Minister for Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs Michelle McIlveen has announced the opening of a £40million capital funding scheme designed to help farmers across Northern Ireland improve their businesses.
The Minister said: “I am delighted to announce that the capital element of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme will formally open on Monday 31 October. This scheme, worth £40million over the first two tranches in its initial phase, represents a significant investment to support the industry’s ambitions.”
The capital element of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme is a two-tiered programme which supports on-farm investment projects costing £5,000 and above. Tier 1 aims to improve the sustainability of farms and Tier 2 aims to drive transformational investment guided by a robust business planning process. The scheme has a particular emphasis on improving farm safety and investing in the farmers of tomorrow.
During her keynote speech, the Minister said: “Clearly, we have many high quality farm businesses run by very able people within Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry. I am delighted to have the opportunity to share in this celebration of our excellence in farming.
“Since taking up the office of Minister, I have met with a broad cross section of people from the agri-food industry. I have listened to their views, hopes and concerns for the future.
“I have been clear from the outset that delivering a sustainable and competitive agriculture sector is paramount for me as DAERA Minister and for the NI Executive as a whole.
“I understand the value of Direct Payments to farms and the stability this income can provide, especially at times of extreme market volatility. That is why, from the moment I was appointed, I was determined to introduce Advance Payments to assist with farmers’ immediate cash-flow difficulties.
“Northern Ireland is the first part of the United Kingdom to introduce advance payments. This week I was delighted to announce that over 90% of eligible farmers across Northern Ireland have now received advance payments, with more than 21,000 local farm businesses having now received 70% of their 2016 Basic Payment allocation. My Department is committed to making 95% complete payments by the end of December 2016 – very good news for our farm businesses.”
In a wide-ranging speech, the Minister also spoke about the Year of Food and Drink, the Going for Growth strategy and the ongoing work around the UK’s exit from the EU. She highlighted the fact that business development groups will be opening to new members, and the opportunities presented by having farming and environment functions in a single department.
Miss McIlveen also commended the winners and all those recognised during the awards event.
The Minister added: “As we look to the future, it is important to recognise and reward excellence in our farming. Our agri-food industry has many men and women who are champions and heroes, some who have been in the industry for a lifetime, others who are young but already making their mark. I have very much enjoyed hearing of the achievements of tonight’s award winners.”