Farm Ireland

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Taking the worry out of grant aid

Designed around a four-times-a-year tranche system, TAMS offers sheep farmers a chance to manage modernisation plans and handling units

In order to qualify for grant aid, the suppliers of mobile sheep-handling
facilities must have sought approval for the products they are marketing
In order to qualify for grant aid, the suppliers of mobile sheep-handling facilities must have sought approval for the products they are marketing
In order to qualify for grant aid, the suppliers of mobile sheep-handling facilities must have sought approval for the products they are marketing

Michael Gottstein

The Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) Sheep Fencing/Mobile Handling Equipment Scheme is a different type of grant scheme to the ones that farmers have become accustomed to over the past two decades.

Under previous schemes, entry was on a first come, first served basis and when the money ran out the scheme was closed. TAMS works on a tranche system, where the money allocated to the scheme is divided into equal instalments. Each tranche runs for three months and is then immediately followed by another three-month slice. The scheme is due to close on December 31, 2013.

Eligibility/qualifying for grant aid

Qualification for grant aid under TAMS is based on a points system. The more points the applicant has, the better his or her chances are of getting grant aid. Points are awarded under six categories (See table 1). The maximum number of points that an applicant can achieve is 425.

The qualification criteria are structured so that dedicated sheep farmers that keep breeding ewes are favoured over mixed farms that have cattle, dairy, tillage or other enterprises. Extremely large farms (over 200 production units) are not eligible for grant aid and very small flocks (less than 5ha/50 ewes or less than 10 production units) also do not qualify for grant aid.

Investments that qualify for grant aid

Under TAMS, farmers whose holdings (production units etc) qualify under the scheme can get grant aid on fencing as per table 2 and for mobile sheep handling facilities (table 3). Mobile sheep-handling facilities are defined as units that are transported using a trailer, attachable wheels or on a three-point linkage. They may not be concreted, bolted or permanently fixed in place.

In order to qualify for grant aid, the suppliers of mobile sheep-handling facilities must have sought approval for the products they are marketing. This means that you cannot purchase a handling unit from your local welder/fabricator if he is not on the Department of Agriculture's approved list.

Also Read

Manufacturers of mobile handling facilities can apply to the Department to be included on the list and an updated list can be found on the its website. Table 4 contains the most up to date list of approved suppliers as of March 1.

Fencing Specification

There has been a lot of talk about the fencing specification, usually querying the specification for fencing posts and strainers. To be fair, this is the only area that I can see any significant difference in terms of the specification and the materials that farmers would normally use when erecting permanent fences.

Fence posts in the past have not had a long lifespan, particularly on marginal soils in high rainfall areas. Therefore, purchasing posts that have been dried to a certain dry matter percentage before being treated makes sense, as it should greatly increase the lifespan of the post and thereby the fence.

Fence posts that meet the Department specification can be 50pc more expensive than the standard fence posts that one would purchase in any merchants. However, the wire and labour costs in erecting the fence will be much the same.

It is important to realise that the cost of fence posts represents only about 20pc of the total cost of erecting a new fence. Therefore, the additional cost of meeting the Department's specification is only a fraction of the entire cost of the fence.

Planning Permission

Farmers who intend erecting fences in an area that is designated NHA, SAC, SPA, Natura or any upland area that has been habitually open for 10 years or more are required to have planning permission or an exemption from planning for the proposed fence at the time of application.

Again, this is a condition that has put many farmers off applying for grant aid. My experience here is that for most farmers where an exemption from planning permission has been sought, it has been received. It takes four weeks to get an exemption so a little planning ahead is required.

Grant Aid / VAT

Grant Aid is paid on investments up to €10,000. The rate of grant aid is 40pc so the maximum amount of grant aid that any one applicant can receive is €4,000. Grant aid is only paid on the lesser of three costs, which are:

  • The Department's reference costings that apply on the date of approval;
  • The total cost of the invoices and labour/machinery costs deemed eligible by the Department net of VAT;
  • The projected cost submitted by the applicant at the time of application.

VAT can be recouped by non-registered farmers on any expenditure relating to fencing, but it cannot be recouped on any of the mobile items.

Tranche system

The tranche system allows the money available for the scheme to be divided equally over the entire lifetime of the scheme. The first tranche closed on January 31. Successful applicants will be given the go-ahead and the unsuccessful ones will be rolled over into the second tranche (current instalment), which is closing at the end of this month. Applications that are unsuccessful are continually rolled over into the subsequent tranche. Applicants may withdraw or amend their applications when they are rolled over.

Application Forms

Application forms are available on the Department's website or in Teagasc offices.

I would encourage all sheep farmers who wish to carry out an investment in fencing of handling facilities to apply. It is not a very complicated procedure and, in any case, you will need to engage an agricultural adviser to complete the application form -- so that will take any of the hassle out of it for you.

Indo Farming