This week has seen the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) open the Environmental Farming Scheme Higher Level EFS(H) application window. Applications must be completed online and submitted before midnight on 20th April 2018.
EFS is a voluntary scheme that supports farmers and land managers to carry out environmentally beneficial farming practices on agricultural land.
The aims of the scheme are to: restore, preserve and enhance biodiversity, improve water management and water quality, reduce soil erosion and improve soil management, foster carbon conservation and sequestration in agriculture while reducing greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from agriculture.
EFS(H), is a higher level initiative, primarily aimed at site specific environmental improvements at strategically important locations and for priority habitats and species.
The EFS is an element of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme (2014-2020). It is funded through a combination of national and EU monies.
According to DAERA, interested farmers can go online now to check whether any of their land is eligible for EFS(H). They can then apply by selecting only the EFS(H) eligible fields that they will have control of for the next five years, beginning on 1 January 2019.
Following closure of the application window DAERA will then prioritise all initial applications, and those successful will be invited to engage a planner to produce a site specific remedial management plan.
The department is also pointing out that joining this EFS(H) does not prevent farmers from entering the Wider Level, EFS(W).
A DAERA spokesperson said: “We aim to open EFS(W) for applications later this year.”
DAERA is running a series of workshops at a number of venues throughout the application window to enable farmers to learn more about the EFS (H) scheme. For further information on locations and to reserve a place on a workshop, telephone 028 7131 9955.
It is also possible for someone (a family member, friend or agent) to apply on a farmer’s behalf. If assistance is needed to get online, farmers can make an appointment at a DAERA Direct office, where all relevant support will be provided.