UFU WELCOMES EFS EXTENSION

Saturday, 5 May, 2018

Article

Commodity Watch, written by Senior Policy Officer, Aileen Lawson

Last week the Ulster Farmers’ Union welcomed DAERA’s decision to extend the completion of works deadline for some options under the Environmental Farming Scheme.  This extension only applies to the non-arable options such as fencing off watercourses and tree and hedge planting.

The prolonged wet weather over the last year has meant farmers have struggled to complete routine work on farm let alone the additional work required under EFS agreements. The Union has had many calls from farmers concerned about meeting various agreement deadlines.

The UFU initially flagged up the possibility of difficulties in meeting the various deadlines with DAERA back in November 2017 and as weather and ground conditions did not improve over the winter months raised this again with a meeting with DAERA highlighting the need for some flexibility around the deadlines.  DAERA recognized our concerns and last week came out publically to offer an extension to some farmers. This extension is good news and will help to take some of the pressure off farmers.  However, it is important that farmers still meet other aspects of their agreement.

DAERA are permitting an extension for the non-arable options in the wider scheme up to the end of December 2018 but all works must be completed by this date.  Farmers who recently signed up to the EFS Higher scheme automatically have until 31 December 2018 to establish their options listed under Year 1 of their agreement. 

Any farmer who wishes to apply for an extension must contact DAERA by 1 June 2018 by email efs@daera-ni.gov.uk or writing to EFS, DAERA CMU, Molesworth Place, Molesworth St, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, BT80 8NX.  It is important that any farmer wishing to avail of the additional time to complete works ensures that this request is submitted.

Farmers must still make a claim for EFS payment on the 2018 Single Application Form (SAF).  This applies to those 1150 farmers who have a Wider Level agreement from 1 July 2017 and the approximately 230 farmers who have a Higher Agreement dated from 1 January 2018.  The claim must be made whether or not farmers have applied for an extension.  The closing date for SAF applications is midnight on 15 May 2018 and EFS claims are included as a specific section on the SAF online form.  UFU urge farmers with EFS agreements to carefully complete claims.  If in any doubt seek assistance; DAERA have useful advice and guidance on their website about making EFS claims online or farmers can call the DAERA SAF helpline 0300 200 7848. 

Any farmer who has requested an extension for completion of works must ensure they manage their EFS claim as the year goes on and make amendments if they are unable to complete works. This will help avoid the possibility of receiving a penalty for over-claiming.  The UFU would encourage farmers to complete works as early as they can after the SAF form has been submitted.  If it becomes clear, after you have submitted your Single Application Form, that you will not complete all of the EFS work claimed for, farmers can make changes and resubmit the SAF with EFS claim up to 11 June 2018. After that date farmers can use a SAF3 Amendment Form (as for Basic Payment Scheme) to reduce your claim, unless DAERA have notified the farm of an inspection before submission of a SAF3. 

While the extension is helpful for many farmers across NI who have struggled with difficult ground conditions throughout the past number of months, UFU urges members to pay careful attention to the rules around the extension to ensure they are not at risk of penalty at a later date.