Farmers urged to complete survey

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Following DARD’s announcement of the launch of the Whole Farm Needs Assessment survey, which is the first element of the 2014-2020 NI Rural Development Programme’s Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS), the Ulster Farmers’ Union is encouraging farmers to take part in this positive exercise and complete the survey.

The Farm Business Improvement Scheme is a funding scheme currently being developed under the NI Rural Development Programme, with up to £250 million to be delivered via a number of different measures and a series of tranches with the aim of helping farmers to sustainably develop their businesses.

The FBIS is a very important element of our draft Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. This survey will give farmers an opportunity to inform us of the barriers they face in meeting their business objectives and will provide the information we need to shape the FBIS to best meet their needs

Agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has urged farmers to shape proposals for the scheme.

Information gathered from the survey will help DARD assess the type and level of government support needed by farmers to meet their business objectives and will aid design of DARD’s proposed Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS).

Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA said: “The FBIS is a very important element of our draft Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. This survey will give farmers an opportunity to inform us of the barriers they face in meeting their business objectives and will provide the information we need to shape the FBIS to best meet their needs.

“It will also help farmers critically assess their business and make the right decisions as they plan ahead for the next few years. I would encourage all farmers to consider using this tool.”

The survey is available now on the DARD website at: http://www.dardni.gov.uk and the closing date is April 3.

UFU rural development policy committee chair Alex Irwin commented: “A key element of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme is a capital grants scheme and I know there are many farmers out there who are particularly interested in this.

“Completing this survey will help farmers prepare for any future application process as it will give them an opportunity to assess their business needs and to make a plan for farm improvement projects in advance of the scheme.

“Taking some time out of our busy working day to complete this survey as accurately as possible will also be of great benefit as the results will help to shape the future design of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme. By doing our bit, we will be helping DARD to better design the scheme and ensure the needs of our farming industry are properly addressed to deliver on one of the key recommendations in the Agri-Food Strategy Board’s ‘Going for Growth’ report.

“UFU members have been heavily involved in the focus groups around the design of the survey in order to ensure the forms are as simple as possible. Farmers should also be aware that submitting a completed survey is not an application for grant aid and it will have no bearing on any future applications.”

Speaking after a CAP reform information evening hosted by Diane Dodds MEP in Corrick House Clogher, chairman of the Agriculture Committee William Irwin said he had urged the gathering to “make use” of the opportunity to help shape the Farm Business Improvement Scheme.

He stated: “In politics much is made of consultation and sometimes we can be accused of consulting too much, however I feel this exercise is an important procedure and it gives farmers a great opportunity to tell the Department what they want to see in the new Farm Business Improvement Scheme.

“This is the first scheme of its type for many years and given there has been a lack of investment in farms in recent years, it is an important opportunity for farmers to assess their needs going forward and improve the profitability of their farms.

“The new scheme aims to provide a 40% grant rate for capital investment on farms and the grant aid will cover a wide range of improvements. This will be a very useful contribution for farmers in assisting them in the growth of their farm businesses for the future.”

He concluded: “The survey is available online and can be submitted online or by post and I can provide copies of the survey for anyone who requires it from my offices in Tandragee 0283884900 or Richhill 02838870500.”