All posts by Melissa Wylie

Call to Agri-Producers to Share Christmas Cheer and Support Hamper Scheme


Farming and rural charity, Rural Support, and local wind energy company, Simple Power, are launching their fifth annual ‘Christmas Hamper Scheme’ aimed at helping farming and rural families in need this festive season.

Rural Support and Simple Power are encouraging local food and drink producers to lend a helping hand, by kindly donating suitable hamper items and making a difference this Christmas. With this support, the team hope to be able to match last year’s total of 120 hampers and ensure the hampers are packed with treats and local goods.

Rural Support’s Chief Executive, Jude McCann, said “This past few months has been especially difficult for Northern Ireland’s rural and farming community with intense pressure on farmers due to prolonged wet weather, floods in the north west and challenges relating to having enough fodder for the winter ahead. Therefore, our Christmas Hamper Scheme aims to connect in with farmers and remind everyone that Rural Support is here to help when the stress becomes too much.

“Last year, we were delighted with the response to the initiative, which saw around 120 hampers delivered to families in need and this would not have been possible without the incredibly generous support from our local agri-producers.

“With even more families facing difficulties after this tough year, we are calling on the many successful and vibrant local food and drink producers and suppliers to get in touch with us and make a contribution. We would appeal to local food and drink businesses to help support us in this vital scheme by kindly donating to the appeal. You can make a huge difference to a rural family in need this Christmas.”

To get involved in the Rural Support ‘Christmas Hamper Scheme’, in partnership with Simple Power, call 028 8676 0040 or email: Kerri@ruralsupport.org.uk.

Since 2002, Rural Support has been helping farming and rural families across Northern Ireland on a wide range of issues from finance and debt issues, succession planning concerns, physical and mental health issues, farming paperwork, technical and enterprise issues. If you do require assistance or are experiencing a challenging period, you are encouraged to contact Rural Support as early as possible so that options can be explored.

Simple Power has worked with Rural Support on campaigns for over four years to raise awareness of the importance of health and wellbeing in rural communities and farming families. Simple Power works in partnership with farmers across Northern Ireland and is committed to an on-going partnership with the local charity, providing financial support alongside awareness-raising and fundraising activities and initiatives such as the Christmas Hamper Scheme.

Simple Power Chief Executive, Philip Rainey, commented, “We are delighted to launch our Christmas Hamper Scheme in partnership with Rural Support for the fifth year, and we hope that it continues to be a great festive success. Last year, we saw the generosity of local agri-producers that enabled us to deliver hampers throughout Northern Ireland and spread plenty of Christmas cheer. It would be great for even more agri-food companies to share their produce with those in need to make this Christmas a special time for everyone.”

Save the Date of a Business Planning Seminar

A number of seminars focusing on areas impacting on farm businesses have been organised by CAFRE in partnership with Rural Support to be delivered throughout Northern Ireland over the coming months starting on 28 November at Greenmount Campus, CAFRE. Seminars will be delivered by industry professionals from local Accountancy and Law firms.

For further information contact Rural Support on 028 8676 0040 or visit www.cafre.ac.uk.

Building Resilience with Business Planning Seminars

Farm Family Key Skills (FFKS) is an initiative being managed by CAFRE and is a key element of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. The Business Planning theme of Farm Family Key Skills addresses the needs of farmers, farm family members and farm employees to increase their levels of knowledge and awareness in business planning and risk management.

A number of seminars focusing on areas impacting on farm businesses have been organised by CAFRE in partnership with Rural Support to be delivered throughout Northern Ireland over the coming months starting on 28 November at Greenmount Campus, CAFRE. Seminars will be delivered by industry professionals from local Accountancy and Law firms.

Topics covered include an overview and awareness of taxation including the main areas under which there may be liabilities, reliefs and allowances that may apply to farm businesses and recent tax changes that will impact on the farm business including land mobility.

These seminars will also provide farmers with important information on succession planning and business resilience and risk management including financial budgeting, forecasting and the impact of market volatility on farm profitability.

John McCallister, programme manager of the newly launched Land Mobility Scheme, will be available each night to discuss the challenges of land mobility and succession planning.

