IFA Rural Development Chairman, Flor McCarthy has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney to amend the RDP proposals on Knowledge Transfer as the Department of Agriculture plan to make €500 of the farmer payments directly to facilitators including Teagasc is both excessive and anti-competitive. Flor McCarthy said as it stands the Minister has proposed to the EU Commission that farmers will get a payment of €750 while the facilitator, which can be Teagasc or a private Planner, will get €500 for each participating farmer up to a maximum of 15 farmers (10 in the case of Poultry). This proposed payment to the facilitator is much higher than what farmers were paying Teagasc and Planners under BTAP, STAP and DEP as it was done in a competitive environment. The IFA Rural Development Chairman said paying a standard fee is unacceptable and goes against a policy of having competitive tendering. Farmers are also being asked to make an additional payment to a vet in preparing an animal health and welfare report as part of their Plan requirement. Continuing, Flor McCarthy said the following areas needed to be addressed before the Knowledge Transfer measures are implemented. These include:
- The payment level to farmers should be increased to €1,250 with the farmers paying the facilitator a competitive rate for the work done.
- The Knowledge Transfer measure which will apply to Beef, Sheep, Dairy, Tillage, Poultry and Equine must be extended for Pigs. In addition, a special Hill Sheep Measure (HSTAP) must be introduced.
- Farmers who have both a Cattle & Sheep enterprise should be allowed to be members of 2 groups as is currently the case. Many farmers have duel enterprises and should be allowed to join both as the Knowledge Transfer measure in each enterprise is important for improving their farm income.
Concluding, Flor McCarthy said it was vital that the Knowledge Transfer measure worked for farmers as the group advisory concept has worked successfully through the various discussion groups over the last 4 years. However changes are needed before implementation of the new programme.