Minister opens fifth application to EFS with visit to local farm

Date published: 16 August 2021

Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots has opened the fifth intake to the Environmental Farming Scheme with a visit to a farm in Downpatrick to see first-hand what can be achieved through the scheme.

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots visits Cecil Nelson's farm outside Downpatrick to see how Environmental Farming Scheme funding helps with biodiversity. Pictured L-R Minister Poots, Cecil Nelson and Mark McCormack, RSPB NI.

Mr Cecil Nelson has participated in agri-environment schemes for a number of years, working closely with his local RSPB conservation officer Mark McCormick.  By managing hedgerows, leaving stubble fields over the winter and growing a winter feeding crops for birds, he has achieved a 100% increase in the endangered yellowhammer bird population on his farm over the last 10 years.

This mixed arable farm has also been participating in the RSPB led EFS Farmland Birds Group project and now also has a breeding pair of long-eared owls through participation in EFS.   

Minister Poots said “The Nelson’s farm demonstrates just what can be achieved by doing the right things in the right places to help biodiversity. 

“As Minister for both Agriculture and Environment I am delighted to have been able to support the work being carried out here through our agri-environment schemes with outstanding results and I commend the Nelsons for their efforts. 

“I’m delighted to announce that the fifth application for the Environmental Farming Scheme opens today and farmers can choose from a range of options to create environmental benefit on their own farms.  There are a range of arable options to choose from which are designed to enhance the biodiversity value of your farm with minimal impact on your cropping rotations or management.  If we all do a little to support nature on our farms it will make a big difference.”

Welcoming today’s visit by the Minister, Mr Nelson said, “Farming is still very much the priority with us, but the family and I get great satisfaction from the wildlife we have on the farm and we like to give it a helping hand.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. EFS options which will benefit birds and pollinator species in particular include provision of a winter feeding crop for wild birds, retention of winter stubbles and the creation of pollinator margins and sowing these out with either a pollen and nectar or an annual wildflower mix. 
  2. Other options, which perhaps involve less input, include the creation of 6 metre arable margins and either leaving these cultivated but uncropped or sowing them out with a rough grass mix. 
  3. Insect and bird populations on farms can be boosted through the provision of winter feed crops for wild birds or simply retaining fields in stubble over the winter. 
  4. Full range of EFS options.
  5. Applicants are strongly advised to read the relevant Information Sheet before applying for an option.
  6. Applications can only be made online but help is available through the EFS Helpline number 0300 200 7842. Applications for tranche 5 EFS Wider must be submitted online before midnight on Friday 10 September 2021. 
  7. The Environmental Farming Scheme is part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
  8. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook.
  9. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office:
  10. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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