Farmers who have applied for the latest round of Northern Ireland's Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) should keep an eye on the post for new agreements for schemes commencing in 2019.
Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has so far issued more than 1,400 EFS Wider and 170 EFS Higher agreements.
The remainder of the agreements will be issued over the next few weeks. Farm businesses will be notified of the availability of their agreement by letter.
EFS Tranche 2 agreements commence from January 1, 2019, and will run for five years ending on 31 December 2023.
Environmental Farming Scheme
The Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) is a voluntary scheme that will support farmers and land managers to carry out environmentally beneficial farming practices on agricultural land.
The scheme aims to:
- Restore, preserve and enhance biodiversity;
- Improve water management and water quality;
- Reduce soil erosion and improve soil management;
- Foster carbon conservation and sequestration in agriculture;
- Reduce greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from agriculture.
Once the agreement is accepted, businesses can commence works detailed in their agreement. It is important that all the options and capital items required in each year are completed to the standards given in the relevant EFS Information Sheets.
Claims for EFS payments must be submitted on the Single Application form by May 15, 2019, and payments will commence in December 2019.
A department spokesman said: "It is vital that you read your EFS agreement information and accompanying information carefully to understand what you are committing to do.
"The accompanying information includes the relevant EFS Information Sheets for Options and capital items, the Terms and Conditions of the Scheme and, for EFS Higher only, the associated site-specific Remedial Management Plant (ssRMP).
After reading the relevant information, you must either accept or decline your offer of an agreement by the date indicated in the letter.
"Accepting or declining your scheme agreement must be done online either through your personal Government Gateway account or through your authorised agent. Assistance can be provided by making an appointment at your local DAERA Direct office.
"If you do not accept your EFS agreement by the date given in the letter, it may be cancelled.
If you have any questions about your EFS Higher agreement you should contact your planner in the first instance."