‘Farmers must not be victims of the department’s IT systems’

Farmers must not be victims of the difficulties faced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s IT systems, according to the IFA’s Rural Development Chairman Joe Brady.

Brady was speaking in response to the news that the deadline for the Knowledge Transfer scheme has been extended.

He welcomed the extension of the deadline, for the completion of the first year of Knowledge Transfer requirements, by two months to July 31.

The IFA had been in touch with the department on numerous occasions over the past month on this issue, Brady said.

Despite this deadline extension, Knowledge Transfer payments must not be delayed later in the year, he added.

Approximately 20,000 farmers are due a yearly payment of €750 for participation in the Knowledge Transfer scheme over a three-year period.

Given the difficulties that have faced the Knowledge Transfer scheme since it commenced, the IFA is now calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Michael Creed, to instigate a review of the scheme.

This review was reportedly promised by the department to the IFA some months ago.

Deadline extension

Minister Creed announced today that the original deadline of May 31, for the completion of meetings and the Farm Improvement Plan in Knowledge Transfer Groups, will be extended until July 31.

It is hoped that the extension will allow advisers and planners additional time to interact with farmers on a one-to-one basis to finalise actions required under the scheme.

It will also enable vets to complete Animal Health Measures with farmer participants, Minister Creed added.

The Knowledge Transfer Programme is funded under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020; it involves group interaction, complemented by one-to-one advice, across a range of sectors.

Funding of €100m is allocated under the RDP for Knowledge Transfer Groups across the dairy, beef, equine, sheep, tillage and poultry sectors, according to the department.

“At a busy time for both farmers and advisers, this extension will enable them to take advantage of extra time to finalise actions for their Knowledge Transfer Groups and to build on the excellent work carried out to date under the scheme.

“In turn, this helps farmers derive the most benefit from the Knowledge Transfer Programme,” Minister Creed said.

Breakdown of Knowledge Transfer participants

Earlier this year, Minister Creed confirmed that there were 20,252 farmers registered with the department under the Knowledge Transfer Programme.

He said that while the RDP envisages the training of 27,000 farmers over the period to 2020, no specific target was set in relation to the number of groups to be formed.

A breakdown of the figures showed that of the 20,252 farmers, 10,072 were beef farmers and over 4,000 were dairy farmers.

Meanwhile, sheep farmers (4,310), tillage farmers (885) and poultry farmers (248) made up the remaining numbers in the programme. There were also 479 farmers involved in equine Knowledge Transfer groups.

The deadline for the registration of Knowledge Transfer Groups was also extended in 2016, to July 14, in order to allow further time for facilitators to finalise arrangements for their groups.