It appears that concerns remain over delays to approvals under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS), despite a commitment from Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue that all eligible applications under tranche 3 will be approved.

The minister said last week that all eligible applications to the tranche – which closed on April 12 – will be approved, saying he was “delighted” with the number of applications to tranche 3, which numbered 3,802.

However, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has said that the minister’s commitment “counts for nothing” without formal notices of approval being sent to farmers.

Eamon Carroll, deputy president and farm and rural affairs chairperson of the ICMSA, said that farmers are unable to proceed with on-farm work for which they have applied for funding until formal notification is received.

“The delays involved, [which are] already ridiculous, will not be solved until those formal notifications are issued. The reality is that there are still applicants from tranche 1 who have yet to receive formal approval, despite the fact that their closing date was in summer 2023, and we know of cases where applications have been submitted for over a year,” Carroll said.

Carroll also criticised the department for what he claimed was a “double standard” on these delays.

“The department can take as long as it likes to issue an approval while, at the same time, writing to farmers with a query telling them to respond within 20 days or their application will be rejected in full,” he said.

“This is the kind of double standard that has made farmer interaction with the department so fraught and irksome. There’s one rule for the department and a second, much more abrupt, rule for the farmer.”

Carroll also claimed that Minister McConalogue “continues to stall” on concluding the Farmers’ Charter, which, the ICMSA deputy president said, “might offer farmers some protection”.

According to Carroll, farmers cannot have confidence to invest if the approval for their investment is delayed “so long that the building price quotes…are completely out of date”.

He called for the department to prioritise the work of approving TAMS applications so that all applications from the first three tranches are approved by the end of June.

Carroll also called for the four TAMS tranches scheduled for next year to be “set in stone” so that they open and close at quarterly intervals. He said this will bring a “degree of certainty” for farmers and their advisors.

“There is, however, no point in having certainty on tranche closing dates if approval can take up to a year to come through. This needs to stop and the minister must address it immediately,” the ICMSA representative said.