Union welcomes opening of environment scheme

UFU's Wilbert Mayne
UFU's Wilbert Mayne

Ulster Farmers’ Union Environment chairman, Wilbert Mayne, has welcomed the announcement by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) that the Environmental Farming Scheme will open for applications on February 27.

“Many farmers will be glad to hear that this long awaited scheme will finally be opening for applications,” said Mr Mayne.

“The scheme is quite different from previous agri-environment schemes and is focused on addressing specific environmental needs, such as biodiversity and water quality. Also, farmers should be aware that it is not a ‘whole farm’ scheme but offers a range of options for farms.

“Given the changes to the scheme and the need to complete the application online I would encourage farmers to give themselves plenty of time to set up a Government Gateway Account and study the requirements for completing an application,” added Mr Mayne.

The UFU Environment chairman said that some farmers may be frustrated that all applications must be submitted online.

“The union recognises that this is far from ideal given that access to broadband is still a significant issue in many rural areas. We have expressed our concern that some potential applicants may be at a disadvantage through no fault of their own. DAERA have given us assurances that they have put additional resources in place to assist farmers with this move to online only applications and the Union is monitoring the situation closely,” said Mr Mayne.

The DUP’s William Irwin said the £100 million scheme will be a significant benefit to farm businesses and he urged farmers to avail of the fund.

“I am pleased to see that a launch date for the scheme has been announced for 27th February and I would urge farmers to get fully behind the programme. There has been some concern voiced around the online application procedure, however after speaking with officials, I am assured that the online service has been designed to be straightforward and easy to navigate,” he said.

The closing date for applications is 31 March 2017.

The EFS guidance and Q&A are available on the DAERA website at: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/environmental-farming-scheme-efs