asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make available further details of the scheme for farm diversification which he announced to the House on 9 February.
Following from that announcement, and after discussions with interested organisations, I have arranged for a consultation document to be issued today seeking comments on the proposed scope, coverage and eligibility conditions of the new on-farm diversification grants. The scheme will be in two parts with grants towards both capital investment and the costs of product research and marketing. It is suggested that the capital grants should be offered both inside and outside the less favoured areas at a rate of 25 per cent. on investment up to around £25,000 within a farm improvement plan. Eligible investments would include on-farm tourist accommodation and craft workshops, visitor attractions and recreation and amenity facilities, small-scale sporting facilities, on-farm value added processing of food and agricultural products, farm shops and pick-your-own, pony trekking and livery. Assistance would be available towards building conversions, some new building, access and parking facilities and some machinery and equipment. It is also suggested that grants of 50 per cent. should be offered towards the cost of feasibility and marketing studies and 30 per cent. towards the cost of key marketing personnel over the first three years of a project. Grants would be available to groups as well as individuals.The consultation document is being sent to a wide range of interested parties. Copies are available in the Library of the House.