Only 38% of farmers surveyed in the Irish Examiner ICMSA farming poll are satisfied with TAMS, making it the least popular farming scheme among farmers.
Farmers are most satisfied with the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), with just under 7 in 10 satisfied with the replacement for the Single Farm Payment scheme (SFP).
Overall, satisfaction with all farm schemes has increased comapred to 2015 levels.
The low level of farmer satisfaction with TAMS is unsurprising, given the ongoing delay with payments and approvals.
More than 7,000 applications have so far been submitted under the first three tranches of TAMS II.
Considering the scheme was launched in 2015, to have less than half of the applications processed and approved by mid-August 2016, is “catastrophic, causing frustration amongst farmers, but also increasing the level of stress”, according to Macra Na Feirme.
Macra say there is a great deal of confusion around the status of farmers’ TAMS II applications.
“Irish farmers are anxious to commence the construction of various on-farm projects, due to this being an ideal time of year to begin building”.
Macra Ag Affairs committee chairperson, James Barber said: “Delays in the building of on-farm projects, into the winter period, will increase the cost of construction.
“Come winter, construction becomes a lot harder, due to inclement weather conditions.
“Poor weather and poor ground conditions will result in farmers needing to construct roadways to allow heavy machinery pass on land with minimal damage.
“Added costs such as roadways aren’t covered by the TAMS grant”.
Satisfaction with TAMS is higher among those with larger farms, and is relatively evenly split by age.
Tillage farmers are the least satisfied with TAMS, probably due to the initial exclusion of a tillage scheme in TAMS.
A relatively large 40% of those surveyed were undecided on their level of satisfaction with the scheme.
Basic Payment Scheme
Perhaps the most surprising finding is that the level of satisfaction with the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) has increased by 7% on 2015 levels to 69%, making it the only scheme that more than 50% of farmers are satisfied with.
The strongest positivity with the scheme is among the 35-54 age group, and among farmers with larger holdings.
Tillage farmers are the least satisfied, at 62%, with livestock farmers the most satisfied, at 71%.
The lower satisfaction among tillage farmers is probably linked to the impact of ‘greening’ on their operations.
This includes diversification which forces tillage farmers to have up to three different crops on rented land, multiplying travel back and forth to rented land by three.
Smaller farmers are less satisfied with the BPS, with 54% of those with less than 40 acres satisfied with the scheme, compared to 74% of those with more than 120 acres.
Overall, only 20% of those surveyed are dissatisfied with the scheme, and just 11% ‘don’t know’ their level of satisfaction.
The Basic Payment Scheme was meant to reduce the level of red tape and the complexity of the scheme, to reduce errors and cut the time spent on paper work.
But the scheme is still very complex.
It’s unlikely that the increase in satisfaction with the scheme is entirely due to reduced red tape.
Perhaps convergence is what has farmers satisfied.
Farmers who had low value entitlements prior to 2015 will see a gradual increase in the value of their entitlements up to 2019.
This process, known as internal convergence, is designed to ensure a fairer distribution of CAP funding.
However, it is the smaller farmers, who for the most part will gain from convergence, that report the lower level of satisfaction in the poll.
Perhaps they see the gain from convergence as too small to make a real difference, or their dissatisfaction could even be due to longstanding unhappiness with the BPS and its SFP predecessor.
While 44% of all farmers are satisfied with ‘Greening’, one third of tillage farmers are dissatisfied with this scheme.
Just under one third (32%) of all farmers are ‘Greening’ “don’t knows”, which is down from 44% last year.
Livestock farmers are most satisfied with the scheme (46%) followed by dairy farmers (44%) probably due to the fact that ‘Greening’ could be viewed as money for nothing for most livestock farmers, as they are ‘green’ by definition and are not required to take any extra action.
It’s unsurprising that the satisfaction level is lowest among tillage farmers, as they have to sow a number of different crops that they may not normally sow, and also have to comply with area restrictions for the crops they sow.
