Payments totalling £16.5 million to participants in the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) have commenced, Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has announced.

The payments for over 60% of EFS Wider and Higher 2020 claims, worth £9.5 million, will appear in farmers’ bank accounts within 10 working days.

The department will continue to release the remaining payments as quickly as possible as claims are checked and validated.

Minister Poots said: "I am pleased to announce that payments totalling £16.5 million will commence this week to farmers participating in the Environmental Farming Scheme.

"This is a £16.5 million investment in helping to further protect and improve our environment, rewarding farmers for work they have undertaken in making a positive contribution to that task.

"EFS has been a great success and I hope to continue this support for farmers’ environmental work in the future."

Submitting claims

From March 30, 2021, the majority of participants in the scheme can submit their 2021 claims for EFS payment via the department’s online Single Application and Maps Service.

The remaining participants can submit their claim from April 23.

This is to ensure the data that is provided is as accurate and up to date as possible.

The department will be writing to these farmers to advise them of this in early April.

Claimants are reminded that, as the EFS is a five-year agreement, work claimed for and paid on, must remain available for inspection at any time during this period.

Failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the scheme may lead to penalties and recovery of any payments made.