The Permanent Secretary of DAERA, Katrina Godfrey, has reminded farmers in Zone 2 of the £37m Soil Nutrient Health Scheme (SNHS) that they must sign up to participate if they want to get future farm payments.
“Participation in the scheme will be a condition for future Farm Sustainability Payments, which will replace the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS),” Godfrey said, adding that farmers should register at the earliest opportunity, ahead of the deadline of 31 August 2023.
Last year, for farmers in Zone 1, there was an extension given to the original deadline of early July, but there are no plans to extend the 31 August deadline in 2023.
“We have seen good interest in the scheme so far. However, the deadline will not be extended beyond 31 August,” confirmed Godfrey.
Zone 2 of the scheme covers farms in Fermanagh, South Tyrone and West Armagh. On enquiry a spokesperson from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), who manage the scheme on behalf of DAERA, confirmed that to date, only around 40% of farmers have signed up in Zone 2. That equates to 3,000 applicants and 80,000 fields in the zone.
The spokesperson said that feedback received from Fermanagh Show highlighted that many farmers were not aware of the looming deadline, nor the link between participating in the scheme and eligibility to receive a new Farm Sustainability Payment when the BPS ends. At present, the DAERA plan is for one more year of BPS, before starting a transition to a new payment in 2025, with it fully implemented by 2026.
Farmers can register for the SNHS via DAERA online services, through an agricultural agent or by making an appointment at their local DAERA office.
Fields in Zone 2 will be sampled this winter, with participating farmers receiving soil analysis results as well as maps showing areas at high risk of runoff and nutrient loss to watercourses. At a later date, farmers will also receive an estimate of the amount of carbon stored in their soils, hedgerows and trees.