‘Funding from shortfall in applications to Knowledge Transfer groups should support farm incomes’

The IFA has estimated that some €33m (of the allocated €100m) will be saved under the Knowledge Transfer Group Scheme, due to less farmers applying to the measure than was originally projected.

Last week, the Department of Agriculture confirmed to Agriland that some 18,000 farmers have been registered under the Knowledge Transfer Groups Scheme.

This figure falls short of the Department’s target of 27,000 participants to join the €100m scheme following its announcement in May.

IFA Rural Development Chairman, Joe Brady, has called for the saving in funding arising from the shortfall in applications for the Knowledge Transfer groups to be redirected to support measures that have a positive impact on farm income.

Joe Brady said confirmation that 18,000 farmers had signed on for the Knowledge Transfer groups, as opposed to a projected 27,000 in the 2014-2020 RDP, will lead to a significant saving.

The IFA Rural Development Chairman said this funding could be used to support farm incomes in other measures such as ANCs and GLAS. This is particularly relevant given the severe income crisis on many farms, he said.

The Knowledge Transfer Scheme is a valuable measure in improving the technical knowledge of farmers, however it has got bogged down in red tape and bureaucracy.

IFA had told the Department of Agriculture on a number of occasions that the scheme was fraught with difficulties. In addition, it said that Teagasc and planners get around 40% of the funding provided to this measure.

An opportunity now exists in the RDP Amendment, which is shortly to be sent to Brussels, to review the measure as the challenge will be to ensure that over 18,000 farmers who are already in Knowledge Transfer groups continue to participate, IFA has said.

Knowledge Transfer Scheme Requirements

While farmers will be required to attend five Knowledge Transfer meetings in each of the three years of the Groups, a central element of the design of the Groups is the requirement for farmers to complete an individualised Farm Improvement Plan (FIP) in conjunction with the Group facilitator.

In response to stakeholder feedback a number of modifications have been made to the scheme design.

Firstly, it is open for a farmer to arrange for an approved nominee to attend in his/her place should the need arise.

Secondly, it is open for farmers to attend two Groups in different sectors – for example, one beef group and one sheep group.

Given the overlap between the content of the groups across sectors, such dual participation will attract a 50% payment rate for both the facilitator and the farmer in respect of the second group joined.