Thursday, 26 September 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme
I thank Senator Lombard for raising this matter and welcome the opportunity to outline the current position regarding the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme, TAMS II.
TAMS II is made up of a suite of seven measures. These measures were launched under the Rural Development Programme 2014-20 and are co-funded under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, EAFRD. The measures provide grants for capital investment in physical assets to assist the Irish agriculture sector to respond to a range of policy challenges. The six measures initially launched in 2015 were the young farmers capital investment scheme; the dairy equipment scheme; the organic capital investment scheme; the animal welfare, safety and nutrient storage scheme; the low emission slurry spreading scheme and the pig and poultry investment scheme; and the tillage capital investment scheme launched in 2016. Among the objectives of the scheme are to enable growth and competitiveness in the sector, addressing environmental and climate change issues, supporting the increased efficiency on holdings and improving animal health and welfare.
In addition to these objectives, the young farmers capital investment scheme aims to address one of the key structural issues in the sector by specifically targeting support at young trained farmers by offering them a higher rate of grant aid of 60% compared to the standard rate of 40%. There is a huge variety of items available under the suite of seven TAMS measures. Under all measures, applications and payment claims must be made online, either by the farmer or by an adviser authorised to act on their behalf.
The financial allocation in respect of TAMS for the full rural development programme period will be in the region of €395 million. To date total expenditure, including transitional expenditure, has reached €169 million and we continue to pay approximately €1.5 million every week. I am delighted that the scheme has proved to be so popular with Irish farmers with over 29,000 applications submitted to date. Of these more than 22,000 or over 75% have been approved to commence work.
It is open to approved applicants to submit an online payment claim as soon as they are in a position to do so. The timing of the submission of a payment claim, within the approved deadline, is entirely a matter for the individual farmer and it is up to them when they complete their approved works. To date, 11,500 payment claims have been submitted and over 92% have been paid. I would urge all approved applicants who have completed their works to submit a payment claim as soon as they are in a position to do so. The position is that all outstanding approvals issued represent potential outstanding liabilities for my Department and we must have a budget in place to pay these claims. Until these approvals mature to payment stage, or the timefrarne of the approval expires, a budgetary provision must be available to make payments. In order to ensure the annual budget for TAMS can cover all potential outstanding liabilities it has been necessary to roll some 20% of approvals forward from tranche 13 into tranche 14 and from tranche 14 into tranche 15. I recognise that this may be disappointing for the farmers concerned who wish to commence works to improve their holdings.
Due to the tight annual budgetary position on TAMS, it is not possible to consider adding items, including cattle underpasses, to the comprehensive list of investment items already available under the suite of seven TAMS II measures. I acknowledge that particularly in the dairy sector there is an issue with regard to the daily management of dairy farms which are fragmented and particularly where the cattle are crossing busy national primary roads.
There is intense consideration of the next Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, and what schemes might be considered within that. Whether underpasses will be considered there has been very significant commitment to the dairy sector under TAMS. Of the six pillars of TAMS II dairy has probably resulted in the highest number of applications and the highest level of payments. Through successive provisions in annual budgets there has been an incentive in the tax code for consolidation of farm holdings. That does not always arise as an opportunity for those managing those holdings, particularly on the dairy side but it is a recognition that there is a problem. I do not wish at this stage to say what will or could be part of a future CAP or rural development programme. Whereas this is a niche issue for a few it is significant for them.