Twenty Seminars will be delivered in local venues across Northern Ireland from November 2017 to March 2018, with dates for November confirmed as Greenmount Campus, Antrim on Tuesday 28th, Enniskillen Campus on Wednesday 29th and Loughry Campus, Cookstown on Thursday 30th of November. Doors open at 7.30 pm with seminars beginning at 8.00pm.

December events will be held in the Silver Birch Hotel Omagh on Tuesday 5th, Seagoe Hotel Portadown on Wednesday 6th and Magherabuoy House Hotel Portrush on Thursday 7th of December.

Further event dates will be released in the New Year.

The seminars are free to farmers, members of the farm family and employees. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters within farm families would all benefit from attending a seminar.

For further information contact our delivery agent for this training programme Rural Support on 028 8676 0040

The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme

Small farm businesses across Northern Ireland are being invited to take part in the second year of the highly successful The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme, run by The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Proven to help small farms improve their way of working, the programme will provide free business support, skills and planning tuition, and one-to-one guidance to 20 small livestock and mixed family farm businesses.

The programme will be run by Rural Support, based in Cookstown, and will have two groups – one focusing on dairy, and another for other livestock farmers. Applications open on the 1st of September, and close on the 31st of October.

Feedback from participating farms has been unanimously positive, with farmers who have completed the programme feeling far more confident about the future of their farm business.

Philip, a farmer who took part in the programme last year, said: “I’d recommend the programme to others. It’s set at a good level, not too technical or overly academic, and is delivered by people with practical hands on experience.

“It’s definitely helped me plan for the future so I can be more resilient to fluctuations in the market in the longer term.”

If you are interested in taking part in The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme in your area, or would like to find out more, please contact Gillian Reid at Rural Support on 028 8676 0040 or gillian@ruralsupport.co.uk or visit www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk/farmresilience

Social Farming Capital Grant Scheme 2017

Following on from the successful pilot Social Farming Capital Grant Scheme in 2016, DAERA have provided funding for a Social Farming Capital Grant Scheme in 2017. The Capital Grant Scheme will support farmers who undertake farming activities and who are currently involved or planning to be involved in the provision of Social Farming services to adapt their facilities and improve accessibility. Grants of between £500 and £4,999 are available to those who can demonstrate that their project will contribute to a higher quality on-farm experience for service users. The Scheme is one element of DAERA’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social      Isolation Programme (TRPSI).

The Scheme opens for application today Monday 11th            September 2017 and closes at 12 noon Friday 29th September 2017.

For Guidance Notes and Application Form for the Scheme please visit: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/social-farming-capital-grant-scheme-2017.

Land damaged by flash floods – force majeure – August 2017

The eligibility of your land for schemes such as the Basic Payment Scheme may have been affected by the floods on Tuesday 22 August. DAERA is conscious that this is a challenging situation for farmers and land owners and wishes to ensure that they take the right actions now to safeguard their payments under area based schemes.

If you have been affected, you should apply to DAERA within 15 days of the event for consideration for ‘force majeure’.

Farm businesses should note that If during any scheme year a section of your land becomes unexpectedly flooded or damaged, and if this impacts on your ability to carry out agricultural or woodland activity on land you have claimed as being eligible on your Single Application Form, you are advised to submit a force majeure application to DAERA within 15 working days of the event to allow your circumstances to be considered.  To do this, you are advised to immediately contact Area-Based Schemes Payment Branch on 0300 200 7848.  A link to the Force Majeure application form can be found by clicking here.

When you tell us of a ‘force majeure’ you will be asked to complete an FML1 application form (available on the DAERA website) and return it to Area-Based Schemes Payment Branch. We will look at each request individually so that we can confirm that despite taking all reasonable measures to counteract their effects, the force majeure or exceptional circumstances prevented you from meeting your obligations. You will be asked for information, supported by evidence where appropriate, of the steps you have taken to prevent or lessen the effect of these circumstances.

Therefore, if your farm or land holding has been affected by the recent flash floods, and in order to safeguard your scheme payments, you should contact the Area-based Schemes Payment Branch on 0300 200 7848 urgently to apply for force majeure.

More information on force majeure and its relevance to those claiming area based scheme payments is contained within the Guide to the Basic Payments Scheme 2017 (Page 62) which can be accessed via the DAERA Website.

