Minister urges farmers to help improve water quality with support from the Environmental Farming Scheme

Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots has reminded farmers of the importance of improving water quality on farms as he inspected buffer strips erected under EFS within the Upper Bann catchment on a farm in Katesbridge, County Down.

By Edwin Poots MLA

Belfast South

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Water quality measures under the Environmental Farming Scheme are being implemented by farmers in the Upper Bann catchment and these are co-ordinated by the Rivers Trust under an EFS Group project. AfBI and University of Ulster are research partners in the project, which is part of ongoing efforts to improve the water quality in one of Northern Ireland’s most important water ways.

Speaking during the visit, Minister Poots said: “I would encourage any farmer to take up the challenge of improving and protecting water quality on their farm. We know that riparian (watercourse) buffer strips improve water quality because they reduce the risk of nutrients from manure and fertilisers and pesticide run-off contaminating watercourses. They also prevent livestock accessing the watercourse, eroding the banks and causing sediment loss. We also know that these impacts on water quality are widespread, so I would urge farmers to avail of the water quality options within EFS to help tackle this issue if they haven’t already done so.’

The EFS, which is currently open for applications until 10 September, offers support for a choice of 2 metre or 10 metre wide riparian buffers which can be planted with clumps of native trees if required to improve bank stability and reduce peak flood flow.

Notes to editors:

  1. The riparian buffer options cover the fencing costs of £6/m and provide a small ongoing payment each year. A range of associated capital items may then also be selected with the riparian buffers including a pasture pump, drinking trough, trough base, and/or gates.
  2. Any land fenced off to create a buffer, if it was previously eligible for Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), will retain that eligibility.
  3. There are over a dozen other EFS options available in addition to the riparian margins, including creation of new hedgerows, tree planting and biodiversity options. Farmers can select up to 4 options, and if the application is successful, they will be offered a 5 year EFS agreement.
  4. Tranche 5 of the Environmental Farming Scheme Wider Level (EFS) is open for applications until midnight Friday 10 September 2021.Applications must be submitted via DAERA's online services portal.

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