£2.7m NI aid package opens to flood-hit farmers

A compensation scheme worth £2.7m has opened to farmers in Northern Ireland, four years after devastating floods swept through the country’s north-west region.

The North West 2017 Flooding Income Support Scheme opened to applications on 28 July and will close again in just two weeks, on 12 August 2021.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) said the scheme was in recognition of the ongoing hardship suffered since the floods hit on 22 August 2017.

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Many farmsteads along rivers in the steep-sided valleys of the Glenelly region were all but destroyed when a month’s rain fell in 24 hours.

The force of the floodwater left farms with ruined access, severe erosion and fields buried under deep deposits of mud and silt. Four years later, efforts to restore land continue and many farms still struggle where fields remain buried or were washed away.

Daera said the extreme flooding event meant farm businesses lost income and incurred costs associated with removing debris and reseeding land.

The department said payments would be made up to £106,000 per farm and based on:

  • Income forgone in the areas affected by erosion
  • Income forgone in the areas affected by deposition
  • Cost of restoring land to productive use (clearing land and reseeding)
  • A force majeure application after the floods in 2017.

UFU success

The payouts will mark a success for the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU), which has campaigned for compensation throughout the four years.

It also acted swiftly in the immediate aftermath of the floods to set up a system encouraging farmers to sign forms claiming force majeure.

Union president Victor Chestnutt explained that the UFU officials managed to encourage 226 people to sign up in the days following the floods. It is those applications, lodged four years ago, that will form the basis of the payment scheme.

“While the emotional distress cannot be undone, we hope the funding provides relief after experiencing such financial loss for so long,” Mr Chestnutt said.

How to apply

Eligible farm businesses will receive a letter inviting them to apply for the support package.

Instructions will be included on how to access the application form from 28 July 2021 through DAERA Online Services