I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for selecting this Commencement matter and I welcome the Minister to the House. I will be brief and concise. This is to ask the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to consider changing the terms and conditions that would allow registered agricultural contractors to apply for TAMS or LESS. The background to this is that these contractors provide employment in rural communities and should be eligible for such grants, subject of course to conditions. The Minister will appreciate the cost of machinery and the fact there is co-operation between neighbouring farmers and contract farmers. People do not always have heavy plant and machinery.
This is an issue registered contractors have raised with me. They believe there should be some support for them. They are not necessarily farm owners, although some are small farm owners, and they are supplementing their income by doing this work.
I will tell the Minister about one Galway contractor who wrote to me. He said he was a registered agricultural contractor, had been in this business for over 40 years and had never received any grants as he did not own a farm. He said that he thought all registered agricultural contractors who provide this service and employment in the local community should be eligible for the same grant. He said also that he had applied for the low emissions slurry spreading equipment scheme, LESS, grant, and it was denied to him because he did not own land but that most of his customers were dependent on him to provide this service.
He talked about having a son who was keen to take on this agricultural contracting business, which is essential and used widely by farmers in their community. He then talked about the whole issue of emissions, the reduction of the carbon footprint, etc. The Minister will be very familiar with the whole story and I am interested in his considered response.