The application process for Northern Ireland's Tier 2 grant has been changed to a two-part process after planning issues hampered many of the projects backed by the first tranche.

In some cases, farmers said they had spent tens of thousands on the planning process without success, leaving several in significant debt.

Tier 2 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS) supports larger-scale investments in future-proofed modern infrastructure and equipment costing more than £30,000. Due to the scale of the investments, often planning permission is required for the projects to go ahead.

The grant covers 40% of eligible costs for projects costing over £30,000 (excl.VAT).

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 basic 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.

2-step application process

Those interested in availing of FBIS -Capital Tier 2 will now have to register an expression of interest before they will even be allowed to apply for the scheme.

A department document seen by Agriland states that the purpose of the expression of interest is to "assess the appetite and readiness of farm businesses" to invest in the projects.

The expression of interest should include estimates on the project's capital requirements and 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 which could increase livestock capacity.

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

When will Tier 2 open for full applications?

The closing date for expressions of interest will be 4:00p.m on August 13, 2021.

However, while it may seem promising that the department is opening this stage, DAERA warns this does not constitute a commitment to proceed to the full application stage of the scheme.

"A final decision on the opening of the application stage will be made following completion of the expression of interest stage," the guidance states.