Future Farm Support

BPS is dead, so what are the future payments for farmers?

The Agricultural Consultants Association ACA (NI) held a special members meeting last Thurs night in Cookstown where the guest speakers were Norman Fulton and George Moffett from the Food, Farming and Rural Affairs branch of DAERA.

George Moffett went through what the future farm support would be for farmers, and how it would be phased in over the next few years. George and Norman then took part in a Q&A session with the members present.

The new programme is a massive change to the support that farmers have been receiving in the past and is governed by the Climate Change Act (NI) 2022. This Act sets a target of at least 100% reduction in net zero greenhouse (GNG) emissions by 2050 and an interim target of at least 48% reduction in net emissions by 2030 (7 years’ time!).

Throughout George Moffett’s informative talk, the 3 Cs stood out – Change, Climate Change and Carbon. We have heard of change before and farmers have dealt with it, but Climate Change and Carbon, presently the ‘in’ words will be completely different and farmers must quickly adapt to the future targets.

So, what is the new programme for the agricultural industry and farming?

The new programme although not fully finalised is intended to lead and encourage industry development to become more:

  • Productive
  • Environmentally sustainable
  • Resilient
  • Integrated into an effective functionally supply chain.

These schemes and measures according to DAERA will set out a firm focus and provide levers to contribute to the statutory obligations of the Climate Change Act.

George Moffett described the main farm support schemes, and of course, ACA (NI) members who act as agents for farming clients throughout Northern Ireland were keen to hear how this would affect themselves and their clients in the future.

Although the full range of new schemes and measures are still to be finalised, but what is presently known drew a lot of discussion from members.

The 2 main areas of the new programme which will affect farmers were covered under LAND and LIVESTOCK. Where details are presently known it is summarised below:

The future schemes that will be delivered for land are:

  • Farm Sustainability Payment – the Basic Payment Scheme will continue in 2024, although 8.5% of the payments will be deducted to pay for the Beef Carbon Reduction Scheme which starts in January 2024. In 2025 a further 8.5% will be deducted to fund the Suckler Cow Scheme.

This payment will be specific to active farmers with at least 5 hectares of eligible land and who in 2020 or 2021 had either cattle or sheep on their farm or grew an arable crop in either of those years, Equine businesses will not qualify. Businesses which did not fulfil these requirements will not be eligible to claim the FSP, but will be given the option of selling their entitlements this may be deferred until 2025 but has still to be approved. This will affect approximately 1400 businesses.

  • Farming for Carbon – Reductions in the numbers of older cattle for slaughter and improved suckler cow productivity will be progressed through the suckler cow and beef carbon reduction measures within the Beef Sustainability Package and include proposals to reduce the age at first calving.

Other proposals include:

The use of feed additives to reduce enteric methane emissions, nitrogen, and phosphorus outputs.

Breeding of more environmentally efficient cattle, to be progressed through the Ruminant Genetics Programme.

The use of urease inhibitor fertilisers, the optimal timing of fertiliser and slurry applications and the establishment of grassland swards with legumes and herbs to reduce fertiliser nitrogen.

  • Farming with Nature – This package will be launched in 2026 and will replace the current EFS Schemes. Those businesses already participating in an EFS scheme will transfer across to the Farming for Nature scheme. An interesting observation here is that areas that were ineligible for the BPS payment will now become eligible, such as scrub, rush and wide hedges. Also, where the Farm Sustainability Payment requires a business to have at least 5 hectares, the Farming with Nature Package requiresonly 3 hectares, suggesting that non-farmers or landowners may qualify.
  • Soil Nutrient Health Scheme –IN future to claim FSP support farmers must partake in the SNHS, this will provide farmers with a detailed soil analysis for all their sampled fields. This will help them plan their fertiliser and organic manure applications to maximise their crop yields, but more importantly to manage their farm carbon.
  • As well as signing up to the SNHS measure farmers MUST complete training, either online or face-to face with CAFRE advisers. A Nutrient Management Plan will have to be completed as well.
  • Horticulture – this sector will also have a range of support measures which are all under consideration at present.

Turning to livestock farms and at present those finishing beef cattle and keeping suckler cows, there are a range of packages (financed by a reduction of 17% of the existing BPS payment – 8.5% in 2024 for beef and 8.5% in 2025 for suckler cows).

Beef Sustainability Package – A quantitative limit of 352,000 animals is set at a Northern Ireland level to ensure the measure is compliant with WTO Blue Box requirements (production limiting scheme).

The Beef Carbon Reduction Scheme is limited to clean beef animals born and bred in Northern Ireland and registered on APHIS/NIFAIS. Payment will be made to the farm business which had the animals in their herd for 60 out of the 100 days prior to slaughter

Age at Slaughter

To reduce the age at slaughter for clean beef animals through measured steps to 26 months. A revised phased implementation for this measure is set out below:

Year of SchemeMaximum Age at Slaughter
130 months
228 months
327 months
426 months

The Beef Sustainability Package scheme begins in January 2024 when all applicants will be asked to apply and the information for payment will be taken from the NIFAIS system (replaced APHIS). It is proposed that payments will not be paid until 2025. The payment schedule will commence in January for animals slaughtered and those that qualify. Below are the suggested payment rates:

January Payment – £20

February Payment – £40

March Payment – £60

April onwards – £70 per animal

Turning to the Suckler Cow Scheme, George Moffet said it will not be opening until early 2025 but it was to incentivise farm businesses to reduce the age at first calving and/or reduce the calving interval of suckler cows. He stated that it would be progressive steps:

YearMinimum Age Calving at First Calving (months) Interval (days)Calving Interval (days)
232 405
  • Ruminant Genetics Programme – a Carbon Benchmarking Programme which has yet to be finalised and from members point of view needs to be standardised and everyone basically ’singing from the same hymn sheet’. There also will be a Live Dietary Emission Challenge Fund which will be looking at feed additives and their incorporation in diets (Mainly under the control of feed companies).
  • Capital Investment Measure – This scheme may be like the present Farm Business Investment Scheme and is intended to help farm businesses to improve business efficiency and environmental performance. It still must be finalised, but it will build on the information provide under the SNHS and the Carbon Benchmarking Programme.
  • Knowledge & Innovation

Farmers will have access to training and support, this will be a learning curve and there will be help and support at both farm and classroom level.

. Farming for Generations

This is an opportunity for generational change. A very important element of farming family life.

There will be a young farmers scheme as there is now, although rules maybe more stringent.

There will be family workshops and support for farmers considering succession planning.

As the Bob Dylan song says, ‘The Times They Are A-Changing” and if we all want to achieve the obligations under the Climate Change Act (NI) 2022 we must change. Time will tell!!

Agricultural Consultants of Northern Ireland (ACA NI)