Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on Minister McConalogue to review accessibility to schemes and supports aimed at encouraging the participation of women in agriculture.
This follows confirmation from the Minister that just 15 applications have been accepted to the Women Farmers Capital Investment Scheme (WFCIS) under TAMS III.
A recent reply to a Parliamentary Question submitted by Teachta Kerrane stated that more than 220 of the 259 applications received by the Department for Agriculture, Food and Marine for the scheme have passed ‘administrative checks’. Of those, 15 approvals have now been issued to successful applicants.
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:
“I had sought clarity on the WFCIS last week, and requested that the Minister provide an update on how many applications had been approved under the scheme.
“While 15 approvals is an improvement on concerns just last week that zero applications had been accepted to the scheme, it is incredibly disappointing that such a low number of applications have been successful under this tranche.
“The WFCIS is specifically aimed at supporting women in agriculture and encouraging participation, and unfortunately the vast majority of women farmers will not be able to avail of those supports.
“In his reply, the Minister stated that all eligible applications will be accepted to the WFCIS. However, the issue of limiting eligibility criteria has been raised for months now.
“The locking out of many women farmers from accessing the scheme is precisely the concern that has been raised, and it seems we are seeing the results of that given the low number of successful applications out of 259 submissions.
“The National Women in Agriculture Action Plan was announced last week, and that is really welcome and evidently very much needed. We clearly need to have much greater input on access to schemes and supports for women in agriculture from women farmers themselves and representative organisations.
“In particular, point 8 in the Action Plan looks at scheme eligibility requirements, which speaks to the issues we have seen around access to the WFCIS and Knowledge Transfer (KT) groups over the past few months.
“Point 9 of the Plan also makes reference to addressing the issue of processes in place for determining herd numbers and herd keepers, which organisations such as the Women in Agriculture Stakeholder Group (WASG) have long flagged as a barrier to including women in agricultural activities.
“All objectives set out in the Action Plan are important, and I would urge the Minister to take on board suggestions and solutions from stakeholders involved in the dialogue.
“It is important that women farmers are encouraged and supported to participate in agriculture, and tackling existing systemic and administrative barriers is an important part of that.”