NORTHERN IRISH farmers are to be offered £330 per hectare to encourage then to grow protein crops.

Following industry consultation, the province's agriculture minister Gordon Lyons announced the introduction of the 'Northern Ireland Protein Crops Payment Pilot Scheme’ for the 2021 and 2022 Scheme years.

“The scheme will focus on growing combinable beans, peas and sweet lupins," said Mr Lyons. "Those crops will create a domestically produced source of protein for animal feed and provide agronomic benefits within arable rotations.

“I would encourage everyone to consider the opportunities and benefits this scheme provides, not only to boost farm incomes but also the associated agronomic and environmental benefits.”

The payment rate for the scheme is £330/ha and the total area eligible for payment under the Pilot Scheme will be capped at 1000 hectares. If more than 1000 ha are determined as eligible, a linear scaleback will be applied to the determined Protein Crop Payment area to reduce it to 1000 ha. Payment will be made on the scaled back area.

The minimum area claimed must be at least 0.3ha and applicants may only claim on land planted in protein crops. Areas of protein crops sown in a mixture with cereals or other crops will not be eligible for the scheme and protein crops declared under the scheme must not be harvested until after July 31, 2021.