The Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) is a voluntary scheme that will support farmers and land managers to carry out environmentally beneficial farming practices on agricultural land. Tranche 3 EFS agreements will have a five year duration.
The aims of the Scheme are to:
- restore, preserve and enhance biodiversity;
- improve water management and water quality;
- reduce soil erosion and improve soil management;
- foster carbon conservation and sequestration in agriculture; and
- reduce greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from agriculture.
The EFS is made up of three levels:
- EFS(W), a Wider Level Scheme aimed at delivering benefits across the wider countryside outside of environmentally designated areas;
- EFS(H), a Higher Level Scheme primarily aimed at site specific environmental improvements at strategically important sites and for priority habitats and species; and
- EFS(G), a Group Level Scheme to support co-operative work by farmers in specific areas, such as river catchments, or commonages. EFS(G) is in pilot stage.
The higher level is open until 5.00pm on the 17th May 2019.
Who is eligible to apply for EFS?
EFS is open to applicants who have
- a DAERA Category 1 or Category 2 Business Identification Number; and
- at least 3 ha of eligible agricultural land and have management control of the land for the duration of their agreement.
If the applicant does not own the land, management control will usually mean a lease covering the five year period of the Scheme. Where leased land is entered into EFS, both the landlord and tenant are advised to seek legal advice when drawing up the lease.
In almost all circumstances, only the person actively farming the land and claiming other area-based payments will be eligible to apply to the EFS. Where a Business ID manages a number of individual farms as a single unit, these farms will comprise one farm business.
Eligibility of land
Each LPIS land parcel (normally a field) has been assessed by DAERA to decide which EFS Scheme level (either Wider or Higher) it is eligible for. Land that is under an older agri-environment scheme agreement on the date by which the EFS agreement is due to commence will not be eligible.
EFS(H) land is split into three tiers, depending on which designated site or priority site it falls into.
- EFS(H) Tier 1: includes those fields that are within sites designated as Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA) and RAMSAR sites.
- EFS(H) Tier 2: includes those fields that are within sites designated as biological Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI).
- EFS(H) Tier 3: includes Northern Ireland priority habitats and species areas outside designated sites.
If the EFS(H) area within a LPIS land parcel (normally a field) is less than 0.10 ha, the entire field is not eligible for EFS(H) but is eligible for EFS(W). If the EFS(H) area is greater than or equal to 0.1ha or greater than or equal to 10% of the field area, then the entire field is eligible for EFS(H).
The land area eligible for EFS will be a direct reflection of the LPIS Maximum Eligible Area (MEA), with the exception of:-
- woodland habitats, where EFS payments will be applicable to non-LPIS MEA woodland areas;
- commonage or shared grazing on LPIS, which are not eligible for either EFS (W) or EFS (H) (except where part of the EFS(G) pilot); and other areas deemed to be of environmental importance by DAERA.
If you have any queries about completing the online application, contact the EFS Advisory Service on Tel: 0300 200 7848 or Email: ‘[email protected]’.