Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has revealed that 3,313 applications have been submitted to join the Business Development Groups (BDG) programme.
Minister O’Neill said this was very positive news for industry in Northern Ireland.
She added: “Farmers have demonstrated in great numbers their willingness and desire to improve the performance of their farm business.”
Business Development Groups (BDG) is part-funded through the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 and the key aims of the scheme are to help farmers improve their technical and business efficiency, assist with long term planning of their farm business and improve access to new technologies and innovative ways of working.
“The Business Development Groups Scheme is the first scheme to be made available under the Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS). The FBIS will offer further assistance to farm businesses over the next five years. The level of interest to date demonstrates an industry eager to seize the opportunities which the Rural Development Programme will bring.”
Farmers will find out early in the new year if their application to the scheme has been successful with the first meetings planned to take place in the spring.
The Minister added that the next phase of the FBIS will be the £200million capital grant element which will assist farmers to make significant investment on their farms to improve production and efficiency with the construction of new farm buildings and the purchase of new technology and machinery.
Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan has said he is delighted that more people than expected have signed up to the Business Developments Groups.
Mr McMullan added: “The Business Development Groups will consist of around 15 to 20 farmers who will meet up to discuss topics they have in common facilitated by a CAFRE Development Advisor and activities will include on-farm meetings, demonstrations and skills training.
“The purpose of the groups is to develop best practice and improve performances on the farm through more efficient management.
“This includes keeping in touch with the latest technologies, learning to construct business plans and improving profitability as well as having an option to gain a professional qualification.
“The scheme, operating under the Rural Development Programme has exceeded expectations in attracting well over 3000 applicants and I hope that this will prepare farmers for the second phase of the farm business improvement scheme worth £200m in farm grants which opens next year.”