IFA National Dairy Committee Chairman Kevin Kiersey said the announcement in Budget 2013 that the funding for the Dairy Efficiency Scheme (DES) was to be cut was a very disappointing and short-sighted move by Government, and at odds with the major gearing up effort being made in the Irish dairy sector in advance of quota abolition in 2015.
Mr Kiersey urged the Minister, at the very minimum, to remove all bureaucratic obligations linked to the scheme on Discussion Groups, and to make a case for proper funding for a less bureaucratic and costly scheme in the new CAP.
“Budget 2013 saw a massive cut in funding for the DES, which for the last 3 years has paid an incentive to farmers participating in Discussion Groups. Funded from unspent SFP funds, the scheme’s budget will fall from €6m to €1m, to be entirely focused on new entrants,” Mr Kiersey said.
“Discussion Groups provide a very valuable forum for the dissemination of knowledge and skills through peer groups of farmers, and it is important to incentivise more farmers to participate. The DES scheme brought a large number of new dairy farmers to the disciplines of Discussion Groups, more than doubling participation from around 3,000 to over 6,000 dairy farmers in the last three years,” he said.
“I believe it is important to maximise further the number of farmers benefiting from the Discussion Groups’ uniquely successful method of disseminating best farm practice in husbandry, animal health, breeding, grass management and business planning. Longstanding members of Discussion Groups know active membership helps them run better farm businesses and this is critical for the success of the Irish dairy sector post 2015,” he said.
“However, the feedback from many Discussion Groups is that the DES scheme had evolved to become bureaucratic and had created unnecessary additional costs on farmers. If we are not only to retain the 6,000 farmers currently involved, but to maximise participation by more of our 18,000 dairy farmers, the approach must be farmer-friendly and low cost,” he added.
“In the first instance, I believe the bureaucratic obligations of the DES on Discussion Groups should be removed now that the scheme is no longer funded for all participating farmers. Furthermore, I believe the Minister should make a case under the new CAP to make funds available for a significantly less bureaucratic, more farmer friendly and business-oriented scheme post 2014,” he concluded.