O’Neill Launches Farm Business Improvement Scheme

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced that the first phase of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS) will open on Monday 9 November 2015.

This phase will focus on Knowledge Transfer, delivered through Business Development Groups (BDG) and is funded through the new Rural Development Programme, part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). Applications must be submitted before 4pm on Monday 14 December 2015.

Launching the BDG scheme, Minister O’Neill said: “I am delighted to be launching the first phase of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme, funded with £28million under the new Rural Development Programme.

dn_screen“The Farm Business Improvement Scheme is a key recommendation within the Going for Growth Report. Today’s announcement marks a major milestone in delivering on DARD’s commitment to supporting the industry aspirations set out in the report and playing our part in securing a sustainable and profitable farm base. I would encourage farmers to apply to the programme as local development groups are designed to help farmers come together with their peers, to learn about and enhance their knowledge of business management, new technologies and innovative ways of working.

“In these challenging times, this new programme will assist farmers in acquiring the skills necessary to help make the right decisions about their businesses for the future.”

Farmers who participate in the BDG scheme will be required to attend several training events each year, be willing to undertake physical and financial benchmarking, share their farm performance information with other group members and be willing to host a visit for the group, during which members will discuss technical performance and progress towards meeting business objectives. As farmers work towards meeting their business objectives, they will have the opportunity to accredit their work and gain a Level 3 qualification.

Applications to the BDG programme will be available from Monday 9 November at http://www.dardni.gov.uk/business-development-groups or http://www.cafre.ac.uk/business-development-groups. Alternatively, please call 028 9442 6770 or email:


Up to 160 Business Development Groups could be established, each with between 15 and 20 farmers.

The programme will meet costs incurred by the farmer – eligible claims will include replacement labour while they are attending training events, travel to and from training events and initial costs associated with analytical services. Where farmers attend all eight training events they will qualify for a payment of up to £490 per year. This payment is planned for the first two years of the programme and will then be reviewed. An allowance of up to £600 per visit for hosting a training event will also be payable, however this payment will be available to farmers throughout the lifetime of the scheme.

The Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.