At this week’s IFA Executive Council meeting, concern was expressed that some of the proposed rules for Knowledge Transfer must be changed so the scheme will work for farmers in a more practical and effective way.
IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy said the allocation of €100m to the Knowledge Transfer measure in the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme is welcome as the introduction of such a measure can make a significant contribution to the development of Irish agriculture.
However, Flor McCarthy highlighted a number of key concerns to farmers that need to be addressed, not least the way payments will be made to farmers. He said the process of paying the facilitator, who in turn pays the farmer, is fraught with difficulties. “Farmers and facilitators don’t want it this way, and Minister Coveney must assure farmers that they will be paid fully and on time.”
The IFA Rural Development Chairman said, “In relation to participation at the Knowledge Transfer meetings, the exclusion of other family members as a nominated replacement in lieu of the person who is signed up is backward step, as it fails to recognise the input of these family members in the running of the farm. Also the exclusion of the either one of the members of a partnership is a retrograde step as all other farm schemes have a positive bias towards partnerships. Either one of the partners or both should be allowed to participate. In the case of both signing up, they should each get full payment of €750. He said both of these issues must be addressed as they are in direct contradiction to succession planning, which the Department claim they want to encourage under the Knowledge Transfer scheme”.
At a meeting with the Department, IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said the proposal to involve a vet in the Herd Health Plan will result in additional costs and unnecessary fees for the participant. This is unacceptable particularly considering the level of payments that the Department has already committed to the facilitator. He said IFA has already raised this issue directly Minister Coveney and is awaiting a response.
Henry Burns said mixed farmers should be allowed to participate in more than one KT group .The exclusion from participation in two groups is discriminatory and will lead a downgrading of a second enterprise on mixed farms, where there is more than one enterprise. This situation is unacceptable and must be addressed before the KT groups are launched by the Minister.
In relation to sheep, John Lynskey said that the exclusion of the second KT group will have a major negative impact on sheep sector participation and will affect the sustainability of many sheep enterprise. He said Minister Coveney must address this anomaly and also stressed the need for special Hill Sheep KT groups.
On Tillage Knowledge Transfer Groups, IFA National Grain Chairman Liam Dunne expressed disappointment that tillage farmers are not part of the initial groups been set up.