants generally come from the public purse, so it is right and proper that the application process is rigorous, to ensure that taxpayers are getting the best value for their money, and that the cash is reaching the destination it is intended for.

If anything, that rigour is becoming more intense, which is why providing evidence as part of a grant application is more important than ever.

The new grants regime is supposed to be “educational and supportive”, but that won’t stop grants being delayed or even refused absolutely if applicants don’t dot all of the “I”s and cross all of the “T”s.

All of the traditional types of evidence are still relevant: receipts, seed invoices, soil analysis, grazing records, field operations, diaries and bank statements are among the many types of supporting documents which may be needed for a grant application to be successful.

But many farmers forget that they carry around with them at all times a device which can provide the most compelling evidence of all: their mobile phone, or more specifically, the camera on their device.

Pictures of new fencing, re-laid tracks or other capital works can be invaluable in providing that the works has been completed. If the location stamp is turned on your device (pretty much all smartphones have GPS nowadays), then photographic evidence can be indisputable.

Even more powerful are “before and after” pictures, taken from the same place.

These can show the improvements very clearly – but they do need you to ensure you take the “before” pictures prior to work starting, as obviously you can’t roll the clock back to take these once the work is done.

Grants for large capital items can run into tens of thousands of pounds. Clearly that sort of money is not going to be released without a robust, evidenced application, and few farmers can afford to miss out on reimbursement of that magnitude because they failed to provide that evidence.

Some grant application deadlines seem a long way away at this stage in the year.

The Higher Tier stewardship application deadline is April 29, while the Mid Tier and Wildlife offer application deadline isn’t until July 29.

But by then, most farmers will be back in the fields, hard at work. So right now, while things are relatively quiet, is exactly the right time to be turning your attention to filling in those forms – and amassing that evidence.

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