As advisor numbers fall, Minister says staff distribution is up to Teagasc
The distribution of staff is an operational matter for Teagasc, according to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, as adviser numbers in the organisation look set to fall further.
Earlier this year, Teagasc completed a detailed strategic planning exercise across all 12 Regional Units.
However, in its latest update to farmers, it said the results of that process identified that, due to retirements, frontline adviser numbers will continue to fall in the coming months and years.
Teagasc said it has sought approval from the Government to recruit advisers so that service quality to clients is not compromised any further.
However it said decisions are slow in this regard.
Teagasc goes on to say that it is committed to delivering high quality services to our farmer clients and will continue to prioritise clients’ needs.
Addressing staffing issues in response to a parliamentary question this week Minister Coveney said while the moratorium impacted on staff levels, Teagasc retains a complement of over 1,150 staff who deliver research, advisory and education services to the agriculture and food sectors.
However, he said the distribution of staff is an “operational matter” for Teagasc.
The Minister said in light of the constraints on recruitment, Teagasc is re-configuring the way in which it delivers services to farmers through greater use of discussion groups and by leveraging more external resources through sub contracting certain activities to private providers.
My Department continues to work closely with Teagasc to evaluate requests for mission critical appointments.
He said over 50 permanent appointments were authorised outside the moratorium since 2009.
The Minister also said that a further exception to the moratorium permits Teagasc to recruit ‘non grant in aid’ funded contractors.
“They currently employ 190 contractors working predominately in research and advisory services.
“Priority has also been accorded to the recruitment of 20 temporary teachers to meet the exceptional demand for Green Cert courses from young farmers,” he said.
The Minister said that it is anticipated that the new Delegated Sanction arrangements may provide greater discretion to Government Departments and state agencies over staffing levels, but strictly within an overall pay framework.
“Those arrangements are currently being considered in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.”
Within the parameters of that over arching policy, the question of where posts are filled remains an operational matter for Teagasc, he said.