Farmers may yet be allowed join the Departments of Agriculture’s new Knowledge Transfer (KT) groups across two different sectors.

Responding to some concerns over the terms and conditions of the new groups this week the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney confirmed that at present participation in more than one Knowledge Transfer group across sectors is not permitted.

He said this is largely due to potential double funding which would arise from the completion of more than one Farm Improvement Plan for a single farming enterprise.

However, the Minister said he is considering how farmers could participate in KT groups across two sectors, while at the same time avoiding double funding issues.

The Minister also confirmed that an appropriate named nominee will be allowed to attend in the place of a farmer participating in Knowledge Transfer.

Animal health and welfare plan

Minister Coveney also responded to criticism of the cost of the animal health and welfare element of the scheme this week.

It emerged recently that farmers may have to pay vets in the region of €150 per year in order to meet the animal health requirements built into the new discussion group measures.

The requirement for a private veterinary practitioner (PVP) to oversee the preparation of an individual animal health and welfare plan is a key part of the new KT groups.

The Minister said while a payment to cover the PVP’s involvement is not an eligible cost under/ the relevant article covering knowledge transfer, the time spent by the farmer in completing the Animal Health Measure aspect of the Farm Improvement Plan is and has been included in the total payment to participating farmers.

Over the period of the programme this totals €160.

The Minister said in effect this reduces the PVP cost over the period of the programme by €160, thereby significantly reducing the net PVP cost.

Payment method

Another concern which the Minister addressed this week is the method by which farmers will be paid.

Under the relevant article covering the groups the knowledge transfer facilitator (advisor) is the beneficiary and all payments under this measure must issue to him/her in the first instance.

The Minister said there is no leeway in this regard.

He said a robust payment procedure is being developed which will make the facilitator payment contingent on provision of confirmation that the payment has issued to his group participants, thereby ensuring timely payment to all participating farmers.