THE Higher Level of the Environmental Farming Sc-
heme (EFS) Tranche 4 is now open for applications.
EFS Higher Level 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.
To check if land is eligible, applicants should log on to the DAERA Online Services under EFS where the 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.
Launching tranche four of the scheme, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said: “EFS Higher agreements help to bring our most important environmental sites under favourable management and the scheme supports farmers in doing so.
“I have therefore taken the decision to open a fourth tranche of EFS Higher for applications from April 24. The application process must be completed online, and for those who may experience issues with access, my staff within the EFS team can offer assistance.
“Even in the midst of the current Covid-19 crisis, we need to be looking at protecting these sites over the next five years and assisting farmers who are willing to take up this challenge.
“However I want to make it clear that departmental officials will only proceed to the next stage of issuing letters of offer to successful applicants if they consider it safe to carry out assessments and allow work to commence in light of the current pandemic.
“I also hope to be able to announce a further application period for the EFS Wider scheme later this year.”
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is encouraging farmers who have ownership of land with environmental designations, to
consider applying for the Environ-mental Farming Scheme (EFS) Higher Level.
UFU environment committee ch-
airman Wilbert Mayne said: “We would encourage farmers who have priority habitats on their farms to consider applying to the EFS Higher Level. This scheme offers farmers funding to help with the protection of certain habitats on their farm. However, it is important that DAERA ensure that all those who apply and are eligible are offered an agreement. They must also allocate sufficient staff resources to make sure farmers are accommodated.”
Applications for tranche 4 EFS Higher must be submitted online before midnight on Friday, May 15.
Mr Mayne add-ed: “Despite the current situation with Covid-19, there is a tight timetable to gu-
arantee this fu-
nding. There-fore, it is im-portant that farmers look at this scheme carefully and consider applying. This is likely to be the final tranche of the EFS Higher Level and will be the last chance farmers will have to avail of this scheme. We are expecting a further tranche of EFS Wider to open later this year.”
If the number of applications exceeds the available resources, applications will be ranked and those providing the highest environmental benefit will be selected to proceed.
How to apply:
EFS is an online application so you must have access to your DAERA Online Services account or use an agent who can represent your business online.
Comprehensive information on all the EFS options and
the application process is avail-able online through the EFS section of the DAERA website www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/environmental-farming-scheme-efs-higher-level
For further information or advice please telephone 0300 200 7848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The UFU is also reminding farmers who have an existing EFS agreement to make sure they make a claim on this year’s Single Application Form (SAF) by May 15. This includes claiming for those EFS tranche three agreements that have only recently been issued.
Mr Mayne concluded: “It’s vital that existing EFS agreement hold-ers make sure they claim their payment on this year’s SAF.
“There is a section specifically for the EFS on the online SAF and you must complete this to claim your EFS payment. It is also important that claims are made as accurately as possible to avoid penalties down the line or amended at a later date using the relevant forms.”