In the Irish Examiner ICMSA farming poll, 43% of all farmers are satisfied with GLAS, up 6% from last year, while a third (32%) were unable to rate their satisfaction level.
Support for the scheme is strongest among the middle aged and those working larger farms, while dairy farmers are the least satisfied with the scheme.
Increasing farmer satisfaction in the scheme may have been helped by the recent extension of deadlines for sowing catch crops.
The third of those surveyed who are undecided about GLAS may still be waiting on their first full year’s payment before they make up their mind on the scheme.
Any farmer who took part in previous agri-environmental schemes such as REPS would most likely be less satisfied with GLAS, due to the lower payment level, and the perception that there is more work to be carried out under GLAS to get the maximum payment.
Dairy farmers’ dissatisfaction with the scheme is somewhat unsurprising, as they have viewed a lot of the actions of the scheme as unworkable in intensive dairy systems.
Overall, two in five (40%) of all farmers surveyed are either very or broadly satisfied with the Knowledge Transfer Group Scheme, which is an increase of 8% from last year, the largest increase in satisfaction for any scheme.
However, it remains only marginally (2%) more popular than TAMS, the least popular of the six schemes which 526 farmers were asked about in the poll’s face-to-face interviews.
The low level of satisfaction is reflected in the number of farmers participating in the scheme.
Uptake of the scheme has fallen short of expectations, due to what the IFA says are “the complex and rigid rules imposed, as well as the requirements for farmers to incur additional costs”.
The 38% of those surveyed who did not know their level of satisfaction with the scheme may reflect its complexity.
Or this fairly large ‘don’t know’ group may indicate that participants need more time to fully assess the scheme, with many groups still currently being approved and getting under way.
According to IFA Rural Development Chairman, Joe Brady, only around 20,000 farmers are partaking in the Knowledge Transfer scheme, which is well short of the intended 27,000.
The poll shows those with larger farms are the most likely to be satisfied with the Knowledge Transfer Group Scheme, while tillage farmers are least satisfied.
Larger farmers, likely to have a second farming enterprise, can participate in a second discussion group, thus increasing their payment from the scheme, and their technical knowledge.
Just under half (46%) of livestock farmers are happy with the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP).
Younger farmers are less likely to be happy with the scheme.
The level of satisfaction with the scheme is surprisingly high, given the recent confusion over letters issued by the Department of Agriculture to participants in the scheme seeking outstanding data and/or genotype samples.
And there were reports of farmer anger over some of their “top” cows receiving only a 2 or 3 star rating on the replacement index.
It would be interesting to see how the level of satisfaction in the scheme changes over the next few weeks, as participants receive their genomic €uro-Star reports, which include the results of genomic evaluations of animals that were genotyped as part of the scheme.
Farmers may be forced to buy heifers of high replacement index value in order to comply with the terms and conditions of the scheme, if genomic results impact negatively on their cows.
One third of livestock farmers surveyed in the poll ‘don’t know’ their level of satisfaction with the scheme, many of whom may be awaiting their genomic €uro-Star report before making up their mind on the scheme.
Almost 80% of the 526 farmers surveyed in the Irish Examiner ICMSA farming poll feel that the Department of Agriculture is too strict in implementing EU legislation.
Those with larger farms are more in agreement with this view than those working smaller holdings.
Like last year, agreement that the Department is too strict appears to strengthen with age. This may be due to younger more educated farmers being better able to deal with the bureaucracy of modern day farming.
81% were livestock/cattle farmers; 40% were dairy farmers; 14% had a tillage farm; 71% of the livestock/cattle farmers had less than 40 acres, with 67% farming between 40 and 80 acres.
Of the dairy farmers surveyed, 40% are farming more than 40 acres, with another 40% farming between 80 and 120 acres.
Find more on the Irish Examiner ICMSA farming survey HERE
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