The Targeted Agricultural Measures Scheme (TAMS) needs to be urgently revamped to prevent millions of euro in EU funds being left unclaimed, the IFA has warned.
Despite booming agricultural markets, there has been a surprisingly low uptake on the TAMS during its first year in operation. The IFA estimates that farmers have applied for less than €20m of the €90m fund during the first year of the three-year scheme.
Less than half of this was for the €29m that was earmarked for the pig and poultry schemes, which are closing this year. In addition, there are only 11 applicants under consideration so far for the €8m that has been allocated for water harvesting.
As a result of this poor uptake, there are growing fears that up to €20m of the total fund could be left unclaimed. Because the scheme is 50pc funded by the EU, this will mean that up to €10m in EU support will go unused at the end of 2013.
"This is a crazy situation when there is clearly an appetite for investment among farmers at the moment," said the IFA's rural development chairman, Flor McCarthy.
He said that the IFA was drafting a proposal which would broaden the range of options within schemes on which farmers could apply for grant aid.
"We believe there is a case for including new farm structures such as milking parlours, dairies or livestock facilities for cattle and sheep which would immediately make this scheme much more attractive for farmers," Mr McCarthy added.
The IFA is also examining the possibility of accessing up to €15m of funding that was allocated to the rural broadband scheme under the rural development fund.
"This fund has failed miserably to deliver any assistance to rural families," said Mr McCarthy. "The money should be channelled into farming communities via schemes such as an improved TAMS in order for this Government to reach its targets for investment in its rural development plan."
However, Irish Rural Link's Seamus Boland rejected any suggestion that the rural broadband fund should be channelled into farm investment schemes.
"The fact remains that broadband access in rural Ireland remains dismal," said Mr Boland. "This is compromising not just farmers but overall job growth in rural communities. It should be relatively straight forward to fix but until we begin to take broadband access seriously, it will continue to thwart rural development. The broadband scheme needs to be fixed not scrapped."