Two more tranches of EFS confirmed

There will be two more tranches of the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) in NI, Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons has said.

In response to a written question from West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer, Minister Lyons said that around 5,000 farmers have participated in EFS over the first four tranches.

“Two further tranches are planned, subject to the necessary approvals,” the minister confirmed.

The previous plan within DAERA was that the fourth tranche of EFS, which opened in 2020, would be the final intake of applications.

Unprecedented bird flu risk in NI

The risk that avian influenza poses to the NI poultry sector is “still the highest it has ever been”, Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons has said.

Minister Lyons said that eight positive cases of the H5N8 strain of bird flu have been confirmed in wild birds across six different locations in NI since last October.

Two cases of avian influenza were confirmed in commercial poultry units in January. In addition, 16 suspected cases have been reported to DAERA this year so far, but all these cases turned out negative.

Vet researching sheep scab

Larne-based vet Paul Crawford is carrying out a PhD study into sheep scab. As part of his research, he is asking NI farmers to fill out an online survey about their experience and understanding of the disease.

The survey is available here.

NSA cancels events

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has decided to postpone all its major regional events this year as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Carbon storage of NI bogs is unknown

The amount of carbon that is stored in peatlands in NI is not known by DAERA, South Down MLA Jim Wells has been told.

In response to a written question, Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons acknowledged that his department does not have information about how much carbon is stored in the bogs that cover 12% of the NI land area.

“Peatlands, such as raised and blanket bogs, are among the most carbon-rich ecosystems on the planet and as such will play a key role in mitigating climate change,” he said.

Almost all RHI spend was legitimate

The long running audit process of Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) approved boilers is resulting in £316,290 being recouped across 15 sites.

“Potential non-compliances have been identified on almost all sites,” Economy Minister Diane Dodds said in response to a written question from Foyle MLA Sinead McLaughlin.

“However, the majority have been resolved through engagement with the participant and remedial action being taken on site,” the minister added.

Andrew Trimble from the Renewable Heat Association pointed out that total RHI payments issued in NI to date comes to £130m.

“It would appear that 99.66% of the rebate distributed was to legitimate scheme participants operating their systems in full compliance with regulations,” he said.