Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue announced on Wednesday that approval letters for tranche one of TAMS III have commenced, starting with the Solar Capital Investment Scheme (SCIS), which will see letters issued this month, with letters for other schemes to be done on a phased basis.

“Approval letters for tranche one applications have commenced, starting with the Solar Capital Investment Scheme. This scheme, which has its own ring-fenced investment ceiling of €90,000, is grant-aided at the enhanced rate of 60%.

"It enables farmers to consume solar, PV-generated electricity on site in order to meet their farm electricity demand, including the dwelling house," stated the Minister.

The above dates are in relation to fixed, non-priority items, with approvals for mobile investments expected to issue more rapidly, as they do not require the same level of checks as fixed investments.

The Department anticipates that the majority of approval letters for mobile items will issue in January, while it also expects that the first engagement with applicants will have occurred on all files by March 2024 and that the majority of approvals will issue by the end of April 2024.

Closing of tranche two

The Minister also confirmed that the current tranche of TAMS III will close Friday 15 December at 5pm. Tranche three of the scheme will open on Monday 18 December and close Friday 12 April 2024 at close of business.

The Minister said: “I have decided to close tranche two this week in the interests of ensuring that applications received since the tranche opened in July can be proceeded as efficiently as possible and to ensure that those who need to carry out works in a timely manner in 2024 can be processed, including by according them the necessary priority.

"I can also confirm that, as is the case with tranche one, all eligible applications received in tranche two will be approved.

"Similar to tranche one, those who have applied for mobile investments may proceed with that investment at their own risk pending formal approval in due course.”

Priority approval for slurry storage and animal welfare

Minister McConalogue confirmed that priority approval for farmers in urgent need to commence work associated with slurry and manure storage and relevant animal welfare investments has now reopened, with farmers requiring the approval to contact their local DVO.

“This autumn, for farmers that needed to commence works, I ensured that priority approvals were issued. This assisted farmers that required the construction of slurry and manure storage facilities, or urgent animal welfare-related investments for the winter of 2023/2024.

"Notwithstanding the approvals timeline that I am now announcing in respect of tranche one, I am advising applicants and their advisers who have an urgent need to commence works that this priority application process has reopened.

"If you are in this situation, you should contact your local Department of Agriculture office. Your application will then be assessed to determine whether there is an urgent need to issue approval and it will be prioritised accordingly.”

Stocking rate cut off for LESS equipment

The Department also reminded applicants of the changes to the terms and conditions of the Low Emissions Slurry Spreading Scheme (LESS). From 1 January 2024, applicants farming at or above 150kg N per hectare (as defined under Statutory Instrument 113/2022) in the year of application or the preceding year are ineligible to apply for LESS equipment.

The Minister added: “Applications for LESS, which are submitted in advance of this date, will be based on the terms and conditions that exist at that time.”

VAT reclaim

Recent changes to the flat-rate VAT scheme no longer allow non-VAT registered farmers to reclaim certain equipment. This has greatly reduced the percentage grant rate these farmers will receive.

Responding to a question from the Irish Farmers Journal this Wednesday, Minister McConalogue said this is “entirely an issue for Revenue”.

“I am engaging with them and I am offering them our technical assistance. While it’s a matter for them, I’m keen to offer any assistance that would be helpful,” he said.

Minister McConalogue added that he is concerned this could lead to changes in farmers’ decisions to invest in their farms.