On many farms there are old farmhouses that have remained empty for years. However, they have remained empty for years as the costs to do them up have been prohibitive.

This isn’t just limited to farms – across the towns, villages and cities of Ireland, it is estimated that over 81,000 properties are lying idle, according to a report released in 2023

The Vacant Home Renovation Grant is offering a fresh perspective on these buildings. Where a property has been vacant for two years or more, the owner can apply for this grant, which provides up to €50,000 towards doing up the property.

Furthermore, if a property is derelict and there are structural issues such as roofing or underpinning needed, a further €20,000 can be applied for, bringing the total to a potential €70,000.

Early days

It is still early days for us to see the real uptake on the Vacant Home Renovation Grant. The grant was launched in July 2022, and expanded nationwide in November 2022. It cannot be drawn down until the works have been completed.

While current data shows that renovation works take twelve months on average to complete, many will know that with delays in building works and accessing finances, it can take much longer.

The most recent figures, published by the Department of Housing in December, state that just 63 grants have been paid out to date. Ciara Leahy has more in her editorial in this week's Irish Country Living.

Farmers taking on nutrient responsibility as spreading season opens once more

Farmers in the south of the country can legally spread slurry on Saturday morning, assuming ground conditions and weather forecasts allow.

In many cases the early winter and pressure on slurry storage will force farmers into spreading. This is not where farmers need to be.

Forced spreading of nutrients when growing conditions are not optimal or where ground conditions are poor mean less uptake and more run off. Water quality will suffer.

As farmers, we need to call out bad practice. Rightly or wrongly, currently farmers that are poor at managing nutrients are making the job more difficult for all farmers.

Water standards suffer, rules get tightened even further and ultimately farm margins are reduced.

If farmers are forced into spreading after having explored all options for transferring slurry, then they need to minimise risk as much as is physically possible.

Stay away from fields with slopes, aim for the drier paddocks, aim for paddocks with a good cover of grass that is actively growing, stay away from fields with water courses etc.

Spread only what is really necessary and use low emission slurry technology, as Peter Thomas Keaveney and Gary Abbott describe in the Machinery section this week.

More importantly, in the medium term these farmers need to invest or look at alternatives for additional nutrient storage.

Alice Doyle elected Deputy President, IFA

Alice Doyle’s appointment as deputy president of the IFA is a landmark in the association’s 69-year history as the first ever woman to be elected to the role.

Having chaired its Farm Family and Social Affairs Committee, Doyle has been working for farmers on pensions, Fair Deal, farm safety and mental health to great effect in recent years.

No doubt she will bring the same drive and determination to the role of deputy president, and we wish her well for the next four years.

The strong election turnout of 30,000 shows that the new leadership team has an open door to reinvigorate and activate its grassroots members. There are a host of new sector Chairs and with new leadership comes new ideas and development.