The moves this week to some way open up the long-anticipated new Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS III) must be welcomed, but, must also carry a significant risk warning for farmers.
It now seems clear TAMS capital investment in slurry storage or underpasses etc won’t begin until the autumn, just when you would be hoping to finish up a summer building project.
Remember, you need to apply, get planning permission, get written approval from the Department, and only then you can start building.
There is some leeway on what is termed “mobile” equipment which includes some new fertility equipment used to identify cows in heat etc.
While this is welcomed for farmers wanting to buy for this year, we still don’t have the specifications of eligible equipment.
There are a large number of providers on the market so farmers need to ensure the equipment will be eligible before investing.
The Department is clear it’s buyer beware and it won’t underwrite any ineligible investments in stock and facilities on good land or cases where it turns out the applicant is ineligible.
We have specifications on existing mobile equipment like sheep handling crates etc that have been eligible previously.
The move to make funding easier to attain by new scoring criteria for those stocked at a lower level or those in less disadvantaged areas clearly shows the Department bias towards investing in lower-stocked systems as opposed to more productive farms.
Why a farmer who has invested for years in stock on good land is disadvantaged is hard to explain.
I attended the Department-organised suckler scheme meeting in Ennis this week. In fairness, for a complicated enough scheme with various permutations at farm level, the speakers were clear, concise and on top of the brief. During questioning there was an element of frustration from some farmers, especially maybe with the end of June timing, the potential movement in star ratings and penalties imposed if a measure is missed. The Department officials on the night, chaired by David Buckley, seemed open to some suggestions if genuine issues were raised. There was no doubting the appetite for the scheme in a big suckler county. Anyone interested needs to get to a meeting.