By Debbie James

Farm equipment and machinery grants worth up to £12,000 to Pembrokeshire farm businesses are going unclaimed because farmers don’t have the cash to match-fund them.

The Farm Business Grant has the potential to deliver £40 million to farmers in Wales over a four-year period, offering between £3,000 and £12,000 for farm businesses that meet turnover criteria and other conditions.

The level of interest was known to be high because farmers had to attend ‘Farming for the Future’ meetings to qualify to apply; every meeting, including the event held in Haverfordwest, was at capacity.

But it has now emerged that farmers are not making full use of this pot of money; the average grant requested in the first application round was £6,723, below the anticipated level.

The grants require match funding of 40 per cent and this appears to be a barrier.

A Welsh Government spokesman said the level of interest had met expectations but the average grant requested is less than predicted. “This reflects uncertainty in the industry and a lack of available capital to match-fund these projects,’’ he said.

Grants have helped to pay for equipment for livestock weighing, bore hole establishment and handling and for feed storage facilities.

The first funding application window closed on June 30 and had a budget allocation of £6 million.

There were 507 applications submitted and the 493 approved had a total value of £3,313,705; the average grant claimed was therefore £6,723.

The second application window, which closed on September 29, had a budget of £7.6 million.

A total of 327 farmers requested funding worth £2,336,087 – resulting in a slightly higher average grant request of £7,144.

The farming unions are urging the government to widen the scope of eligible projects, to include quarantine units and infrastructure to improve grass utilisation among others.

The next funding window opens in early 2018 and there is expected to be a higher level of interest because many farmers will have received their Basic Payment.

John Davies, deputy president of NFU Cymru, said although farmers had not made full use of the grant so far, the scheme had a positive outcome.

“So far there are over 800 businesses who have sought to make their farms more efficient.’’

The government says the Farming for the Future events had made farmers focus more closely on business performance as there has been a sharp increase in demand for Farming Connect services.