Farm Business Improvement scheme concerns voiced at Fintona show

Farmers attending this week’s farm machinery show in Fintona expressed discontent at the way both tiers of the Farm Business Improvement scheme have been rolled out by DAERA – particularly Tier 2.

“I had looked at the option of submitting a farm business plan,” confirmed one Co. Down producer.

“But the Tier 2 application process is far too complex. I counted 26 boxes in total that had to be ticked, in addition to all the other forms that have to be filled in.

“It might work for farm development projects that require an investment of £250,000 or more. But for farmers seeking to complete projects costing £100,000 or less, the Tier 2 option is not that attractive.”

The producer in question said DAERA should have introduced a Tier 2 scheme that was similar in structure to the Farm Nutrient Management scheme, Northern Ireland’s last farm capital grant measure.

“In the first instance,” he added, “the grant aid available for the slurry scheme was pitched at 60% and the application forms were divided into pretty straightforward sections. And all of this was couched in terms, that assured that the highest possible design and construction standards were obtained.”

Many of the farmers attending the event in Fintona this week said they had not applied for Tier 1 of the Farm Business Improvement scheme. One of the core reasons given for taking this decision was the very restricted application period.

“Timing was also very poor,” said a Co. Armagh farmer.

“The scheme was opened and closed prior to the payment of the CAP support monies from Brussels. I wasn’t going to take the risk of applying and then not having the monies to pay for the equipment should there have been a hold up on my basic payment.”

A number of farmers claimed that the list of eligible items for Tier 1 was very restrictive.

“I would have been interested in purchasing a hedgecutter,” said a Co. Tyrone farmer. “But they are not covered by the scheme.”