‘Farmers can’t stop acts of God, but they can be better prepared for them’

Calls have been made yet again for the suite of Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS II) to include grant-aid support for generators.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has been called upon to make the alteration by the Irish Co-Operative Organisation Society (ICOS).

Severe weather incidents – including ex-Hurricane Ophelia and Storm Brian – in recent months resulted in many difficulties for farms in impacted regions and also disrupted milk collection in several parts of the country, the Farmers’ Charter Monitoring Committee in Portlaoise was told today.

Highlighting the specific issue of power availability on farms following a weather crisis, ICOS National Marts executive Ray Doyle told the meeting that the impact of the storms also demonstrated the severe shortage of suitable generators on farms.

This added further to the problems arising, in spite of the valiant work of ESB Networks to restore electricity as quickly as possible.

“With extreme weather events likely to increase due to climate change, it’s essential that farmers are encouraged to invest in a generator to future proof their businesses against power outages.

“It is a quality issue where – apart from the milking equipment, which is powered by electricity – milk cooling tanks also need to be kept running. It is also an animal welfare issue, where full dairy herds must be milked regardless of conditions or risk getting mastitis if they are left laden with milk.

TAMS II amendment

“That’s why we are calling for an amendment to TAMS II to provide grant aid for the provision of standby generators and associated changeover switches on farms.

We also believe it would be sensible to make the installation of a changeover switch mandatory as part of all new parlour and dairy electrical installations, with an appropriate increase in the relevant reference cost.

“Farmers can’t stop acts of God, but they can be better prepared for them,” Doyle said.

He added that TAMS II has a budget of €395 million to help finance farm expansion and modernisation, including machinery.

“Some of the main objectives are to: enable growth and competitiveness in the agriculture sector; address environmental issues; support the increased efficiency on holdings; and to improve animal health and welfare.

It is the ideal mechanism to help mitigate the risks posed to milking operations in the event of further major weather incidents and power outages.

ICOS confirmed that its Dairy Committee chairman and the chairman of Irish Milk Quality Co-operative Society (IMQCS), Jerry Long, has written to Minister Creed with the above recommendations, on behalf of all their member co-operatives and milk producers nationwide.

No planned amendments on the horizon

However, the minister has previously come out to say that there are no plans on the horizon to include change-over switches or generators as part of the TAMS II schemes.

Last month, Minister Creed outlined that there was a significant majority of project applications that had received approvals under TAMS II that had not yet submitted payment claims to the department.

Commenting on the matter, he recently said: “Until these approvals mature to payment stage or the timeframe of the approval expires a budgetary provision must be available to make payments.

“For this reason I am not proposing to open the scheme to new investments.”

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