Rural businesses across the country are set to benefit from £35 million in government funding to unlock growth in rural areas.

The Government’s Growth Programme, which opens for expressions of interest on Monday, provides grants for rural start-ups and businesses to purchase equipment and machinery to grow their business or open up opportunities for tourism.

The scheme has already granted £99 million to 546 local businesses across England, creating 3,771 new jobs in rural areas.

Farming Minister George Eustice said: “This next round of funding will help more businesses to grow and local areas to prosper – and I would urge any rural enterprise to look into what this scheme could do for them.

“I would also encourage farmers to consider how they might use this funding to branch out and diversify their businesses, making the most of emerging trends and tastes and looking ahead to new opportunities.”

The threshold for minimum grants has come down from £35,000 to £20,000, meaning that more small or micro-businesses can be eligible for a grant for their projects.

Paul Caldwell, chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency said: “The programme provides funding to the 98 per cent of the rural economy in England that isn’t directly engaged in farming.

"From heritage railways to creameries and vineyards, small and micro-businesses have benefitted from the investment available under the programme in recent years.

“We are looking to support applications from businesses with ambitious plans to grow their business and provide wider benefits to their local community."

Visit to read the RDPE Growth Programme handbook, which contains information on which projects are deemed eligible for a grant and how to apply.

Interested parties need to send an expression of interest form to the Rural Payments Agency, outlining how they meet the criteria for the scheme – from creating new jobs, increasing business turnover, and improving productivity.

If the Rural Payments Agency considers the project to be eligible, the applicant will then be invited to submit a full application. The deadline for all expressions of interest is Sunday February 16.

The fund could be increased to £50 million if there are enough high-quality applications, the Rural Payments Agency said.