IFA Rural Development Chairman Joe Brady has said the Knowledge Transfer (KT) measure has fallen short of expectations due to the complex and rigid rules imposed, as well as the additional costs farmers have to incur to participate.
At a meeting with the Department of Agriculture on the KT measure, IFA called for a review of the scheme once the first year has been completed over the next few months.
Joe Brady said this measure, which was allocated €100m in the Rural Development Programme, was expected to attract 27,000 farmers but the numbers have fallen short with only around 20,000 farmers partaking. This is mainly due to farmers being turned off the measure due to rigid rules, additional charges and too much paperwork.
The IFA Rural Development Chairman said that the KT scheme is a valuable measure in improving the technical knowledge of farmers, however it has got bogged down in red tape and bureaucracy. IFA told the Department that the scheme is fraught with difficulties, with some farmers questioning their continued participation. One of the main issues is the attempt by vets to impose charges which significantly dilute the value of the scheme to farmers. Also, farmers in peripheral areas are being forced to use a vet who has completed a particular course who may not be from their locality. Concerns were expressed to the Department about the payment mechanism to farmers through Teagasc and the consultants.
Joe Brady said that an opportunity now exists to reorganise the scheme and reduce the red tape. He said the challenge will be to ensure that the 20,000 farmers already in KT groups continue to participate and to determine whether more farmers can be attracted in. Re-opening of KT groups to farmers who were excluded in the past should also be considered. IFA was told that first year KT payments will be made in the 3rd quarter of this year.