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‘A little ridiculous, but it may not be lawful’ – McNamara on higher grant rates for farming women

Providing a higher rate of grant aid for farming women under TAMS in the new 2023-2027 CAP period is “about tokenism rather than any actual impact”.

That is what Independent TD for the Clare consistency, Michael McNamara, told Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, during a Dáil debate on agricultural schemes in recent weeks.

McNamara originally asked the minister to outline the purpose of what he deemed to be “discrimination” between funding rates available to males and females aged 41-55 years in the TAMS scheme in the new CAP period.

He was referring to an increased rate of grant aid of 60% for women under TAMS, announced as part of a package to “promote gender equality in farming” in the current CAP period.

In response, the minister told the deputy that Ireland has had a “massive” cultural challenge over the years around women “not being treated equally with men” regarding farm inheritance because of cultural perceptions.

McConalogue comments 

McConalogue told the Dáil chamber that “it has been the case for too long that a son or nephew is often preferred over a niece or daughter regardless of interest levels”.

“We want to get the message out there that it is not acceptable to have such a low level of female farm holders.”

“We want to improve that, and this measure can help to do that. It is not a silver bullet, but it is a very clear message. We want to see more female farmers,” he added.

McConalogue then told McNamara that the DAFM is “pushing the barriers out, getting the message out there strongly and actually doing it in terms of supports”.

He added that the DAFM would be “very open” to suggestions of other measures that could support women in farming.

Unlawful discrimination

However, McNamara, who questioned if the measure amounts to unlawful discrimination, argued that the idea that when a farmer is deciding who to leave his or her farm to, he or she will decide to leave it to his or her niece rather than his or her nephew because she would get a better TAMS grant is “ridiculous”.

“What is not ridiculous – it is very real – is that if a farmer has a son and a daughter who are interested in farming, and both of them inherit the farm and are over a certain age, one of them will get a far greater grant rate than the other if they apply under this scheme.”

“Not alone is this a little ridiculous, but it may not be lawful. I presume the Equal Status Act applies to the activities of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as well.”

He told the Dáil chamber that he believes “the times are gone” when a farmer would leave their farm to the eldest son regardless if interested or not, or indeed would leave it to a son over a daughter”.

“Most farmers now are relieved if any of their children are interested in farming, or, if they have no child, any nieces or nephews are interested in farming.”

“I think the days of primogeniture or leaving it to the eldest son are well and truly over. That is a good thing,” he added.

Hackett

However, during this debate, Minister Pippa Hackett argued that “there are cultural elements and farms are not being left to girls, daughters and nieces”.

She explained that she herself is a farmer and that “there is not equality”.

Read more on this news article with Hackett’s commentary.

Less than 1% of farms in Ireland have a woman registered as an official partner, according to figures the Women in Agriculture Stakeholders Group (WASG) has obtained.

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