A dairy cow© Tim Scrivener

Northern Ireland’s farm leaders have given a grudging welcome to the Department of Agriculture’s (Daera) plans to pay small farms a top-up to their milk price – but say the money would have been better spent more strategically.

The cash comes from Northern Ireland’s £4.1m share of the EU’s emergency aid package, agreed last year to address the severe market difficulties affecting livestock farmers.

See also: Guide to grants for livestock and arable farmers

The Small Dairy Farmer scheme, announced earlier this week by Daera, involves paying some £1.6m of this money to dairy farmer applicants producing less than 1m litres of milk.

“The rate of payment is set at 0.2p/litre, meaning eligible farmers will receive an average payment of about £750,” said a spokesman.

Total payment is capped at 500,000 litres of milk production, equivalent to £1,000.

Ulster Farmers’ Union president Barclay Bell said: “We acknowledge these payments are being made and any funding to farming is welcome.

“However, as we stated back in May when the scheme for small dairy farmers was announced, we were not consulted on how best to allocate the under spend from this EU emergency funding.

“If we had been given the opportunity, we would have encouraged Daera to target it more strategically.”

Other schemes

This more strategic approach has certainly been the case with three other schemes developed using the emergency fund, which include:

  • a scheme to incentivise the humane removal of bovine-viral-diarrhoea-infected (BVD) calves from persistently infected beef and dairy herds
  • a scheme to improve pigmeat quality
  • a scheme to help farmers manage soils and nutrients more effectively

Daera has stressed the BVD scheme remains open until 30 September 2017, with details of payment rates and how to apply (PDF) available on the Livestock and Meat Commission website.

In addition, farmers successful in their registration for the Soil Sampling and Analysis scheme should return their maps to the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute within 14 days of the date of their notification letter.

All payments under EU Exceptional Adjustment Aid must be made by the commission deadline of 30 September 2017.