Speaking following a meeting with senior officials of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Pat McCormack, Deputy President and Chairperson of the ICMSA’s Dairy Committee, has called on Minister Coveney to ensure that the Dairy Equipment Scheme maximum investment ceiling for milking machines and bulk milk tanks should be at the minimum €40,000 and €25,000 respectively under the new RDP 2014 – 2020 and not at reduced levels proposed by his officials.

At the meeting, Pat said, that the Department officials proposed that the current maximum investment ceilings would be reduced from €40,000 to €30,000 for milking machines and from €25,000 to €15,000 for bulk milk tanks, a proposal the ICMSA man described as “totally unacceptable”.

“If the Minister implements this proposal a farmer investing in dairy facilities will lose €8,000 in grant aid where the cost of the milking machine is in excess of €40,000 and where the cost of the bulk tank exceeds €25,000  – which will be absolutely the case for  many farmers. Any farm development requires a considerable level of personal financing and this scale of reduction in grant-aid could have very significant implications for many farmers trying to secure finance for the works involved as we enter a period of significant milk price volatility post-quota.  Banks are operating very strict credit criteria and sufficient grant aid is absolutely critical to the success and failure of a dairy investment.

“It is incredible-given the Minister’s growth objectives for the dairy sector in the 2015-2020 period – that the Government would actually reduce the level of grant aid available to farmers and if the Minister is serious about helping dairy farmers develop and modernise their dairy facilities, a reduction in maximum investment ceilings should be dismissed out of hand,” he said.

ICMSA also expressed concerns regarding eligible investment items under the new schemes and reiterated its view that cluster removers should be eligible for grant aid on existing units given their significant cost and given their recognised benefits for SCC levels, animal welfare and farm management.  “A farmer who develops his or her dairy facilities in stages to be financially prudent should not be penalised for doing so and recognition of this by grant aiding cluster removers on existing units should be included in the new scheme”, he concluded.