Latest developments on FBIS and EFS schemes

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Farmers who have applied for the Farm Business Improvement Scheme – Capital Tier 1 and the Environmental Farming Scheme are reminded that there are deadlines approaching and they need to take action and ensure they do not miss out.

The FBIS and the EFS are both elements of the NI Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 funded through a combination of national and EU monies.

Despite the NIRDP being approved by the EC back in 2015, it has taken some time to get the various schemes up and running with a number of measures still to receive approval locally to allow them to open to farmers. However, two of the most popular schemes with farmersn the FBIS capital grant scheme and the Environmental Farming Schemen opened in October 2016 and February 2017 respectively.

Almost 1,600 Letters of Offer were issued for Tier 1 of the FBIS capital scheme earlier this year and time is running out for those applicants to purchase items and return claims to Countryside Services Ltd (the delivery agent for the scheme) to ensure the grant can be paid out.

Once claims are returned an inspection will take place on farm and then payments can be released. If there are issues getting an item in time to meet the claim deadline, an extension can be given but permission must be granted from CSL.

Farmers are urged to check they have all the paperwork in order when submitting their claim and are also reminded that failure to purchase all the items on the Letter of Offer will result in a financial penalty being applied to the remaining items.

Despite delays in the opening of the Environmental Farming Scheme, things are now beginning to progress. DAERA received 928 higher level applications and 1435 wider applications earlier this year.

Last month, DAERA issued 422 Letters of Offer to Higher Level applicants and these farmers now must engage an Environmental planner to draw up a Site Specific Remedial Action Plan (ssRMP) and return this to DAERA by 26 September. If they haven’t already done so, these farmers are encouraged to engage a planner as soon as possible to allow the ssRMP to be completed on time.

A list of planners who have completed the DAERA EFS planner training sessions is available on the DAERA website.

1388 farmers have this week been offered a Wider Level Agreement. Farmers must log in to the DAERA Online Services using their Government Gateway ID and password before 31 July 2017 to view and accept their agreement. The UFU is encouraging farmers to carefully review this agreement and ensure that they are aware of the conditions and requirements.

If farmers need assistance in viewing the documents online, there is a helpline or DAERA Direct offices are offering help and the UFU would urge farmers who need this service to make appointments with their local DAERA office soon.

For those farmers who were unsuccessful or who didn’t apply to the first tranche of the FBIS or EFS, both will be opening again. It is planned that Tranche 2 of FBIS Tier 1 will open again in the autumn while two further tranches of the EFS are planned for 2018 and 2019.

The UFU has been feeding back views to DAERA on both schemes in order that some improvements can be made for future tranches.