KT cash should stay with farmers

Damian, T.J. and Thomas Hynes at the Galway County Ploughing Championships held in Monivea last Sunday. .
Damian, T.J. and Thomas Hynes at the Galway County Ploughing Championships held in Monivea last Sunday. .

PAYMENTS from the Knowledge Transfer Scheme – involving farmer discussion groups – needs to be skewed towards more towards participants rather the organisers, farm leaders have said this week.

Galway IFA Chairman, Pat Murphy, said that out of the €1,200 allocation per farmer, €500 of that went straight to Teagasc or to the private consultant/facilitator, while another €250 had to be spent on getting a veterinary report.

“When these simple calculations are completed, it means that out of the original €1,200, the farmer ends up with only €450 – that balance has to change,” said Pat Murphy.

He said that while the whole idea behind the scheme was quite a good one – with farmers having to compare themselves with their peers in terms of how efficiently they operate – it just wasn’t right that the farmer only ended up with under 40% of the payment.

“Another problem with the scheme is that the facilitator is paid directly by the Department, something that doesn’t give the farmer any leeway, in terms of striking a bargain with the agricultural consultant,” said Pat Murphy.

The Knowledge Transfer Scheme (KT) with an overall budget of €100m had been expected to attract in the region of 27,000 farmers, but so far this target has fallen short by around 7,000.

Now the IFA at national level have called on the Dept. of Agriculture for a review of the scheme once the first year has been completed over the next few months.

IFA Rural Development Chairman Joe Brady has said the Knowledge Transfer (KT) measure had fallen short of expectations due to the complex and rigid rules imposed, as well as the additional costs farmers had to incur to participate.

“An opportunity now exists to reorganise the scheme and reduce the red tape. 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. We have been told [by the Department] that first year KT payments will be made in the third quarter of this year,” said Joe Brady.