‘Getting around the rules’ or artificially creating conditions for the purpose of drawing down or maximising benefits, otherwise known as circumvention, under the Women Farmers’ Capital Investment Scheme, may result in the DAFM rejecting an application or disallowing, reducing or clawing-back payment claims.
That is according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which launched the 60% TAMS grant for women in farming – WFCIS – subject to a maximum investment ceiling of €90,000 – on Wednesday, June 21st, 2023.
To determine eligibility for the measure, which is a sub-set of TAMS 3, the DAFM, may examine an application and/or payment claim by referring to the following:
- The creation/enlargement of the holding;
- The creation and control of the entity applying;
- Management of the holding as a separate unit from other holdings;
- Size and scale of the investment compared to the size and activities of the holding;
- Location of the proposed investment compared to the applicant’s holding and other holdings;
- The ownership of the site of investment;
- Payment of the investment;
- Whether an individual is a joint applicant;
- Whether an individual is a partner in a partnership and/or a shareholder or director in a farming company;
- Whether they shall be considered as being in joint management and control of all farming units in which they have an interest that are registered with this DAFM;
- An applicant with a joint bank account with one or more other farmers that is used for farming purposes shall be considered as being in joint management and control of all farming units registered under the names of any and all of the persons named on the joint bank account;
- Farming purposes include payment for a TAMS investment and the nomination of the bank account for DAFM payments;
- Any other relevant issue.
When examining the creation/enlargement of the holding, factors may include;
- The farming activity;
- Economic viability of investments;
- The nature of proposed investments;
- BPS/BISS declarations;
- The status of lands (owned, leased);
- Independent access to holdings;
- Animals maintained separately with separate handling;
- Housing and feeding facilities;
- Separate farm accounts/financial records/other documentary evidence;
- Any other relevant issue.
Penalties, reductions, clawbacks & removals
Moreover, according to the measure’s terms and conditions, serious breaches – such as intentionally making a false declaration – or not meeting eligibility criteria may lead to the DAFM refusing support or withdrawing in full.
The beneficiary will also be excluded from the same measure or type of operation for the calendar year of the funding and for the following year.
If the money is not recouped in full or refused, the DAFM may apply what it deems to be an “appropriate” penalty/reductions.
In some cases, depending on the sum, the DAFM may deduct penalty amounts from future payments due under other EU-funded farm schemes as a recovery method.
The DAFM will also calculate interest for the period elapsing between the notification of payment obligations to the farmer and either repayment or deductions.
Also, Women Farmers’ Capital Investment Scheme applicants may be subjected to an inspection, with or without notice.
DAFM officials will cross-report applicants found to be non-compliant with farm waste and farm nutrient storage requirements to the relevant section of the department, and penalties or sanctions may arise.
Support women in farming
An increased rate of grant aid of 60% for women under TAMS is among a suite of measures to support women in farming in the current CAP.
Others include a women-only KT group and a call under the EIP initiative for proposals to examine women’s participation in agriculture.
Previously, in this news article, Independent TD for the Clare consistency, Michael McNamara, questioned if the higher rate of grant aid for farming women under TAMS amounts to “unlawful discrimination”.
He acknowledged that “it is not acceptable to have such a low level of female farm holders” but said the measure is “about tokenism rather than actual impact”.