The Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA), whose members deal with more than 50,000 farmers in Ireland, has launched a new professional certification for all private farm consultants.

The new qualification, which is called the Registered Agricultural Consultant (RAC), is available to private agricultural consultants and those contracted to carry out work with Teagasc.

The ACA expects that the new certification will become the industry standard for all of the 400-plus private agricultural consultants currently operating in the country.

It says this will allow its members to have greater recognition and respect within the industry, along with setting a baseline for the minimum required standards for all non Teagasc advisors.

Private consultants who wish to use the certification will be required to engage in a demanding Continuous Professional Education (CPE) programme, it says.

The programme will commence immediately and members are entitled to use the title from now on, it says.

Participants are required to return a completed CPE form by January, 1 2017, with details of a minimum of 75 credits.

Thereafter, agricultural consultants will require a rolling two year average of 100 points.

So, if members have 75 credits in 2016, they will require an additional 125 credits in 2017, to meet the minimum rolling year average requirement.

ACA president Laura Johnston said the new certification is the dawn of a new era in the provision of professional farm advice.

She said that it will allow farmers to rest in the certainty of a very professional and accessible service where the relationship between the farmer and the consultant is a long term one.

Johnston also said that she expects most private consultants to adopt the new certification and in the future, it may allow holders to operate and sign off on all relevant Department of Agriculture and EU grant and knowledge transfer programmes.

The ACA says the new title will give consultants:
  • Greater recognition and respect within the industry and from Government Departments
  • Sets a baseline for the minimum required standards for all non Teagasc advisors
  • Exclusivity in signing off on all relevant scheme applications, which the ACA is pushing for.
  • Abolish the enigma that is the term planner
  • It will create a gold standard for all practitioners who wish to participate