NI to reopen farm machinery grants scheme

Farmers in Northern Ireland will soon be able to apply for grants covering 40% of the cost of a list of items of equipment and machinery ranging in value from £5,000 to £30,000.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) is opening the third tranche of Tier 1 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS) on 2 November.

The scheme is expected to be particularly well-received by farmers, given that there has been more than a two-year gap since it was last available.

See also: NI farmers face BPS penalties under updated nutrient programme

The department has set aside £7.5m to fund this latest tranche of FBIS and is encouraging farmers to think about prioritising the purchase of slurry handling equipment to help them comply with tougher nutrient management rules.

Agriculture minister Edwin Poots said: “Bearing in mind the deadlines within the Nutrient Action Programme 2019-2022 and the issues posed by localised ammonia emissions, I want to encourage the early uptake of Low Emission Slurry Spreading Equipment (LESSE).

“For that reason, LESSE items, such as trailing hose, trailing shoe, soil incorporation or soil injection methods, will be contained within their own item banding (along with slurry covers and slurry scrapers), and allocated the highest item score.”

David Brown, deputy president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, said the announcement had been long-awaited and was a positive commitment from Daera to invest in family farming businesses across NI.

“We advise farmers to carefully consider the options available and to only apply for what they need and what they can commit to financially without putting themselves under extra pressure,” he said.

The maximum grant that an individual farming business will be eligible for is £12,000, which assumes a piece of equipment with a reference price of £30,000.

Mr Brown said farmers would need to set aside time to complete their applications, as Covid-19 would present some additional challenges in terms of gathering the required paperwork.

The scheme will once again be delivered on behalf of Daera by Countryside Services Ltd and the guidance notes and application form are not yet available online.

However, assuming that the rules are similar to those in place during the last tranche of funding, applicants will need to complete a health and safety risk assessment and provide a short business plan and a letter of support from their bank, alongside their application.

Other eligible items available during the last round of the scheme included livestock handling equipment, livestock trailers, new fencing, fertiliser spreaders and trailed sprayers.