Farmer complains about Tier 1 delays

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A Co Armagh beef farmer has told Farming Life that he has received no communication – at all - from Countryside Services, regarding his application for Tier 1 support under the Farm Business Improvement Scheme.

“That was three months ago. And I am now genuinely concerned about the length of time it is taking to process my application,” he said.

“Every box was ticked at the time of submitting the form, including the procurement of quotes for the cattle handling equipment that I wanted and the required letter of endorsement from my bank.

“I am also worried that the quotes given to me by the various suppliers have become null and void, given the delay in getting any information back regarding the scheme.”

The objective of Tier 1 is to improve the sustainability of farms in Northern Ireland. It provides support for farmers and growers to invest in equipment and machinery that will help realise improvements in efficiency, environmental practice, animal health and welfare, and health and safety, associated with modern farming practices.

Tier 1 is for projects costing from £5,000 - £30,000 and is primarily aimed at the purchase of off the shelf equipment and machinery.

Responding to the concerns raised by the Co Armagh farmer, a DAERA spokesperson said that the release of Letters of Offer to the highest scoring eligible applications to Tier 1 commenced on 31 January 2017 and that process ongoing. The department representative continued:

“In order to manage work flows, the process of releasing Letters of Offer by the Managing Agent, Countryside Services Ltd, will continue over the coming weeks until the available budget of £7.5m has been allocated.

“It is anticipated that the vast majority of successful Letters of Offer to approximately 1500 applicants will have issued by the middle of March.

“The managing agent will also notify those applicants who have been unsuccessful, outlining the reasons why that was the case.”

DAERA has also confirmed that the closing date for applications to Tier 2 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme has been extended to 4pm on 10th March 2017.

“This extension will allow farmers and growers who are currently working on their applications extra time to complete them, in particular, their business plans. In addition, it will allow applicants to fully engage with their banks/lending institutions and work towards meeting the additional supporting information or permissions required for the application process,” a DERA spokesperson said.