Environmental Farming Scheme now open

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The Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) is now open for applications, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced.

Applications to Tranche One of the Scheme should be submitted online before the closing date of 31 March 2017.

The EFS is DAERA’s new agri-environment scheme under the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020. It has three levels:

-Wider Level to deliver benefits across the countryside outside of environmentally designated areas;

- Higher Level, primarily for environmentally designated sites;

- Group Level to support co-operative action by farmers in specific areas such as river catchment.

The scheme has been designed to address specific environmental needs, primarily relating to biodiversity and water quality. Successful applicants will be offered a five year agreement to deliver a range of targeted environmental measures.

The EFS is a voluntary scheme. Farmers and landowners with a DAERA category 1 or 2 Business ID and three hectares of land that is eligible for Basic Payment are eligible to apply.

Full details of the Scheme and guidance are available on the DAERA website at http://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/environmental-farming-scheme-efs . This should be an applicant’s first port of call.

For those who may not have access to IT or broadband for the online application, one-to-one assistance is available through appointments at DAERA Direct offices. Alternatively Libraries NI have agreed to facilitate rural applicants with broadband access through any of their 98 libraries across Northern Ireland.

An EFS Advisory Team is available to provide advice and guidance on the scheme and how to apply for it. This team should be the applicant’s first point of contact - areabasedschemes@daera-ni.gov.uk or via telephone on 0300 200 7848. Advisors will be able to guide users through the online application process. They will also arrange one-to-one assistance, where necessary.