Stream protected by a 2m riparian buffer strip.
Stream protected by a 2m riparian buffer strip.

The application period for Tranche 2 of the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) Wider closes on 21 September 2018. The scheme provides grant aid to carry out environmental works on your farm that will help to enhance biodiversity, improve water quality and sequester carbon.

The EFS offers flexibility and choice in what you do.

A range of 20 general options is available to select from and you can apply for up to 4 general options in total. Options include tree and hedge planting, creation of riparian buffer strips along watercourses, agroforestry, planting winter feed crop for wild birds and arable options.

In addition, you can also choose stand-alone options for woodland planting, organic farming and Irish Moiled Cattle, where payment is in addition to the maximum allowed under the general options.

Given this wide range of options to choose from, it is important to take time to plan your application. Before you apply you will need to think carefully, and decide which options will best suit your farm and where they will be sited. The application system will help to guide your final selection.

Here are several examples of what you can do through EFS:

Helping to improve and protect Water Quality

If cattle access watercourses on your farm they could be damaging water quality. This can be from direct contamination by manure and from sediment caused by erosion and poaching of banks.

With EFS you can create riparian buffer strips and fence watercourses to help reduce these nutrient and sediment inputs. The vegetation that grows in buffer strips and on banks, helps prevent run off and sediment reaching the watercourse. It also provides habitat to support biodiversity.

Along with these water quality options, you can also apply for funding for additional capital items including drinking troughs, pasture pumps and pipework.

Supporting Birds and Biodiversity

Planting a winter feed crop for wild birds can really help to enhance the biodiversity on your farm. This option proved effective and popular in previous agri-environment schemes, encouraging a significant increase in seed eating birds including Yellowhammers. Essentially, you are creating a huge bird table, supplying seed over the winter.

Agro-forestry – delivering multiple benefits

Agro-forestry means growing widely spaced trees, while also continuing to farm the land. AFBI research at Loughgall has demonstrated that it can deliver on a number of fronts. Practical benefits include the potential for extended grazing due to improved drainage, shelter and shade for livestock, plus timber production and increased biodiversity. EFS provides the opportunity to introduce agro-forestry on part of your farm.

How to apply

EFS is an online application so you must have access to your DAERA Online Services account or use an agent who can represent your business online.

To be eligible to apply, you need to have a Category 1 or Category 2 Business ID and management control of at least 3 hectares of eligible land for the five year duration of the Scheme (1 January 2019 to 31 December 2023) .

Comprehensive information on all the EFS options and the application process is available online through the EFS section of the DAERA website: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/topics/rural-development/environmental-farming-scheme-efs

If you apply now and are successful, your agreement will start from 1 January 2019.  You would start to carry out the works funded under the scheme next year. The closing date for applications is Friday 21 September. This is your last chance to apply this year – so act now if you want join EFS.

Telephone 0300 200 7848 or email: efs@daera-ni.gov.uk if you need further advice.