Around 900 Northern Ireland farmers have formally expressed their interest in applying for the second tranche of the Tier 2 grant.

A total of £12 million has been earmarked for the second tranche of Tier 2 the Farm Business Improvement Scheme – Capital (FBIS-C).

The scheme will support investment in on-farm projects costing more than £30,000 (excl. VAT). Funding is provided at a grant rate of 40% of eligible costs, with £250,000 the maximum grant available under the FBIS-Capital scheme.

The first round of the scheme, run in 2017, came under criticism from farmers after many of the projects offered funding were caught up in Northern Ireland's agricultural planning stalemate.

The scheme aims to improve the performance and sustainability of Northern Ireland’s farm businesses by providing grants for capital investment across five key themes:

  • Contribution to sustainable growth;
  • Environment, Weather Resistance and Climate Change;
  • Animal and Plant Health;
  • Occupational Health and Safety; and
  • Production and Resource Efficiency.

Renewable energy projects, including anaerobic digesters, and replacement or maintenance projects, are not eligible.

Projects that would lead to a decrease in the average number of grazing days for cattle will also not be supported.

Changes for Tier 2 Tranche 2

The changes for Tranche 2 of Tier 2 will mean that only farm businesses which submit an expression of interest will be eligible to submit a full application for the second tranche, which is expected to open later in the year. A series of training webinars will also be held ahead of the application stage.

Stage 2 will be a competitive process requiring a full and detailed proposal that aligns closely to the project outlined in the expression of interest.

Responding to a question from Agriland, a Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) spokesperson said: “There was a significant level of response with around 900 Expressions of Interest received for FBIS-Capital Tier 2 Tranche 2.

However, a number of these were duplicates or for proposals which would be ineligible under the scheme rules.

"The department is continuing to carry out administrative checks on the Expression of Interest received before being in a position to confirm the number of farmers.”

Expression of Interest stage

A briefing document explained that the purpose of the expression of interest stage was to “assess the appetite and readiness of farm businesses” to invest in the projects.

The expression of interest form asked for information on the type of investment planned, approximate total costs and will be used to assess the applicant’s ability to complete the project within 12 months, so that payments can be administered and made by the end of the current Rural Development Programme (December 2023).

Planning permission or a Certificate of Lawful Use/Development will be required before a full application is submitted for all projects which involve construction or renovation of buildings, or which include equipment to increase livestock capacity.