The sixth tranche of the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) Higher Level is now open for applications, and will remain so until Friday, May 13.

EFS Higher Level provides participants with annual payments to help with bringing our most important environmental sites under favourable management and is for land with environmental designations, such as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), and other areas of priority habitat.

Interested parties can check if their land is eligible via the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Online Services website, under 'EFS'. There, fields for each farm business will be marked as either 'Higher' or 'Wider' level.

Only those businesses with eligible ‘Higher’ fields will be able to submit an EFS Higher application.

DAERA is encouraging anyone who meets the eligibility criteria to apply, and added that it provides the opportunity for those farmers whose agreements will come to an end in December to reapply to the scheme.

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

Applications can be submitted online only.

It is anticipated the EFS Tranche-six agreements will start on January 1, 2023 and run for five years to December 31, 2027.  EFS Higher Level aims to deliver site-specific management of environmentally designated sites and other priority habitats.

Agreements usually involve payment for implementing a particular grazing regime, and can include other measures such as scrub, bracken or rush control.

Over 1,280 EFS Higher agreements and 4,250 Wider Agreements are in place after five tranches with an overall commitment of over £70 million.

It is planned that EFS Wider will open for application in the late summer.