The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has called for a review of the terms of the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS).
IFA farm business chair Rose Mary McDonagh said that the scheme was introduced to support businesses in dealing with increases in their energy costs between last September and next month, in comparison with the previous year.
“Farm businesses have experienced a huge increase in their energy costs, so a fit-for-purpose scheme was badly needed,” she said.
“However, the current scheme is not working on the ground for farming and agricultural businesses, from the reports I am getting,” she said.
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the IFA AGM earlier this week that there had been a low uptake of the scheme so far.
McDonagh said she has spoken to numerous farmers “that either do not qualify for the scheme as their energy costs had already started to rise dramatically before September 2021, or they are concerned that their advisers will not get their application submitted prior to next Tuesday’s deadline”.
The IFA has said one of the issues with the scheme is the calculation for qualification.
It compares costs on a monthly basis to that month the previous year and if there has been a 50% increase in the unit cost, then the business qualifies for that month, the association said.
“Unfortunately, comparisons begin in September 2021, at which stage energy costs had already risen considerably, so many will not qualify even though they have experienced large increases in their energy costs.
“Secondly, the requirement to return each billing period separately is proving very costly with some farmers and small businesses reporting that the cost to get their accountant to make each return is more than what the relief will be,” it said.
McDonagh has called on the Government to look at the scheme again to simplify it to achieve its objective of supporting farmers and other businesses in meeting higher energy bills.
“An average energy price for 2021 in comparison to 2022 should be sufficient. We are also suggesting one return to cover the billing period.
“Given the difficulties relating to this scheme, at a minimum we need an extension to the current scheme deadline of next Tuesday to allow more time to submit applications,” she said.