Changes to deposit rules for Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) applicants have been welcomed by farm organisations.

The confirmed changes made by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will allow farmers who have applied for TAMS – and who had put down a deposit before formal approval – to claim the deposit as a legitimate expense in claiming grant aid, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) rural development chairman, Joe Brady.

Prior to this, farmers were penalised if they had paid a deposit for work or equipment before formal approval to proceed with work, the IFA added.

Commenting on the development, Brady said: “This change is particularly relevant for farmers installing milking machines and bulk tanks and purchasing low-emission slurry spreading equipment under the scheme.”

Brady explained that the IFA has been in contact with the department about a number of cases over the past six to nine months. It is important that any farmer who suffered a penalty gets the full grant aid paid, he added.

‘Extremely harsh’

Meanwhile, the deputy president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack, also welcomed the development.

He reiterated the fact that, up to this point, farmers who had paid a deposit in advance of approval not only did not get paid a grant on the deposit element, but also suffered a penalty on the remaining part of the investment.

The ICMSA complained that this regulation was “extremely harsh on farmers and did not reflect the practical realities of such investments, where farmers simply had to pay deposits in advance in many cases – simply to ensure that a contractor was available at a specific time”.

Speaking following a meeting of the Farmers Charter Committee, McCormack said: “Under the revised arrangements as indicated by the department, farmers will no longer need to wait for approval before paying deposits.

Any deposit paid after an application for TAMS has been submitted is now eligible for grant aid.

“This change is very positive and brings a necessary level of reality and flexibility to the scheme. In relation to claims already made – where farmers have suffered a penalty for paying a deposit before approval – we’ve asked the department to review these claims and apply the new rules to these cases.

“The ICMSA believes that these farmers acted in good faith and simply made a genuine and completely understandable error that the department should accept and refund the penalties levied,” McCormack concluded.

Limit for investments

In other news relating to the suite of schemes, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, recently confirmed that there are no proposals at present to increase the investment ceilings under TAMS.

The minister made the comments in response to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue.

Deputy McConalogue asked the minister whether there were any plans to raise the limit for investments for TAMS – which is currently at €80,000 – to allow greater scope for farmers to develop their business.

Minister Creed outlined that the current approved applications “represent committed expenditure under the TAMS II measure of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020″.

He said: “Until such time as these approvals are acted upon or expire, the budget for TAMS must include provision for the potential expenditure involved.”