EU aid package used to help small dairy farmers

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The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs this week announced a further aid scheme for Northern Ireland small dairy farmers under EU rules.

Issuing an update on the implementation of the £4.1m EU Exceptional Adjustment Aid (EAA) package, originally announced near the end of 2016, a Departmental spokesperson said: “DAERA is committed to maximising our eligible spend of EAA for the benefit of dairy and other livestock farmers here. The measures first announced last November are demand-led and the level of expenditure is driven by farmer uptake. It is now clear that those measures will not use up the full NI allocation of EAA funding and for that reason we have added a further component to the package to help use up any remaining funds here.

“However, we are restricted to those UK measures notified to the European Commission last November and which can be implemented relatively quickly and easily within the EU expenditure deadline. DAERA has secured legal provision for an English scheme to be extended to small dairy farmers in Northern Ireland. There is no scope for DAERA to vary the conditions of the English scheme.

“Northern Ireland farmers are eligible to register their interest if they had annual cows’ milk production of up to one million litres during the period 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016; and are still active in cows’ milk production. Payments will be on a pence per litre basis, capped at 500,000 litres of supply.”

Application forms will be made available to NI farmers shortly on the Rural Payments Agency website https://www.gov.uk/guidance/small-dairy-farmers-scheme. The closing date for applications to the scheme is expected to be 31 May 2017. The final rate of payment to NI farmers cannot be confirmed before all NI applications have been received and until DAERA calculates the amount of funding remaining from the NI EAA allocation.

The spokesperson reminded farmers that the BVD PI Removal Incentivisation Scheme, which was launched on 6 February 2017 is still operational. This scheme incentivises the humane destruction of BVD Persistently Infected (PI) dairy and beef calves within four weeks of an initial BVD test, at a flat-rate which includes a contribution towards the cost of replacing the animal and not simply the cost of removal to slaughter. Details on how to apply are available on the DAERA and LMC websites.

Further details about the Pig Industry Competitiveness Scheme, including how to apply, will be made available on the DAERA website week commencing 8 May 2017. This scheme will cover the cost of in-feed medication for pig-herds and blanket treatment of sows to help producers control endoparasites.

Work is also ongoing on the development of the arrangements for a free soil sampling and analysis service for livestock farmers. Further details on this scheme will be made available on the DAERA website soon. DAERA anticipates recruitment of farmers this summer, with soil sampling taking place during Winter 2017/18.

There were also plans to use EAA funding for training in business planning and risk management. However due to difficulties in appointing an appropriate external provider within the strict EU timeframe, DAERA now plans to provide this training under the FBIS - Farm Family Key Skills programme, with funding from the NI Rural Development Programme.