Northern Ireland’s Environmental Farming Scheme, Higher Level is now open for applications.

Applications for the scheme – which is also known as EFS(H) – must be completed online and submitted before midnight on April 20, 2018.

What is it?

The Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) is a voluntary scheme that will support farmers and land managers to carry out environmentally beneficial farming practices on agricultural land.

The scheme aims to:

  • Restore, preserve and enhance biodiversity;
  • Improve water management and water quality;
  • Reduce soil erosion and improve soil management;
  • Foster carbon conservation and sequestration in agriculture;
  • Reduce greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from agriculture.

The EFS is made up of three levels, as detailed below.

EFS(W): a wider-level scheme aimed at delivering benefits across the wider countryside outside of environmentally-designated areas.

EFS(H): a higher-level scheme primarily aimed at site specific environmental improvements at strategically important sites and for priority habitats and species.

The higher level scheme – the one currently open for applications – includes payments for remedial management taken out on bogland, woodland, sand dunes and certain types of grassland. Agreements will have a five-year duration.

EFS(G): a group-level scheme to support co-operative work by farmers in specific areas, such as river catchments, or commonages. EFS(G) is in pilot stage in 2018.

How to apply

Farmers can log into DAERA online services to check whether any of your land is eligible.

Then apply by selecting only the EFS(H) eligible fields that you will have control of for the next five years, beginning on January 1, 2019.

The initial application process is quick and easy and will show you which part of your farm, if any, is eligible.

Following closure of the application window, DAERA will then prioritise all initial applications, and those successful will be invited to engage a planner to produce a site-specific remedial management plan.

Joining this EFS(H) does not prevent you from entering the wider-level scheme – also known as EFS(W).The wider level scheme is expected to open for applications later this year.

Learning more

It’s important that you take time to read the information available and understand how the scheme operates.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is running a series of workshops at a number of venues throughout the application window to enable farmers to learn more about the scheme.

For further info on locations and to reserve a place at a workshop please telephone: 028-7131-9955.

It is also possible for someone – for example a family member, friend or agent – to apply on your behalf.