Payment rates for certain measures under the wider level of the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) have been increased for the latest phase of the scheme.

Measures that involve fencing tend to generate the most interest among farmers and the main fencing option available in the sixth tranche of EFS is hedgerow planting.

The measure requires two protective fences to be erected either side of a new hedgerow and it allows a payment of £17.63/m, up from £15.83/m in previous tranches.

The higher payments in this phase of the EFS mostly apply to measures that involve fencing and were presumably introduced to reflect increased costs for materials.

Other examples include for riparian buffer zones along waterways, with the 2m ungrazed option allowing a payment rate of £6.90/m, up from £6.07/m in earlier tranches.

There are no standalone measures for single stockproof fencing in the current EFS tranche. A popular fencing measure, known as watercourse stabilisation, has not been available since the third tranche of the scheme.

A single fence measure is listed in the sixth tranche as a non-productive investment (NPI), although this is only available as an add-on to certain EFS options, for example to fence around a new agro forestry site.

A list of all NPIs that are available for each EFS option is available in the online application process by clicking on the blue cross icon to the left of each option’s name. Other common NPIs include permanent electric fencing, drinking troughs and gates.

Application window

EFS wider level is for land that is not under an environmental designation. The application window for the sixth tranche of the EFS wider level closes on Friday 23 September and scheme agreements are due to start from January 2023.

DAERA has said there are no plans for further tranches of the EFS next year. Attention seems to be turning to a new agri environment package, known as Farming With Nature, part of future agricultural policy and likely to be rolled out from 2024 onwards.