New TAMS investment ceiling ‘should apply from January 2021’

The decision to continue the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) into 2021 “will be of no use” to the many farmers who have used up their maximum investment ceiling, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

While welcoming the continuation of the scheme for this year, ICMSA Farm and Rural Affairs Committee chair Denis Drennan noted that the TAMS scheme covered the 2014-2020 CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) programming period.

“While farmers understood that the investment ceiling would apply over this period, we are now in a new situation and new CAP programming period,” he said.

The ICMSA’s argument was that a new investment ceiling should apply from January 1, 2021.

Highlighting that 2014 through to 2020 saw “unprecedented investment on dairy farms” following the abolition of quotas and the introduction of new environmental regulations, the chairman said:

“The environmental and economic benefits of those investments were – and will continue to be – felt right across the economy.

“We need that environmental improvement to continue but a significant number of farmers have utilised the maximum investment ceiling and so are currently ineligible for TAMS,” he said.

All indicators suggest that the new CAP will not be in place until 2023 and it’s unfair and illogical that these farmers will be excluded from grant aid due to factors beyond their control, like Brexit and the failure of the EU to agree an MFF [Multiannual Financial Framework] until last summer.

The chairman said that such issues have delayed the implementation of CAP post 2020 but were outside the control of farmers, adding “it seems desperately unfair that farmers should be paying the price for them”.

Drennan said that this issue had to be seen in the context of the ever-increasing emphasis on sustainability:

“Farmers are more than willing to play their part in investing in environmental measures on their farms, but there are obvious costs to that and given the volatility in farming incomes and their diminishing margins, grant aid must be available to make these investments a reality.

If we want farmers to invest in environmental improvement measures – and give the rural economy so badly damaged by Covid a badly needed boost – then the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine should immediately announce that a new maximum investment ceiling will apply from January 1, 2021.

This would “ensure that all farmers who wish to invest in sustainability measures on their farms will be supported through grant aid”, Drennan concluded.