Frustration growing on scheme

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Ulster Unionist Agriculture spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson has said that farmers are becoming ‘increasingly frustrated’ at the delays on the roll-out of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme.

Mrs Dobson, who is an UUP Assembly candidate in Upper Bann, said: “This scheme is a crucial element of the wider £250m investment package for the local agri-food industry. The first phase of the scheme was announced last summer and this resulted in the creation of business development groups for farmers.

“It is anticipated that the capital investment scheme will be managed as two tiers. Tier 1 will include on-farm investment projects from £5,000 to a maximum of £30,000 project costs. Tier 2 will provide for on-farm investment projects in excess of £30,000 project costs. There was speculation that the first tier support was to be announced in March this year and then followed up with the larger scheme in October.

“It is outrageous however that we are now well into the new financial year and the Department have failed to come up with any details on what level of support will be available under either of the tiers, and importantly what items of expenditure would be available for grant support under the scheme. For instance, there is growing concern as to whether replacement shed roofs will be now offered support up to 40% under the scheme as originally anticipated.

“Over recent weeks more and more farmers have been approaching my office with a deep sense of frustration. Many have been waiting on further details before making crucial business decisions regarding new equipment or buildings.”

She said the next Minister will need to act swiftly to provide clarity.