A young dairy farmer from Co. Down who applied for the Tier 2 scheme says he has almost given up on the scheme and is worried by the financial pressure it has put him under.
He says the worst part of the “farcical process” is knowing that he could still lose out despite waiting a year for his application to be reviewed.
The young man said he wished not to be named out of fear that speaking out could affect his application.
He said he has been left stuck as to what he should do – whether to pull out of the application process or to keep holding on for a grant he fears may never come.
A new milking parlour
Speaking to AgriLand, he said he had been building up his cow numbers to prepare for a new milking parlour but is unable to finish the project without withdrawing from the process.
The total investment is estimated to sit just shy of £250,000; if he waits to be accepted, he could potentially find 40% of this covered by the grant.
But, for every week he waits, he explained he is also losing 0.5p off each of the thousands of litres of milk he sells because his processor is encouraging farmers to become Red Tractor assured, financially penalising non-assured farms.
‘The contents are missing’
He said: “I thought I would have it built by Christmas, but now my cows are calving and I have nothing suitable to milk them in.
“I have applied for dairy equipment. I decided to go ahead with converting the shed myself as I knew it would be too long to wait on the grant and for what would have been involved it wouldn’t be worth it.
Today the shed is completely finished, it’s just missing the contents – the parlour.
“I’m already milking 160 cows through our old parlour but it’s very outdated; it’s far too small and takes too long to complete one milking. I have been building up cow numbers for the new milking unit but I never knew it would take this long.”
He is currently milking in an eight-unit swing-over parlour, a process which can take as long as four hours.
But the problem has been further complicated as his milk processor is pushing farmers towards the Red Tractor scheme, penalising those who do not sign up.
He said: “I haven’t applied for the scheme for the simple reason my parlour would not pass the inspection as it’s too rundown. It would cost too much to tidy it up and make it presentable and I wouldn’t get a return on that investment.
“So from January 1, I will have lost income as I won’t be Red Tractor assured – as we had planned to be in our new parlour by Christmas.
Rising costs and moving goalposts
“I had to pay a man to help me with completing and submitting my application.”
The young farmer said he also feared the prices would rise in the year since he gathered his quotes.
He said, “I’m out of pocket yet again as I doubt the grant will cover any increase to the quotes I got 12 months ago.
“Ever since the grants were announced the goalposts have been moving; from the date of applications opening, to the amount of support for young farmers (under 40) dropping from 50% grant aid down to 40%.
I have nearly given up hope but the most unsettling thing is that I could still get a letter saying that I have not been successful.
He also raised concern that there is no one to complain to about the scheme.
He added: “If I was to make a complaint I worry that my application could be held back further. You get the feeling we have no voice and our backs are up against the wall.
“It nearly feels as if they are just looking for reasons not to give it to you.”