Agricultural consultants across Northern Ireland are confirming a last minute rush on the part of farmers to have applications submitted for Tier 1 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS)
“I am dealing with 14 clients per day at the present time,” confirmed Agricultural Consultants Association chairman David Rankin.
“Many of my colleagues are also confirming a flood of enquiries from farmer-clients to have applications submitted on time. The scheme closes for application on Friday of this week. Consultants are striving to submit all applications on-line. And, to be honest, this is not as straightforward as it should be.
“In my opinion, the department is asking for too much unnecessary detail. There is also an issue with the compatibility of IMacs when it comes to submitting applications digitally.”
Mr Rankin confirmed a large demand for rubber slat covers, livestock trailers and animal handling equipment on the part of those farmers wishing to avail of the scheme.
“For the most part, the banks are playing their part in making the scheme work for their clients. That I am aware of most branches of Danske Bank, Bank of Ireland, First Trust and Ulster Bank are happy to issue the required letters of endorsement to farmers within a few minutes.
“It shouldn’t take that long to carry out the required credit check,” he said.
“Initially, there was an issue with Santander. Apparently, DAERA had left that organisation out of the loop when they consulted the leading banks over the requirement for an endorsement letter to accompany grant applications. But, as far as I am aware, this matter has now been sorted out.”
Mr Rankin believes that the Tier 1 scheme may well be re-opened again, possibly in 12 months’ time.
“It is certainly proving popular with farmers,” he said
“But, if there is a next time around, the department should come up with an application process that is a little bit more straightforward than that which is currently available.”
Meanwhile, Farm Minister Michelle McIlveen is urging farmers to ensure that they take all the necessary steps before submitting an application for Tier 1 grant aid.
“Applicants should approach their bank or lending institution as soon as possible to give lenders time to complete their input to the Indication of Support letter to confirm funds are available for the applicant’s project,” she said.
“I would also recommend that farmers and growers think carefully when choosing items from the list of eligible items and would encourage them to go for the more highly rated items where this suits their business needs.”