A new Farm Improvement Scheme launched yesterday (Wednesday) will provide grant-aid for a wide range of on-farm investments over the next seven years and ensure that competitiveness is maintained and increased in the agricultural sector, according to local TD Michael Finneran. ‘This support from the Government for farmers will have a vital role in ensuring that Irish farmers continue to have a secure placing on the international food market,’ said Deputy Finneran. ‘This scheme will see dairy farmers benefit in particular from grants for the improvement of their facilities. Under the scheme grant-aid will be available up to a maximum eligible investment ceiling of €120,000 with a separate ceiling of €120,000 being applicable in the case of dairy hygiene measures. The standard grant-rate will be 40 percent for animal housing and related storage facilities and for dairy hygiene investments, with a ten percent top-up grant being available for eligible young farmers in certain cases.’ ‘The maximum eligible investment ceiling of €120,000 for dairy hygiene investments is substantially higher than the previous €50,000 investment ceiling which was applicable under the old Dairy Hygiene Scheme. It also includes increased investment ceilings of €40,000 for milking machines and €25,000 for bulk milk tanks compared to the €16,000 investment ceilings applicable in each case under the Dairy Hygiene Scheme.’ ‘Income ceilings have also been removed from the scheme so that all farmers can participate in the Scheme. And the five-year restriction on access to top-up grants by young farmers has been removed so that all eligible farmers under the age of 35 will be able to benefit from these additional grants.’ ‘Grant-aid will be extended to a number of additional items including out-wintering pads, meal bins and silos, mats on slats, cubicle beds and internal concrete areas, mobile sheep handling facilities, calf-feeding systems and slurry separators.’ ‘This Scheme is a vital component in the Government’s drive to increase competitiveness in the agriculture sector. It delivers on the commitment in the Agri Vision 2015 Action Plan to increase competitiveness as well as enhance the environment and the countryside.’ ‘All documentation and application forms relating to the scheme will be available on the Agriculture Department’s website at www.agriculture.gov.ie ,’ he concluded.