The proposed aid package for farmers in the northwest who were impacted by floods and landslides in August 2017 has been questioned.

Several farmers in the area are seeking more clarity from DAERA about the difference in the payment rate of £4,092 per hectare for land in severely disadvantaged and disadvantaged areas, compared to £729 per hectare for lowland.

Senior DAERA officials are to present a document to MLAs on Stormont’s agriculture committee today (Thursday) which explains the rationale behind the £3.45m scheme.

While local politicians and representatives from the UFU lobbied for a package to be introduced, it is understood that only DAERA was involved in the design of the scheme.

“We are asking DAERA to outline how they came up with the figures and to publish their thought process behind the calculations,” UFU president Victor Chestnutt told the Irish Farmers Journal.

The payment rates are to apply to land which was included in force majeure applications by the affected farmers in 2017. This allowed applicants to still claim Basic Payment on damaged land which no longer met land eligibility rules.

Figures obtained from DAERA at the time indicate that 223 farm businesses in NI applied for force majeure across 1,080 hectares of land. Most of the affected farmers were located in the valleys of the Glenelly, Owenkillew and Faughan rivers.

There have been calls for DAERA to change the application process so that farmers who did not submit force majeure forms in 2017 can make claims under the upcoming aid scheme.

However, this request has been met with a lukewarm reaction in some quarters as there are concerns that amending the proposals to include a more complicated application process could delay the scheme further.

It would also mean that some farmers would have to admit to claiming Basic Payment on ineligible land, which could lead to retrospective penalties.