DAERA finally reach decision on EFS

Friday, 13 March, 2020

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says members have finally received clarity regarding the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS). DAERA has announced Tranche 3 will now continue with successful applicants receiving their agreements in the coming days and applications for Tranche 4 will open later in the year. However, alterations have been made to both Tranches following the sudden review of the scheme.

On the mouth of Christmas last year just as agreements were due to be issued, the UFU was furious when DAERA revealed the EFS was being re-evaluated. The decision came out of the blue causing frustration and confusion amongst farmers. Many members had come on board with the scheme wanting to complete environmental works and were left in the lurch.

The UFU is pleased that some common sense has prevailed as DAERA Minister Edwin Poots, has decided to retain fencing off watercourses in Tranche 3. However, it is disappointing that the rate of payment has been reduced as this is not what farmers signed up for.

There will also be considerable dissatisfaction that the water stabilisation and fencing measure will not be included in Tranche 4. Understanding that there was going to be several tranches of the scheme, a proportion of farmers have been waiting to apply when their circumstances allowed. This decision means that they will now miss out on this option and watercourses will be left unprotected in some areas.

Commenting on DAERA’s decision regarding the EFS, deputy president Victor Chestnutt said, “It was encouraging to see so many farmers take an interest in the EFS and the high number of applicants to date shows that farmers are keen to improve and create habitats on their farms. The momentum was growing and for DAERA to pull back at the end of last year and delay Tranche 3 will make many farmers reconsider if they should enter a future scheme which is not what anyone wants. The delay and change to EFS has left a lot of bad feeling in the industry. While there will be some relief that the scheme is going ahead, farmers will be nervous about trusting DAERA’s capability to deliver schemes in the future.

“The biggest difficulty for farmers involved in the scheme going forward, is that we have now hit the busiest period in the farming calendar. Farmers will have less time to carry out these environmental works but we’re pleased that the majority of deadlines for completion of EFS measures have been extended.”

It is important for farmers to note that they only have a two-week period to accept their agreement. The UFU encourages members to ensure they accurately review their agreement and if satisfied accept as soon as possible.