DAERA to assist with removal of fallen stock following recent flooding

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs today announced it intends to assist farmers in the Glenelly and Owenkillew valleys with the disposal of dead animals lost in the recent flooding in the area.

It is one of a number of measures DAERA has put in place to support farmers affected by the serious flooding in the North West.

DAERA will arrange for the collection and disposal of the animals provided landowners can arrange for these to be taken to suitable areas of hard standing. Any such collection location must be accessible to large vehicles.
This is not a compensation scheme. However, in order to prevent the development of animal and public health issues, DAERA will manage carcase collections in the week commencing 4 September.

Farmers in these affected areas are invited to contact DAERA as soon as possible (before 4pm on 7 September) to avail of this support. Telephone 0300 200 7840, ask for your local Divisional Veterinary Office (Omagh or Strabane) and provide details of the number and type of stock to be collected and a contact number.

Farmers whose cattle drowned or are missing are also advised as follows:
– If cattle have died and you know their tag numbers notify the deaths in the normal way using an MC1 document or using APHIS online. If you don’t know the tag numbers of the animals tell your local DAERA office how many animals are involved.
– If cattle are missing, inform your local DAERA office providing the number of animals involved and if possible their tag numbers.
– Where the initial information provided to DAERA does not include tag numbers, these should be provided as soon as you know them.

In light of the impacts of the extreme conditions, DAERA is adopting a flexible approach to late notification of animal losses from affected premises. The above actions will help to ensure that late notifications of these events do not impact on cross compliance for the businesses affected.

There is no change to the current requirements to notify deaths and movements of cattle within seven days for herds unaffected by the flooding.

DAERA is reminding all impacted farmers to submit their force majeure applications as soon as possible ahead of 14 September to ensure they do not miss out on EU payments schemes. The form can be used to notify DAERA of force majeure issues arising for all schemes including Basic Payment, Areas of Natural Constraint, agri-environment and woodland schemes.   
Staff from DAERA’s Area-based Schemes, NIEA, CAFRE and Veterinary Service as well as Department for Infrastructure (DfI) will be providing advice clinics next week (between 9am and 5pm) at Glenelly House, Plumbridge on Monday 4 September, and the Roe Park Hotel in Limavady on Tuesday 5 September. CAFRE will also be issuing an advisory bulletin to assist farmers in their recovery efforts.

DAERA has been working in partnership with the Department of Finance’s Land & Property Services (LPS) to ensure mapping information is available to support area-based schemes. This mapping information is derived from aerial imagery captured by LPS. DAERA and LPS will use this imagery to ensure that up-to-date information is available as part of its response to deal with the aftermath of the floods. 

This will assist DAERA in responding to force majeure claims. In time, the information will also make an important contribution to the speed and accuracy of payments later in the year.

The Department has been lobbying DEFRA to seek permission from the EU to allow it to raise the level of advanced CAP payment made in October from 50% to 70%. It remains committed to making advance payments from 16 October to as many farmers as possible who have verified claims.  

Rural Support – Help is at Hand

Due to the recent extreme weather events, particularly in the North-West area of the province, Rural Support recognises that the pressure mounting on farmers affected will be increasing in the coming weeks.

Rural Support provides a listening and signposting service for farmers and rural families across Northern Ireland. Rural Support’s volunteers are all from a rural background, with many being retired farmers and individuals who have worked for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. Our volunteers understand the emotional drain, technical difficulties and isolation experienced by farming and rural communities, especially in events such as the recent flooding.

Extreme weather events can also lead to financial implications on the farm. Rural Support also offer free, confidential, face to face support from one of our Finance Mentors to analyse your current financial/ farm business position and help identify a way forward beyond the floods.
To speak to someone in confidence contact our helpline on 0845 606 7 607. The helpline is available from 9am to 9pm Monday – Friday (voicemail and support options available at all other times).
Please find below contacts and resources that are in place during this time for assistance:

Rural Support Helpline: 0845 606 7607
NI Direct Flooding Incident Line: 0300 2000 100
DAERA Animal Health and Welfare: 0300 200 7840
NIEA Water Pollution Hotline: 0800 807 060
CAFRE Advisors: 0300 200 7843