Farmers who are facing difficulties meeting the completion dates for Northern Ireland's Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) 'Wider' due to the prolonged period of wet weather can apply for an extension for non-arable options.

Under the terms of the scheme, many of the 'wider-level' options for items such as watercourse stabilisation fencing, tree and hedge planting, include specific completion dates of June 1, 2018.

'Alleviating pressure'

However, in some cases, the wet weather has made such work impossible.

A Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) spokesman said: “We’re aware that some farmers may not be in a position to complete the works contained in their EFS agreement by June 1, 2018, as they have not been able to get onto the land to carry out the work due to the prolonged period of wet weather.

Where practical, the department would still like to see all the items on EFS agreements completed by the dates indicated on the relevant information sheets so that claims on the Single Application Form accurately reflect the work completed.

"However, if this is not possible, we want to alleviate some of the pressure on farmers by providing an option to extend the completion dates for non-arable options up to December 31, 2018.”

Should you apply?

DAERA has outlined the following implications of requesting an extension:

"All EFS participants must claim for their work on the 2018 Single Application before the closing date of May 15, 2018," the spokesman added.

"If you haven’t all your work completed and request an extension you should make sure that your claim remains accurate.

"You may need to manage your claim during the year by reducing it if you complete less than the claimed amount; otherwise over-declaration penalties may apply.

If you request an extension and are selected for an inspection, your payment may be delayed.

“Extensions can only be given up until December 31, 2018, so all work must be completed by this date.

"As a last resort, participants who have not managed to complete any work on their EFS agreement may wish to consider cancelling their agreement and re-applying in the August application period. However, there is no guarantee that such applications would be successful.”

Farmers who recently signed up to the EFS Higher scheme automatically have until December 31, 2018 to establish their options listed under the first year of their agreement. They too must complete their claim within the 2018 Single Application form by May 15.

How to apply

Those who wish to apply for an extension must do so by June 1, via email to: [email protected]; or in writing to: EFS, DAERA CMU, Molesworth Place, Molesworth Street, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, BT80 8NX.

The correspondence should specify the option an extension is sought for; for example, watercourse stabilisation fencing. Extensions can only be given if requested and approved by DAERA and must be made by June 1, 2018.

There are around 1,150 participants in the EFS 'Wider' scheme and a further 230 in the 'Higher' scheme.

The application period for Tranche 2 of the 'Wider' scheme will open in August 2018.