Northern Ireland farmers are being urged to complete the Whole Farm Needs Assessment Survey (WFNA) by the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).

UFU President Ian Marshall has said that the WFNA survey, which is the first element of the 2014-2020 Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme’s Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS), is of vital importance in helping the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).

The survey will assess the type and level of Government support needed by farmers to meet their business objectives as well as helping them shape the future direction of the FBIS, the UFU says.

“Up to £250m has been allocated by the Northern Ireland Executive to this overarching scheme to deliver on one of the key recommendations in the Agri-Food Strategy Boards ‘Going for Growth’ report.

“However, without robust data from the WFNA, DARD may struggle to prove to the Department of Finance and Personnel that there is a need for a capital grant scheme,” the UFU President says.

“The Northern Ireland Executive has shown its support for the industry by earmarking this money for farmers but it is up to us to demonstrate that there is a real need for the funding.

“I know there are many farmers out there interested in this scheme who are already considering buying equipment and embarking on construction type projects and it would be foolhardy for them to sit back and count on others completing the survey,” Marshall said.

He said he knows that it is a busy time of year for farmers but if we do not act now and take the time to complete the survey we run the risk of potentially losing some of the promised £250m.

“It is no secret that budgets across the Northern Ireland Executive are extremely tight and if we cannot demonstrate a decisive need for this funding, there will be a queue of Government departments eagerly waiting to get their hands on it,” the UFU President said.

“Farmers can be assured that the survey does not take long and is simple to complete. The benefit the FBIS will bring to farm businesses and the wider industry is vast compared to the effort it will take to complete the actual survey.

“The WFNA is not an application to the grant scheme and completing it will not have any bearing on future applications but the results will help DARD to secure the financial support promised by the Northern Ireland Executive to help farmers grow and expand their businesses,” Marshall said.

The closing date for submitting completed surveys is April 3 2015.