FARMING | Minister Poots announces the opening of the £21.4m Covid-19 Support Schemes
Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced the opening of the first Covid-19 Support Schemes from Monday 7 September, the most comprehensive and extensive package in the UK and EU.
Speaking about the scheme opening, Minister Poots said: “I am very pleased to report that over 11,300 local farm businesses will benefit from the £21.4m Covid-19 support funding package. When the funding was announced in May, it was the most extensive and comprehensive financial allocation to the agricultural and horticultural sectors within the European Union, and the only support package by any of the UK administrations, making £7m available to the beef sector in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.”
Minister Poots continued: “Since the Northern Ireland Executive approved the support funding, I consulted widely and regularly with a range of stakeholders and representatives across the industry to discuss their concerns and their proposals about how the sectors should be supported.
“During those discussions it was clearly accepted that financial support should be targeted at the hardest hit farm businesses who suffered verifiable financial loss as a direct result of the pandemic. As a result, I decided to target £21.4 million towards businesses in the dairy, beef, sheep, potato and ornamental horticulture sectors.”
Eligible farm businesses in the dairy, beef and sheep sectors will be able to apply for the support package by completing a short application available on DAERA Online Services from Monday 7 September to Wednesday 23 September 2020. These farm businesses will receive payments if they were the qualifying keeper of eligible animals presented for slaughter and / or sold milk during the qualifying periods. The eligibility criteria and explanatory information will be published on the DAERA website on Monday, and all farm businesses considered eligible by DAERA will receive a letter next week providing them with instructions on how to access their application form and receive help to complete it.
Applications for support to potato businesses will open on Wednesday 9 and close on 30 September 2020, with the ornamental horticulture support scheme scheduled to open later in the month, subject to relevant approvals. These businesses will also be provided with guidance on how to make their application and the evidence they are required to submit.
The Minister added: “We cannot rule out the possibility of further market disturbance as a result of this pandemic and the need for support to farm businesses. For that reason, I have retained a budget of just over £7 million based on the residual funding of £3.6 million (from the £25m) and the £3.6 million that was reprioritised from within my Department. This will allow me to address additional issues and challenges that Covid-19 may present in the weeks ahead."
• Eligible dairy, beef and sheep farm businesses can access their application form from 9:00am on Monday 7 September through DAERA Online Services at:https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/services/daera-online-services
• A letter will issue to every eligible farm business in the dairy, beef and sheep sectors in week commencing 7 September 2020. Businesses do not need to wait for their letter before accessing DAERA Online Services to submit their application. Only businesses which are considered eligible will have the option to complete this application when they log-on.
• The Covid-19 Support Scheme is a contribution towards the losses incurred by businesses as a result of short term market disturbance. Since other HMG support measures are available to agricultural and horticultural businesses, rates of compensation for losses incurred have been set at 100% or 80%. The 80% rate is compatible with that set for the Self Employed Income Support Scheme and the amount of wages paid to furloughed workers through the Coronavirus Job retention Scheme.
• The subsequent allocation of the Covid-19 Support Fund will be as follows:
Beef producers will receive support for 100% of the losses they incurred in the period from mid-February – June. Eligible farm businesses who presented beef cattle, cull cows or bulls and veal calves (from aged 8 months old and over), for slaughter between 16 February and 30 June will be eligible for a payment of £33 per head. A second payment of £40 per head will be made if beef cattle, cull cows or bulls (aged 12 months old and over), were presented for slaughter between 29 March and 16 May 2020. A payment of £13.50 per head will be made if veal calves (from aged 8 months to less than 12 months) were presented for slaughter between 29 March and 16 May 2020. Payments will be made to the farm business that had the eligible cattle registered in their herd (on APHIS) on the dates that meet the qualifying criteria provided in the guidance. These payments equate to £7 million from the Support Fund. All cattle slaughtered as TB reactors and ‘in contact’ animals will be excluded from the scheme as will all cattle slaughtered and certified on APHIS as unfit for human consumption.
Sheep producers will also receive 100% of losses incurred by receiving a flat rate payment of £6.88 per head based on the number of eligible sheep presented by an eligible farm business for direct slaughter in NI, GB or in RoI between 22 March and 18 April 2020 inclusive. Payments will be made to the farm business that had eligible sheep registered in their flock (on APHIS) on the dates that meet the qualifying criteria provided in the guidance. These payments equate to £232k from the Support Fund.
Milk producers are to receive support for 80% of losses incurred in the months March, April, May and June with a flat rate payment of 1.28 p/l. This reflects an actual loss against a February reference price. These payments equate to £11m from the Support Fund.
Potato producers will also receive support for 80% of losses incurred in the period March 17 to July reflecting actual loss in sales or value of crop remaining in store against a March reference price. This equates to an allocation of up to £1.2m - £1.6m from the Support Fund. Support will be a payment per ton based (max of £136/t) on the loss in value of eligible potatoes during the period March 17 to July 31, 2020.
Ornamental horticulture producers are to receive support for 80% of losses incurred in the period March 1 to June 30 reflecting actual loss in accrued sales of eligible plants compared to averaged sales in previous three years. This equates to an allocation of up to £1.2m - £1.6m from the Support Fund.