EFS Wider Level to open on Monday for applications

Applications for tranche four of the Environmental Farming Scheme Wider Level (EFS) will open on Monday (August 17), DAERA Minister Edwin Poots has announced.

EFS contains a range of measures that farmers can undertake on-farm to enhance biodiversity, improve water quality, and mitigate climate change. Farmers choose which options they prefer, depending on their individual preferences or farm type.

Changes for Tranche 4

Tranche 4 of the scheme will not offer the EFS ‘Watercourse Stabilisation with Fencing’ (WSF) option.

However, there are four other options for the protection of watercourses available. These are the 2m or 10m riparian margins which can be either ungrazed or planted with trees. The standard cost for ‘Drinking Trough Pipework’ has also been reviewed and revised to £3.91/m.

A department spokesman said the changes had been made to ensure the scheme continues to deliver on its environmental objectives and also provide value for money from public funds.

Unlike previous agri-environment schemes, EFS requires much of the work to be completed and claimed by June 1 of the first year of the agreement.

Farmers should therefore be confident that they can complete all the work within the stated time periods.

If the number of applications exceeds the funding available, applications will be ranked and those providing the highest environmental benefit will be selected.

Almost 5,000 agreements in place so far

Announcing the opening of tranche four, Minister Poots said: “I am pleased to announce the opening of a fourth tranche of EFS Wider for applications from August 17, 2020.

“EFS benefits both the farmer and our environment through the implementation of environmentally beneficial actions and works on their land. It aims to protect and enhance biodiversity and water quality, and mitigate against climate change by sequestering carbon.

The previous three tranches have been successful, with almost 5,000 EFS agreements in place. I would therefore encourage farmers to consider applying for this next tranche of the scheme.

How to apply

Applications must be submitted online by Friday, September 11, 2020.

Applications must be made, by the applicant or an agent acting on the applicant’s behalf, at DAERA’s online services.

Successful applicants will be offered a five-year scheme agreement, which will start on January 1, 2021.

Although there will be four weeks to submit an application, it is advisable for farmers to start thinking now about what options might best suit their farm by visiting the DAERA website.