Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and agri-organisations are urging farmers to avail of the new Farm Safety Scheme to improve their farms and to reduce fatality statistics.
Despite heightened awareness of the safety issues, 24 people have died on Irish farms so far this year. All of the relevant authorities and farm groups placed safety firmly at the top of their agenda at the National Ploughing Championships. Similar safety messages are being issued across every sector of farming and at every agri-related conference.
Minister Coveney said his department was issuing the grants for this scheme in two tranches — with funds divided evenly between both. This is to speed up the issuing of approvals.
All of the documentation is available on the department’s website. The minister said the amount of funding available for the scheme was €12.2m and the grant rate will be 40% of the maximum eligible investment ceiling of €20,000 — in other words, a maximum grant of €8,000 is available.
The Farm Safety Scheme opened on October 22, 2014, and will close on January 9, 2015. The cut-off date for the first tranche is Friday, November 28. The second tranche opens on Monday, December 1, 2014.
Of course, to access these funds, farmers will have to comply with the scheme’s rules.
For instance, grant aid will not be paid for replacement of equipment damaged by fire, floods or other accidental damage. Grant-aid will not be paid for second-hand materials or equipment, nor for work carried out by contractors who do not comply with the relevant tax-clearance requirements. These, and other terms and conditions, are outlined in the department’s material on the scheme.
And, while very precise conditions must be met, the response from farming bodies has made it clear that this is a scheme that most farmers will welcome wholeheartedly.
ICSA vice-president for Connacht/Ulster, John Flynn, has urged farmers to move quickly to take full advantage of the new scheme.
“The window for action on this is quite narrow, as the closing date for receipt of applications is Friday, January 9, 2015,” said Mr Flynn. “Farmers will have to act fast to plan any work that needs to be done and to get their applications in by the closing date. Given the number of slurry-related accidents and deaths, it’s good to see that safety-fencing and covers for external slurry and effluent stores are covered by the scheme, and, from a drystock perspective, the inclusion of sheep- and cattle-handling facilities is very welcome.”
ICSA has already lobbied for the targeting of TAMS funding for such facilities.
However, Mr Flynn said that while this once-off scheme is positive, in using this money to help farmers upgrade their safety facilities, he said the minister must focus on education and on reaching out to older farmers who may find it hard to access farm safety funds.
Minister Coveney stated: “My department has put together a comprehensive list of investment items under this new scheme and I would urge all farmers to examine this carefully. It might be the best investment ever carried out on the farm.”
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