Farm business improvement scheme opens

Ms McIlveen pictured this summer at the Clogher Valley Show
Ms McIlveen pictured this summer at the Clogher Valley Show

Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen has announced the opening of a £40million capital funding scheme designed to help farmers across Northern Ireland improve their businesses.

Speaking at the Farming Life and Danske Bank Awards in the Ramada Plaza hotel, Belfast on Thursday night she confirmed that the capital element of the scheme would open on Monday, October 31.

“The scheme, worth £40m over the first two tranches in its initial phase, represents a significant investment to support the industry’s ambitions.

“Clearly, we have many high quality farm businesses run by very able people within Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry. I am delighted to have the opportunity to share in this celebration of our excellence in farming.

“I have been clear from the outset that delivering a sustainable and competitive agriculture sector is paramount for me as DAERA Minister and for the NI Executive as a whole.”

The capital element of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme is a two-tiered programme which supports on-farm investment projects costing £5,000 and above.

Tier 1 aims to improve the sustainability of farms and tier 2 aims to drive transformational investment guided by a robust business planning process.

“I understand the value of Direct Payments to farms and the stability this income can provide, especially at times of extreme market volatility,” said Ms McIlveen.

“That is why, from the moment I was appointed, I was determined to introduce Advance Payments to assist with farmers’ immediate cash-flow difficulties.

“Northern Ireland is the first part of the United Kingdom to introduce advance payments.

“This week I was delighted to announce that over 90% of eligible farmers across Northern Ireland have now received advance payments, with more than 21,000 local farm businesses having now received 70% of their 2016 Basic Payment allocation.

“My department is committed to making 95% complete payments by the end of December 2016 – very good news for our farm businesses.”