Contractors’ group pushes for ‘fair and equal access’ to machinery grants

FCI (Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland) says that it has written to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, requesting an “urgent meeting” to discuss what it describes as unfair treatment of its members – treatment which “excludes contractors from access to grant-aid for the purchase of machinery under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II)”.

The FCI says that it has informed the minister that the fact that applicants are required to have a Department of Agriculture identifier (i.e. a herd number or another recognised ‘identifier’) excludes many full-time, non-farming agricultural contractors – who operate as sole traders or limited companies – from the scheme.

Image source: Shane Casey

The association is asking that contractors be provided with a unique ‘Contractor Identifier Number’ by the Department of Agriculture – to allow them to have “fair and equal access” to machinery investment grants (which are currently available to Irish farmers).

The FCI has identified examples of schemes where Irish farmers can access, or could have accessed, grant assistance for the purchase of relevant equipment.

These schemes include the following:
  • Young Farmer Capital Investment Scheme (YFCIS);
  • Organic Capital Investment Scheme (OCIS);
  • Low-Emission Slurry Spreading Equipment Scheme (LESS);
  • Tillage Capital Investment Scheme (TCIS).

According to the FCI, the “discrimination against land-based contractors” must end – to enable wider greenhouse gas related emission targets to be met.

It says that such a move would also contribute to “maintaining a competitive food-producing industry and allow fair competition in the provision of skilled machinery services on Irish farms”.

Parlimentary Question (PQ)

Earlier this month (January), Fianna Fail deputy Kevin O’Keeffe asked the minister about the possibility for plans to devise a mechanism, whereby the purchase of a “low-emission slurry applicator machine” would be incorporated into future roll-outs of TAMS II with a “special emphasis placed on agricultural contractors who have not qualified for previous schemes – but, are now required under legislation to have this specialised machinery to undertake their work”.

Image source: Shane Casey

At that stage, Minister Creed replied that a condition of EU co-funded TAMS II measures was that recipients of grant-aid must be farmers. He explained that he had no plans to extend the scheme to include agricultural contractors and that he was precluded by legislation from doing so.