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Huge Response To Sustainable Farming Fund

The number of applications for funding under the Sustainable Farming Fund exceeded expectations, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said that more than 350 applications for the $5 million fund were received by the closing date.

"The number and range of the projects shows the real interest and need there is for the fund among rural communities. It confirms the Government's policy of commitment to support rural communities."

Mr Sutton said the 368 applications' funding requests total was five times the amount of funding available.

"Preference will be given to projects that provide the greatest benefit across a rural community." Other criteria include economic viability and promotion of environmental sustainability.

Proposals ranged from emerging industries (such as olive, pistachio, and ginseng), aspects of sheep and beef farming and forestry, to business planning for rural women, iwi-based projects, and disease and pest control.

Applications are being assessed and applicants will be notified within three weeks as to whether they should submit a full proposal.

There will be a second round of funding next year, with applications invited from February.

"I am delighted with the response so far, but the real measure will be seeing rural communities benefit from sucessful projects."

The fund, launched on September 6 and administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, aims to help rural communities in the sustainable use of land-based resources, assisting them to overcome barriers to economic, social, and environmental well-being. It provides money for projects that enable access to information, technology, or tools, and that bring together communities to address problems and improve the community economic base.

A free phone line (0800 100 087) is available for people wanting more information about project criteria, eligibility, funding levels, timetables, or application forms.

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