Environmental Farming Scheme update

Friday, 20 March, 2020

Commodity watch by senior policy officer, Aileen Lawson

After an internal review and considerable delay, DAERA announced last week that they were progressing with Tranche 3 of the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS). DAERA has announced Tranche 3 will now continue with successful applicants receiving their agreements in the coming days. However, alterations have been made to the scheme following the sudden review which was initiated just as agreements were about to be issued in late 2019.

Applicants have until 5.00pm on Friday 27 March 2020 to either accept or decline their agreement offer. The UFU encourages members to ensure they review their agreement and if satisfied accept as soon as possible.  This is a short window at a busy time in the farming calendar, but it is necessary to allow DAERA time to process this information as claims must be made on the Single Application Form (SAF) by 15 May 2020.   

Following the DAERA review, the payment rate for watercourse stabilisation with fencing has been reduced to £4.80 per metre (from £6.00) and the payment rate for drinking trough pipework is now £3.91 per metre.

The UFU had previously highlighted to DAERA that the review and delays would result in farmers being unable to meet many of the scheme deadlines. The Union is pleased that DAERA have agreed that Tranche 3 applicants will have until 31 December 2020 to complete any of the Wider year one options with the exception of the arable options. 

Claims must be made on the SAF form so if you are accepting your 2020 agreement, ensure that you login to the DAERA online services and complete the EFS section on this form.  In May 2020, you will be claiming for work completed or work to be completed. Therefore, you must manage your claim throughout the year to ensure it accurately reflects work done to make certain that no overpayment penalties are incurred at a later date.

There are plans to open Tranche 4 of the EFS Higher scheme soon with Tranche 4 Wider opening later in the year.  This may be the last opportunity for farmers to apply to the EFS. Disappointingly the watercourse stabilisation with 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 to EFS 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.