Young farmers under 40 can receive an enhanced rate of grant under the Farm Modernisation Programme which has just been re-launched.

One such farmer is Christopher Johnston, who farms near Fivemiletown. He drew down financial support, under the FMP, to introduce new innovative technology as well as equipment that allows him to carry out routine tasks more efficiently and safer has boosted his farming business through increased returns. "Last year we were awarded a FMP grant on two items of equipment, a scanner primarily for sheep and a big bale stacker," commented Christopher.

"The scanner is used on our sheep enterprise, which is mostly Texel crosses put to Beltex and Charolais rams.

"By scanning we can sell empty ewes when prices are good and feed the rest according to the number of lambs carried. Thus reducing feed bills and improving flock welfare as lambing is made easier" "At home our beef enterprise is based mainly on British Blue crossbred suckler cows and we use AI to make use of high genetic merit bulls. The scanner proving to be an equally vital piece of equipment when it comes to improving the efficiency of our suckler herd.

"The other item we were able to buy last year, thanks to FMP, was a Northern Ireland designed and manufactured bale stacker "Without it, storing bales took up far too much room and finding enough hard standing areas was proving to be a problem.

"Now the big bale stacker neatly puts bales four high making storage simpler and saving a huge amount of time when winter feeding. Safely stacked four high means there is less waste with the whole silage making and feeding operation now more efficient" Asked if others should apply for a grant now that a third Tranche of the FMP has opened for applications again the Fivemiletown farmer had no doubts.

"Yes, if the investment is justified and, with financial support, affordable for the farm business modernisation becomes a real possibility.

"A grant of up to 40% up to a maximum payment of �4000 is a welcome boost to any farm business and has been a tremendous help to us." This tranche sees a focus on succession opportunity and encouraging younger farmers to invest in modernising their farm business. Marks will be awarded if a current registered member of the farm business making the application was under 40 years of age on 31 January 2012 Farmers with any technical queries regarding FMP Tranche 3 items or seeking assistance accessing the online application system are urged to contact the Countryside Agri-Rural Partnership Helpline tel: 0845 0267 535.

Only one application can be submitted per farm business and can be made online via or by hard copy application forms posted or handed into Countryside Agri-Rural Partnership or selected DARD offices. The maximum level of financial support available under Tranche 3 is �4,000 with the minimum level of support �500.� The Farm Modernisation Programme is funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) as part of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2007-2013.