The Farm Plan Scheme, administered by my Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service, is an important instrument that allows for proactive engagement with farmers in designated sites, to trial and deliver bespoke measures that support biodiversity. Plans delivered through the Scheme have been used to inform the development of national Agri-Environment Schemes under the Rural Development Programme, co-financed under the Common Agricultural Policy.
The NPWS Farm Plan Scheme will continue to operate at an appropriate scale to pilot new and innovative approaches for farmland biodiversity.
My Department has met frequently with farmers' organisations and I am fully aware of their proposals with respect to an expansion of the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme. The matter is receiving close attention and will be discussed in the normal Estimates process and considered in the context of existing commitments, the overall resources available to the Government and the demands on those resources.
In addition, officials of my Department continue to liaise with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in relation to the development of the CAP Strategic Plan, which will also have a significant role to play in the delivery of measures for farmland biodiversity in the next operating period.