First Letters of Offer arrive for £15 million FBIS Tier 1 scheme

Letters of Offer for the £15 million Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS) have started to issue to thousands of farmers, Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons has confirmed.

Tier 1 of the scheme supports smaller-scale investments to improve the sustainability of farm businesses – such as the purchase of equipment and machinery costing between £5,000 and £30,000 from a list of eligible items.

The scheme was set up to have a particular emphasis on businesses investing in Low Emissions Slurry Spreading Equipment (LESSE) with more points available for the measures that would have the biggest impact on farm emissions.

Farmers were encouraged to ‘underbid’ for the scheme after it became clear that demand would far exceed the amount of funding available.

More than 3,800 farm businesses stuck in bids ahead of the deadline on December 4.

Shortly before he stood down, former Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots announced he would double funding for the scheme to £15 million.

Newly-appointed Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons said: “I am delighted that Letters of Offer have started to issue for the third tranche of Tier 1 FBIS Capital.

I am very encouraged by the willingness of our farmers and growers to invest in the sustainability of their businesses, and particularly in Low Emissions Slurry Spreading Equipment.

“Not only does this fund immediately benefit farmers, it also has a lasting and positive impact on our environment, using up to date methods and technologies to help farmers develop their agriculture business into one that’s more sustainable and environmentally aware.

“It will also have a knock-on benefit for local agricultural and horticultural supply businesses and contribute to the NI economy.

“With £15million funding available for this tranche, Letters of Offer will continue to issue over the next weeks until the budget is fully allocated.”

What to do when you get your letter?

Farmers who receive a Letter of Offer should read it carefully and, if prepared to accept the terms and conditions of the scheme, must complete and return their Form of Acceptance within 28 days of the date of the Letter of Offer.

The scheme will be delivered by Countryside Services Limited on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Eligible applications were ranked according to the FBIS-C, Tier 1 (Tranche 3) selection criteria with the available funding awarded to the highest scoring applications.

Eligible applications were assessed against the following selection criteria:

  • FBIS-C theme band;
  • Value for money;
  • Not previously been a successful applicant;
  • Age of applicant; and
  • Educational attainment.

When all offer letters have been issued, unsuccessful applicants will be notified along with details of the process to follow should they wish to seek a review of the decision not to fund their application.

Will there be a Tier 2 tranche 2?

Whilst a date has not yet been confirmed for opening a second tranche of Tier 2 of FBIS-Capital – the variant of the scheme designed to offer support to projects costing more than £30,000 – a spokesperson for the department confirmed the minister is keeping this under review.

“Any further capital support will take into account any further guidance developed by the department on ammonia reduction and mitigation, and would be subject to funding availability,” the spokesperson added.

“DAERA is working to develop a comprehensive and proportionate package of measures on ammonia and hope to consult on a strategy later this year.”