The Prince’s Countryside Fund releases £718,000 of grant funding

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The Prince’s Countryside Fund has announced £718,000 of grant funding to support vital rural initiatives to improve the lives of people living and working in the countryside.

Significant funding has been awarded to projects across the UK which offer practical help to struggling farm businesses. This new funding comes in addition to the monies already distributed from The Prince’s Countryside Emergency Flood Appeal in December 2015.

The Fund has released its greatest number of grants to date, with 23 projects being funded, reflecting the growing need for support in rural communities which will directly benefit over 50,000 people.

A range of farming help charities, networks and support groups have received funding, including the Farming Life Centre, Tir Dewi, Bed and Cambs Rural Support Group, Exmoor Hill Farming Network, FarmCornwall CiC, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West and North East Enterprise Agency. These new grants have been awarded to help support over 1,000 vulnerable farm businesses and is one way in which the Fund is assisting the farming sector.

Founded by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2010 to help secure a brighter future for the British countryside the Fund has invested over £6.7 million in projects right across the UK both through immediate assistance and longer-term sustainability. In October 2015 The Prince’s Countryside Fund convened a Summit in Derbyshire to explore solutions to assist farm businesses as the reality of low commodity prices and increased administrative burden took its toll.

Claire Saunders, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, said: “The Prince’s Countryside Fund’s grant programme provides an essential lifeline to people living and working in the countryside and is needed now more than ever. We are proud to be able to offer practical help to support farm businesses in becoming viable and sustainable. There are many fantastic groups operating across the UK and the Fund is delighted to be able to support such a wide range of innovative projects that will provide a lasting legacy to so many communities.

“Farming and rural businesses have been hit hard in the past 12-months as a fall in commodity prices and increased administrative burdens have taken their toll, notwithstanding the devastation of storms and subsequent flooding. As well as dealing with the immediate pressures we are committed to helping secure a viable future for vulnerable farms and have commissioned new research to be carried out by the University of Exeter and published in the summer to help inform our future funding and activity.”

Katherine Williams, Network Officer from grant recipient the Exmoor Hill Farming Network, said: “The Prince’s Countryside Fund has provided support to our network activities to help address low farming incomes and rural isolation through its networking and training activities. We are a farmer led network bringing information, training, demonstrations, grants and opportunities to upland farmers across Exmoor.

“The new grant enables us to offer crucial support to over 430 members and (growing) across Exmoor. We have engaged with 226 farm businesses and provided locally delivered training in many topics including grassland management, condition scoring, succession planning, first aid, spraying and post mortems. We act as a vital hub being the ‘go to’ point situated in the middle of the moor marrying up farmer’s needs, provisions and enabling sharing ideas through knowledge exchange and transfer. We have been overwhelmed by the support the network has received and the level of participation by all members of the farming family.”