With the application window now open for the Environmental Farming Scheme (Wider Level), the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has outlined options available and further guidance on the Scheme.
The scheme, which is part-funded under the EU’s Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, is designed to address specific environmental needs, primarily relating to biodiversity, climate change and water quality.
EFS Wider Options
With 22 options to choose from there should be something to suit most farms. However, businesses can only hold one EFS Wider agreement.
DAERA’s advice is to only choose the options and amount that you can carry out, remembering that most options must be completed by 1 June 2020. Once you have decided on your choice, you must submit your application online.
Successful applicants will be offered agreements towards the end of 2019, with those agreements starting in January 2020.
EFS has already met and exceeded one of its targets, the creation of Tree Enhanced Boundaries, and so this option will not be available in Tranche 3 however here are a range of other opportunities within the scheme to plant trees, such as Planting Native Tree Corridors, which puts in place a triple row of native trees, planted either downwind of an agricultural building or as a shelter belt.
The Establishment of Native Woodland less than 5Ha option involves planting 1,600 trees and shrubs per hectare, and the Natural Regeneration of Native Woodland option is designed to permit the natural colonisation of trees and shrubs of extensively managed land.
The Agro-Forestry option involves planting widely spaced trees. This enables continued grazing along with timber production and improved biodiversity. Local research by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute at Loughgall has demonstrated the range of production and environmental benefits of Agro-Forestry. The support available through EFS will help you to try this option at no cost and then judge the benefits for yourself.
Field margins are supported as well with the usual hedge laying and planting options available along with support for re-building drystone walls.
Cereal farmers will be interested in the range of arable options available within the Scheme including Creation of Pollinator Margins, the provision of a Winter Feed Crop for Wild Birds and Retention of Winter Stubble.
Improving Water Quality
Protecting watercourses from pollution should be a priority on all farms. Creation of 2 metre or 10 metre riparian buffer strips, planted with trees, or simply left ungrazed will help to achieve this.
These buffers, which involve erecting a protective fence and gate(s), aim to improve water quality by preventing fertilisers and pesticides from entering waterways. The ungrazed buffer also provides a habitat which helps to support biodiversity. However, when planted with trees the buffers create increased biodiversity value and reduce the farm’s carbon footprint.
There are a range of services available to you if you need assistance with completing and submitting your EFS (W) application.
Online: The application has help buttons and alerts to help you get it right. You can also view the EFS Guide, Terms and Conditions and ‘How to’ video
Contact DAERA: You can call DAERA’s EFS Advisory Service on 0300 200 7848 (Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm) or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Their team is ready to provide you with the help and information you need to complete your application.
Appointment: In some cases DAERA may be able to arrange a face-to-face appointment for you at your local DAERA Direct Office where you will get assistance to complete your application online. You will need to have your Government Gateway or nidirect ID. Call the EFS Advisory Service on 0300 200 7848 without delay if you think you may need an appointment.
Nominate an agent: You can give permission for an agent to complete your application on your behalf by completing a nomination form.
CAFRE have organised a series of events to inform farmers about the options available within EFS and how to make an application:
EFS options & making an application, Tuesday 27 August 2019, 2:00pm & 7:30pm
CAFRE Greenmount Campus, Co. Antrim
EFS Farm Walk & making an application, Wednesday 28 August 2019, 2:00pm & 6:30pm CAFRE Enniskillen Campus, Co. Fermanagh
Rush control and EFS Water quality, Wednesday 04 September 2019, 2:00pm & 6:30pm
Plumbridge Parochial Hall & nearby farm, Co. Tyrone
EFS Agroforestry, Thursday 05 September 2019,2:00pm & 6:30pm
AFBI Loughgall, Co. Armagh
EFS options & making an application, Wednesday 11 September 2019, 7:30pm
CAFRE Loughry Campus, Co. Tyrone
The Scheme Options and the associated capital works will be discussed at the events with the aim of helping applicants make an informed and accurate application.
For additional information about any of the events, please contact one of the Sustainable Land Management Branch (Biodiversity team) on 028 9442 6880. If you would like to attend one or more of the events, you can register at the event or online.