A long-awaited support package for farmers in the North West affected by floods in 2017 will open for applications in August 2021.

However, one of the caveats has been met with concern, as only farmers who made a Force Majeure application at the time will be eligible for a share of the £3.45 million support scheme.

The North West floods, which took place on August 22, 2017, during Storm Lorenzo, were described by Met Éireann as a “once in a 100-year event”.

It saw livestock washed away, farmland buried under feet of silt and debris, and fences destroyed across the Glenelley and Owenkillew valleys.

The money offered by the department is a contribution towards the ‘income forgone’ as a result of the flooding taking agricultural land out of production, and the costs associated with removing silt and debris, and reseeding.

Insurable losses such as damage to buildings and loss of livestock are not included in the income support scheme.

It does not include fencing costs as a riparian fencing scheme run by the department in 2018 offered £500,000 to repair and install fences in the catchment area. As a result, Force Majeure applications that declared damage to only fencing/field barriers will not be included in the scheme.

Rate of payment

The income support payment will be based on the self-declared land area on the Force Majeure applications.

The rates of payment are based on land type classification, and will be set as follows:

  • £729/ha for Lowland land;
  • £4,092/ha for Disadvantaged and Severely Disadvantaged land.

The land type for each field is displayed on the field data table on the Single Application and Mapping Service.

Payments will be capped at £106,323 per farm business. It means that a maximum of 64ac can be claimed for at the higher rate.

Agriculture Committee chairman Declan McAleer welcomed the news but added that he had concerns about farmers who did not submit Force Majeure applications at the time. He said he had already been lobbying the minister on the matter.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said, “We’re pleased that our farmers in the North West area stretching from Strabane to Drumahoe (commonly known as the Glenelly floods, also affecting the Owenkillew Valley), who experienced financial loss and extreme destruction to their farmland, will finally get the financial support they need.

“Minister Poots, Declan McAleer and I travelled to the North West in March to speak to farmers who were directly impacted, and we witnessed first-hand the ongoing devastation to their farm businesses because of the severe weather event almost four years ago.

“The UFU has lobbied continuously and with great effort to get support secured for those farmers who completed Majeure forms. While the emotional distress of the past number of years cannot be undone, we hope that the funding provides relief after experiencing such financial loss for so long and that the farming families affected can now move forward.

“We thank Minister Poots for listening to our concerns and for taking the time to visit our farmers’ who were affected. We now ask that the funding gets rolled out as soon as possible so they can benefit.”

Commenting on why the support package has only been confirmed now, four years on, a department spokesperson said: “Following the flooding incident in August 2017, officials were unable to develop a robust economic case to provide a compensation scheme for farmers. It was concluded that a Ministerial Direction would be needed for the department to develop and deliver a scheme.

“The Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended from January 2017 until January 2020. The DAERA Permanent Secretary did not have the power to intervene in the absence of a minister.”

The scheme will open for applications in August 2021, with eligible farm businesses invited to apply using an online form.