TAMS for Organic Farming
Joe Kelleher, Organic Specialist, tells us; the recent announcement that the opening of the TAMS 3 scheme is imminent has been greatly welcomed by organic farmers and it is great to see the list of eligible investment items that organic farmers can avail of has been greatly increased.
The fact that organic farmers can avail of an enhanced 60% grant aid rate and an increased spend allowance of €90,000, is also a significant financial assistance to any farmer that may have to adjust their farming system to enable them farm organically.
With over 2,000 new organic farmers in the country now and many of these are livestock farmers that are required to have their housing converted to satisfy the standards before the coming winter, it is vital that the scheme opens in a timely fashion to enable this cohort of farmer get the required construction works completed in time.
Any new livestock shed, or extension to an existing shed, will continue to be eligible for grant aid. Importantly the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) costings have increased by 15% which brings the costings closer to being in line with actual on the ground construction costs. One of the most popular investment item for organic livestock farmers is the addition of a new straw bedded shed to an adjacent slatted shed. The DAFM costings for building on such a shed are now €182.34 per square metre.
A new inclusion to the TAMS list that will interest many new converts to organics is the “Replace slats with slabs” investment category which will grant aid farmers who wish to replace slats with slabs to assist them convert their housing. A farmer with a 4 bay slatted shed that contains 4.1m (14.5 feet) slats who wishes to replace the slats in two of the bays with slats is in line to receive 60% of €3,227 to complete the job.
Another investment item that is only available to organic farmers is the hay/straw store. A farmer wishing to construct a 4 bay storage shed with an internal width of 7.6m would stand to get a grant aid of 60% 0f €18,200.
Machinery/Equipment for livestock farmers
Organic livestock have always had exclusive access to grant aid on a healthy list of equipment including mowers, toppers, mulchers, haybobs, straw choppers, dung spreaders agitators and loaders. This list has now been expanded to include rear discharge dung-spreaders, tedders, soil aerators and various grass seeding options. The costings for most of these pieces of machinery have also increased, some with significant increases such as a trailed straw chopper which the reference cost has increased from €15,545 to €19,431. Organic farmers can avail of a 60% grant aid on all listed pieces of equipment.
Under TAMS 2 tillage and horticultural growers were able to avail of grant aid to purchase items such as multiple weeding implements including combcut, rotary cultivators, brush and flame weeders. Inter-row cultivators have always been included at a costing of €3,123/metre and this option is still available at an enhanced costing of €3,748/metre, but more interestingly, there is now a new additional investment item of “Inter row laser guidance weeder hoe system” with a DAFM costing of €19,329/metre which is sure to interest a number of commercial organic growers.
Grain stores, potato stores, produce stores are all still available for grant aid along with relevant drying equipment. Other eligible items that horticultural growers can avail of under TAMS includes polytunnels, irrigation systems, insect and bird netting and two wheeled tractors.
5 year usage clause
While the terms and conditions of the next Organic Capital Investment Scheme are not yet available, it is expected they will contain most of the conditions attached to previous schemes, including the 5 year usage rule which required farmers to stay involved in organic farming for 5 years from the date of issue of the final grant payment.
If we take the example of a farmer that purchases a mower through the OCIS when the first tranche opens (hopefully next month), and they receive their formal approval from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) in Autumn, and they then proceed to purchase the mower next winter. They then submit their paperwork to DAFM in early spring 2024 and receive payment in late spring 2024. This farmer is then required to stay farming organically for 5 years from this date to avoid full or partial recoupment of payment. For the cohort of farmers that started their OFS contracts on January 1st 2023, this will involve either extending their contracts (if this option is available) or participating in an additional 5 year contract.
The announcement of an increased grant aid rate of 60% for all organic farmers along with an enhanced expenditure allowance of €90,000 is a huge financial assistance to organic farmers to allow them invest in buildings and equipment to enable them operate efficient organic farming systems. For the cohort of farmers that require animal housing before next winter, time is running out fast. Determine if your prosed shed requires planning permission and if it does, a planning application needs to be submitted very soon if you wish to have any chance of having a grant aided shed standing in your yard for next winter.