New environmental scheme could ‘cut number of inspections’

Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture has launched a new scheme which it says could improve the environment, while also reducing the number of on-farm inspections.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said the new programme would help farmers comply with payment rules and – as a result – have benefits in both areas.

The first environmental audit is set to be carried out this morning on Ulster Farmers’ Union president Barclay Bell’s farm in Rathfriland, Co. Down.

Bell is the eighth generation to run the 200ac farm, which includes: cereals; sheep; winter accommodation for dairy heifers; and willows.

Farm diversification through a cut flower enterprise and a recently-installed wind turbine has also played a role in creating a sustainable business.

Environmental scheme

The new environmental audit scheme is part of DAERA’s wider ‘Controls and Inspections Corporate Change Project’ which aims to improve efficiency across the department’s diverse regulatory responsibilities.

AgriLand joined inspectors and department officials to find out what exactly was involved.

It comes after Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Secretary Michael Gove has made clear that any new subsidies post-Brexit will be based on the notion of “public money for public goods” – in particular, services which benefit the environment.

Experts have speculated that the new so-called ‘green farm subsidies’ could include symbols of better welfare – such as better housing and intact tail payments, as well as environmental work such as soil and river management.

More to follow.