A higher grant aid rate of 60% is available for mobile and fixed sheep handling equipment, such as electronic tag readers, in the new Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) III introduced under the new CAP.

This is due to the fact that sheep handling equipment is now featured under the Farm Safety Capital Investment Scheme (FSCIS), rather than the Animal Welfare and Nutrient Storage Scheme (AWNSS).

The investment ceiling is €90,000 for individual applications and €160,000 for registered farm partnerships. All previous spending under TAMS is reset to zero in TAMS III, with previous investments having no bearing on the investment ceiling. It may have an influence on the marking and ranking of applications, but this will not be known until the terms and conditions are released.

The higher level of 60% grant aid was available for young trained farmers in TAMS II, but for all other farmers the rate was 40%. Reports indicate this is helping to generate more interest from producers but as of yet, no action can be taken, as the FSCIS is one of four entry routes to TAMS III that remains unopened.

The Department of Agriculture has previously stated that the remaining entry routes will be opened before the first tranche closes for applications on 16 June. The fast-approaching deadline is also adding to farmer anticipation.

Eligible items

The range of investment items included remains unchanged and these are listed in Table 1, alongside their reference cost. This is an important figure, as the level of grant aid paid will be paid on the lower of the receipted cost and the reference cost.

For example, the reference cost for a mobile sheep handling race with wheels is €3,847.75. If the receipted cost of such a unit was €3,600, then the 60% grant aid rate would be based on this figure.

While if the unit cost €4,000 to buy, then the grant aid figure would be 60% of €3,847.75. These figures exclude VAT, with grant aid paid exclusive of VAT.

Revised costings

The reference costs have been revised under TAMS III for all fixed and mobile sheep handling equipment investments. The standout change is a reduction of 15% in the reference cost of fixed or mobile sheep weighing scales.

A number of other items have seen their reference cost increase by 5%, with a fixed handling unit and a mobile sheep batch footbath increasing by 12%. There has been no change to the reference cost of electronic tag readers and associated software, since they were first to be included in TAMS.

There is no differentiation in costings for advanced handling units incorporating automatic weighing and sorting capabilities, for example.

Application procedure

Applications must be submitted through the agfood.ie portal in the same manner as previous schemes.

Once open, the scheme will operate on a tranche basis, whereby applications will be accepted for a set period of time within that tranche closing and another opening.

Applications to TAMS III for approval of investments and payment claims can be submitted by you or by an agent approved to act on your behalf.

The terms and conditions of other TAMS III entry routes highlight that there is the potential for farmers to purchase certain mobile equipment subsequent to making an application and prior to receiving approval.

Sheep handling equipment will now receive 60% grant aid under the farm safety application entry route. \ CJ Nash

It is likely that this will remain the case for the FSCIS. The installation of a non-mobile investment cannot continue until written approval has been received.

Terms and conditions for the other entry routes stress that the risk of purchasing eligible equipment, and not subsequently receiving approval, lies entirely with the applicant.

Farmers need to be fully aware of this risk and need to ensure that if this practice is allowed and adopted under the FSCIS, then it is critical that all investments adhere to the relevant Department specifications.

The TAMS document listing the eligible items under each entry route states that planning permission is required for a fixed sheep handling unit.

This is another area that farmers will be keen learn more about and explore – if planning permission is definitely necessary or if fixed handling units can be classified under exempted development.

Sheep fencing

While not directly applicable to sheep handling, sheep fencing plays a pivotal role in how sheep are managed. Sheep fencing falls under the entry routes of AWNSS (where rate of grant aid is 40%) as well as the Young Farmers, Organic and Women Farmers Capital Investment scheme, where there is a higher rate of 60% grant aid.

As outlined in Table 2, there has been no change in the reference cost figure for sheep fencing despite the cost of posts increasing. Farmers are also closely watching developments regarding the banning of the sale of creosote-treated posts, and the approval and cost of copper-oil-treated posts.

Gateways are eligible for grant aid where they are erected in a new fence, and the reference cost has increased marginally by 5% to €361.04. This cost covers the cost of a hanging and receiving post (as a gate cannot be hung on a post used to erect wire), the cost of the gate itself and associated costs of erecting the gate.