All eligible applications to the Business Development Groups are being offered a place on the programme, the Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill has announced.
Announcing progress to date on the roll out of the BDG programme, the Minister said: “I am delighted to announce that all 3,225 eligible applicants, who applied to the Programme at the end of last year, will be offered a place within a local BDG. Initially it was planned to allocate 1,500 places before the end of March, with an additional 1,500 joining the programme later in the year. However, demand for the programme was such that I have decided to offer places now to all eligible applicants so that they can start maximising the benefits as early as possible.
“Eligible applicants will be notified of the group they are to join shortly, and they will also receive an invitation to their first meeting along with a copy of their membership agreement.”
CAFRE will hold one training event for all eligible applicants before the end of March 2016. Participants will be able to claim payment for costs incurred for attending this training event, details of which will be included within their membership agreement. A full programme of eight training events will then follow from April through to March each year for the next five years.
She continued: “The BDG programme is part of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme which aims to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of local farm businesses. By participating in BDGs, farmers will be able to work together to help develop their businesses and adopt new technology with the overall aim of improving farm profitability. They will be supported by a CAFRE Development Adviser and will have the option to gain a Level 3 qualification. In these challenging times, being part of a BDG has the potential to help farmers improve their business decisions, in relation to future investment, technical improvements and efficiency savings. ”
The programme will meet costs incurred by the farmer; eligible claims will include replacement labour while they are attending training events, travel to and from training events and initial costs associated with analytical services. Where farmers attend all eight training events they will qualify for a payment of up to £490 per year. This payment is planned for the first two years of the programme and will then be reviewed. An allowance of up to £600 per visit for hosting a training event will also be payable. This payment will be available to farmers throughout the life-time of the scheme.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union says the BDG is a great opportunity for farmers to learn from each other by sharing ideas and improving skills in business management, new technologies and innovative ways of working.This new programme will help farmers acquire the skills necessary.”