Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Michelle McIlveen has encouraged farmers to start thinking now if they wish to avail of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme.
Minister McIlveen announced details of the capital element of the scheme, which is to be formally rolled out in October, and urged farmers to take advantage of the preparation stage to ensure they are ready to apply for grant.
The announcement has been welcomed by the Ulster Farmers’ Union, which it described as long-awaited.
In her announcement, the minister explained some of the detail of the scheme.
She said: “The Capital Scheme will only be for farmers who are actively involved in farming. It will be an important part of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme package of measures aimed at improving the competitiveness and sustainability of farm businesses. The Capital Scheme will offer tiered support, linked to the needs in the farmer’s business plan. The grant rate for the Scheme will be 40% of eligible costs. Tier 1 of the scheme will support smaller scale investments, costing less than £30,000, to improve the sustainability of farm businesses. Tier 2 will drive larger scale, transformational investment in projects costing over £30,000.”
She added: “I want to ensure that we invest in the next generation of farmers and those committed to developing themselves and their farm practices. Therefore the Capital Scheme will favour both young farmers and qualified farmers at the selection stage.”
All applicants must have a Category 1 Farm Business ID and will have to provide a ‘Making it Safer’ self assessment certificate as part of their application.
The minister continued: “This Preparation Stage will allow time for farmers to start to prepare before the scheme opens. I would encourage farmers to begin thinking about what they need to do now if they are interested in applying for grant support.”
Miss McIlveen also highlighted an important online tool that the farmer can now use.
She said: “I want to take the opportunity to draw to all farmers’ attention to the “Making It Safer” farm risk assessment tool. Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in Northern Ireland and this year we have sadly seen a number of accidents and fatalities. It is vital that we improve health and safety on our local farms. I would encourage all farmers to complete this assessment, not just those who will need it for an application to the FBIS capital scheme.”
The minister’s announcement has been welcomed by the Ulster Farmers’ Union.
UFU deputy president Ivor Ferguson said: “The announcement to launch a preparation stage for the capital element of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme has been long awaited and will be welcomed by the farming sector. The focus on the detail and planning of this scheme has taken time but we are pleased to see it progressing towards the formal opening in October.
“There has been a lot of interest in the Capital Scheme and it is vital it is rolled out as quickly as possible, given that it is designed to bring economic benefit to the agriculture industry,” he said.
Mr Ferguson added that UFU members have shown a keen interest in using the scheme for upgrading fences and erecting new fencing. He said the UFU was urging DAERA to include fencing within the scheme and to ensure that it is delivered in a practical and meaningful way.
Further Information on the Scheme and available tools will be found on the DAERA website. Additional information will be made available ahead of the opening of the Scheme. http://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/farm-business-improvement-scheme