IFA Rural Development Chairman, Joe Brady, has called for the saving in funding arising from the shortfall in applications for the Knowledge Transfer measure to be redirected to support measures that have a positive impact on farm income.
Joe Brady said confirmation that 18,000 farmers had signed on for the KT groups, as opposed to a projected 27,000 in the 2014-2020 RDP, will lead to a significant saving. IFA estimates that with €100m allocated to this measure, the reduced numbers will lead to a saving of at least €33m.
The IFA Rural Development Chairman said this funding could be used to support farm incomes in other measures such as ANCs and GLAS. This is particularly relevant given the severe income crisis on many farms.
Joe Brady said the Knowledge Transfer Scheme is a valuable measure in improving the technical knowledge of farmers, however it has got bogged down in red tape and bureaucracy. IFA had told the Department of Agriculture on a number of occasions that the scheme was fraught with difficulties. In addition, Teagasc and planners get around 40% of the funding provided to this measure.
An opportunity now exists in the RDP Amendment, which is shortly to be sent to Brussels, to review the measure as the challenge will be to ensure that over 18,000 farmers who are already in KT groups continue to participate.