ARE YOU A FARMER?
Join Today
NATURE LOVER?
Join Today

Be part of the solution. Join today...

DAERA's decisions on future agriculture policy proposals in Northern Ireland 

On 24 March, the decisions on proposals for future agriculture policy in Northern Ireland were published by DAERA. This followed a 12-week public consultation which finished in mid-February. The future agriculture policy framework sets out the process by which farm payments will be administered in Northern Ireland over the coming years. While we welcomed the overarching principles that the policy is aiming to achieve, we had specific concerns regarding the lack of a pre-defined transition period for policy change and proposed schemes, particularly those which would result in the return of headage payments. So, what has been decided and what are the next steps? Below we provide some key takeaway points. 

Farm sustainability payment 

DAERA will continue with the development of a farm sustainability payment. This will replace the current Basic Payment Scheme with the intention of providing a safety net for farm businesses and safeguarding against market volatility. To access the scheme, farmers will have to undertake several new requirements, such as the soil nutrient health scheme and undertaking nutrient management planning. Payments will be area based, but at a lower rate than the BPS, with funding being transferred over time to other schemes within the framework. We had called for a clear timeframe to be outlined, in which this transfer of funds would take place but this is still unclear. 

Beef sustainability package 

DAERA will continue with the development of a Beef Sustainability Package. This scheme is aimed at improving the environmental performance of the livestock sector through a range of interventions, including payments related to the early slaughter of animals, shorter calving intervals and earlier age of calving. In our response, we opposed this suite of measures, due to the proportion of funding that they would absorb and the potential negative impacts on environmental delivery. Despite opposition from the majority of stakeholders regarding this scheme, it will be rolled out as part of future policy, although some changes have been made to the technical detail. 

Farming with Nature package 

A Farming with Nature package will be rolled out as part of the future policy framework, which will provide financial incentives for the delivery of environmental land management on farms. In their consultation, DAERA proposed that Farming with Nature would become a central plank of future support. This is to be welcomed, but it remains unclear when the Farming with Nature package will be rolled out and how much funding it will receive. These factors will be key to the scheme’s success and must be outlined as a priority. In the short term, the Environmental Farming Scheme will remain the main vehicle for environmental delivery. 

Conclusion 

There is a greater degree of clarity on the future direction of travel for farm payments in Northern Ireland, but a lot remains unanswered. In particular, the long term vision for change is vague and specific detail on key schemes, particularly the farming for nature package is lacking. We will continue to push for this much-needed clarity, to help farmers plan for the future, while making the case for a policy framework which has nature-friendly farming at its heart. 

For more information, view the full decision document here.