Northern Ireland's Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has said he will make the case to increase the budget for the Farm Business Investment Scheme, as it supports farmers in lowering their net emissions.

It comes just days after applications opened for the third round of the scheme's Tier 1 programme, which supports investment in technology costing between £5,000 and £30,000.

A department spokesperson confirmed the minister was also reviewing options for a second tranche of Tier 2 of FBIS-Capital, which is designed to offer support to projects costing more than £30,000.

The spokesperson also confirmed any further rounds of Tier 2 were likely to focus on ammonia mitigation.

FBIS

The FBIS programme covers up to 40% of eligible costs on new technology and farm infrastructure.

So far, £7.5 million has been set aside for the latest round of the Tier 1 programme. It's the same as the initial budget for the second tranche; however, this was later boosted by an additional £400,000 in May 2018.

Responding a question from party colleague Mid Ulster MLA Keith Buchanan, Minister Poots said: "One element of the new farm business investment scheme is that we will give additional points to people who are covering tanks or buying equipment that has low emission spreading applied to it.

...We intend to run that course over the next number of years — not just that; we will add to it going forward.

"A consequence of that is that more nutrients will get to the area where they need to go, fewer will go into the atmosphere, and, in conjunction with a course of work on soil sampling that we intend to introduce at a later point, farmers will have a better knowledge of what exactly their fields need.

"That should bring about a further reduction in emissions and, indeed, savings for farmers in reducing the amount of inorganic fertilisers that they acquire to augment the nutrients that they have on-farm."

When asked by Buchanan if he envisaged "more of a financial increase per year" to replace tired fafrm equipment, Minister Poots responded: "We could always do with a bit more money, so I will be looking to colleagues in the Department of Finance to assist us.

We want to make Northern Ireland carbon-neutral by 2050. Agriculture needs to make its contribution. It will therefore need support in order to arrive at that point.

"The agriculture industry is involved in carbon sequestration, and that is an important element of it.

"On the one hand, we reduce and lower emissions. On the other, we increase carbon sequestration on farms. In that way, we can make a real impact on the environment for the good."