Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Getting dairy aid paperwork right is crucial

Tom Ryan

Farmers who have been approved for grant aid under the Dairy Equipment Scheme have two years from the date of approval to get the work done and claim for the grant. The Department of Agriculture has warned that no extension to this two-year deadline will be entertained for any reason whatsoever.

Delays and frustration can be easily avoided if you pay maximum attention to the detail of the scheme by complying with the terms and conditions and following the relevant specifications.

With this scheme, there are subtle changes in the paperwork and the way it will be administered. It is worth putting in the effort to get the work done and paperwork completed and submitted as required, ensuring that the expected grant will come through without a hitch.

Approvals and other documentation are being sent out at present, so take some time to carefully familiarise yourself with the documentation and mind it for future reference.

No equipment should be purchased, deposits paid or equipment delivered on site before the date of approval. Get this wrong and no grant will be paid.

The approval is based on what was applied for in the application form. All items of equipment should be bought and installed according to the details in the approval. The equipment should be sited as shown on the drawings presented with the application.

Some adjustments to the approval are permitted. For example, an increase or decrease of up to 5pc of the approved capacity of bulk milk tanks is allowed.

If the capacity is less than what is in the approval, the grant will be reduced accordingly, but the grant will not be increased if the capacity is greater than the capacity outlined in the approval.

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Permission for any other proposed changes must be requested, in writing, from the Department before the changes are made. Where the agreed changes involve an increase in the cost of the investment, there will be no increase in the grant.

The applicant must not proceed with the changes until a written decision is received from the Department. Where changes are made without prior written approval, the grant will be reduced by 25pc.

Proposals to withdraw items from grant aid must also be requested in writing from the Department.

Card A is sent out with the approval documents and must be returned, prior to or with the claim for payment.

If card A is not returned in time or at all, then the grant will be reduced by 5pc. No grant will be paid on second-hand equipment.

Planning permission may or may not be required. Where it is needed, most will have got it already. Any applicant unsure of whether or not they need permission should discuss this with their adviser or planner.

Situations where planning is almost certainly needed are, for example, for new parlours and dairies, adding on to parlours or dairies and where a change of use is involved, eg an existing animal house being converted to a milking parlour. External bulk tanks/silos also need planning permission.

Even though there are no grants for construction work in this scheme (either for building new or upgrading existing parlours and dairies), the relevant Department specifications, S103 and S106, should be followed. S103 covers the upgrading of existing parlours and dairies and S106 is for new parlours and dairies.

For farmers installing equipment in existing parlours and dairies, the equipment must be installed in structures substantially in compliance with S103. When all the work is done and the claim for payment is submitted, the Department will make a pre-payment visit to see if everything is in order. If everything is not substantially in compliance with S103, a penalty will not be incurred but the grant will be delayed until things are put right. If things are not corrected after the second visit, the grant will be reduced by 10pc. A person not prepared to bring the structures to substantial compliance with S103 will get no grant.

The phrase "substantially in compliance with S103" may mean slightly different things to different people so a good first step is to read S103 carefully and pay particular attention to the information in bold type throughout.

It says that the dairy must be a hygienic premises that can be readily washed, cleaned and disinfected. That means that floors must be free from cracks, pitting and hollows and have a uniform fall. The dairy must have no common airspace with any other building. Ventilation must be provided. Doors must be tight-fitting, vermin proof and washable. The dairy must be vermin proof from outside and adjacent buildings.

The dimensions of the bulk tank will dictate the size of the dairy. There must be an unobstructed space of at least 600mm on three sides of an existing or new bulk tank, which means that the tank can be pushed up to a wall on the fourth side if space is limiting (only for S103). Double wash troughs, a table or shelf and handwashing facilities must be provided. These will generally be present already, but perhaps the wash troughs will be too small for an extended milking machine or the space in front of the wash troughs and table may be inadequate.

You must read the detail in the specification to know what you need to do in your own particular situation. Those going for a small grant may feel they have too much to do to comply.

However, the requirements in S103 should ideally be in place already. Milk quality standards will be easier to attain and work rate and ease of work will be easier to achieve where facilities are good.

Indo Farming

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