The Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed confirmation by Minister for the Economy Dianne Dodds that farmers are eligible to apply for the Covid-19 self-employed scheme.

The scheme would offer self-employed farmers a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits for three months and would be capped at £2,500 a month.

The same caveats are likely to apply for farmers as for other self-employed people. Therefore, it's expected only those with profits under £50,000 will be able to avail, with the amount to be paid calculated from the average of the last three year's books.

It is an issue that the union has been exploring since the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak began.

Commenting on the self-employed scheme, UFU president Ivor Ferguson said: “This announcement by the Economy Minister has given our farmers some clarity.

"Initially, there was confusion as to whether farmers were able to apply for the self-employed scheme. Many of our members will be relieved at this news as Covid-19 has created a lot of challenges for farm businesses and all support is welcome.

However, the self-employed scheme is not the be-all and end-all as it is a short-term fix and there are qualifying conditions that farmers must meet.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will contact those who are eligible for the scheme in May, to apply online.

However, details regarding qualifying conditions and other areas of the scheme remain scarce.

The UFU said it would continue to monitor the matter and will update members as soon as more information becomes available.

We don’t know the full details of the scheme yet, but it’s something that we’ll be monitoring closely over the coming weeks. It’s an HMRC issue and when we find out more, we will let members know.

"In the meantime, the UFU will continue to press for support for a specific agriculture package primarily for the grass-based livestock sectors where the impact of the market downturn is most acute and is already being felt - that will help farmers sustain their farm family business during these unprecedented times,” said the UFU president.