A shortage of suitable stock-proof fence posts has prevented some Northern Ireland Environmental Farming Scheme participants from meeting the programme’s deadlines.

A spokesman for the Department Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) acknowledged that the department was aware of the issue.

“We recognise that some farmers may have difficulty meeting the June 1 deadline for a number of options with related fencing,” he said.

“Our advice would be that participants should strive to complete these options as soon as possible.”

The following advice was offered for those having difficulty in securing posts:

Where participants are finding difficulty locating fence posts to the required specification they should obtain, and retain for inspection, written evidence of their attempts to do so prior to June 1, 2019.

“This could include a dated order placed with a post supplier or contractor or a dated receipt for a paid deposit.”

This evidence will be accepted by inspectors and additional time will be permitted to complete the work. Options requiring protective fencing such as hedge planting will be treated in a similar manner.

“Another option for participants would be to reduce their claim by submitting an EFS SAF 3 to reflect the length of fencing actually completed but this can only be done if you haven’t been informed of an inspection or that there is a problem with your claim,” he said.

The spokesman went on to confirm that penalties would apply if the length of fencing claimed is less than the length found on the ground.

“If a claim is inspected and the amount claimed differs by more than 10% from the amount determined by the inspector, penalties will be applied unless there is acceptable evidence of attempts to obtain posts.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to get this work completed as soon as possible or have evidence that you have attempted to obtain fence posts but were unable to do. If neither of these are possible, your claim should be reduced accordingly.”