Poll: 66% in favour of ‘fair access’ to machinery grants for contractors

A total of 66% of respondents to an AgriLand poll believe that agricultural contractors should have access to the same grant-aid as farmers when purchasing new machinery.

The poll received in excess of 1,300 responses, with 34% opposed to contractors having access to the same grant-aid as farmers.

This comes as the FCI (Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland) has requested an “urgent meeting” with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to discuss what it describes as the “unfair treatment of its members”.

This relates to the exclusion of land-based contractors from accessing grant-aid to purchase machinery under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II).

The fact that TAMS II 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, the FCI said.

The association is asking to be involved in the development of a nationally-approved ‘Agriculture Land-based Contractor Identifier Number‘ programme – in order for its members to have “fair and equal access to grant-aid” to purchase new machinery.

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).

However, in response to a recent parliamentary question, Minister Creed explained that a condition of EU co-funded TAMS II measures was that recipients of grant-aid must be farmers.

He added that he had no plans to extend the scheme to include agricultural contractors and that he was precluded by legislation from doing so.

Unfair competition

Meanwhile, agricultural contractors “can’t compete” with farmers offering grant-subsidised services, the chairman of the FCI, Richard White, has claimed.

No Irish land-based contractor can compete with a situation where a neighbouring young farmer – and possibly a present or former customer – can provide a service having received up to 60% grant-aid to buy a similar machine to that which is currently in the land-based contractor’s fleet.

“We are receiving regular reports of this happening across the country – where farmers are now providing below-cost contractor services using their grant-aided slurry, fertiliser spreading and tillage machinery.

ploughing, John Deere, Contractor
Image source: Shane Casey

“We are also concerned that some of this activity is taking place within the non-regulated tax environment – without adequate contractor-specific insurance – further undermining the legitimate activities of land-based farm contractors,” White said.