When farmers receive their information pack on the Beef Data and Genomics Programme it will be like a ‘bad day at Becher’s Brook’ so many will leave, according to Eamon O Cuiv.

The Fianna Fail spokesperson on agriculture told a recent Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture that there will be a massive attrition among small herd owners when information packs on the genomics scheme arrive to them.

Of the 29,000 farmers who have applied to the genomics scheme O Cuiv said as many as 8,600 could leave.

“It will be like Becher’s Brook on a bad day and we’ll be lucky to have 20,000 farmers finishing (the scheme).”

He said the booklet itself is enough to put people off joining the scheme, but the underlying issue around the scheme is a lack of confidence in the Department of Agriculture.

“There is a very distinct impression that someone has dreamt up this scheme with no reference to the average farmer out there and that they are not willing to listen to farmers.”

Farmers, he said, are not confident that Department will not come back in five or six year’s time and claw back some or all of the monies and penalise farmers.

Paul Connaughton a Fine Gael TD for Galway East also said that there is no trust among farmers around the scheme.

Brendan Gleeson, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Agriculture said he was aware that the booklet farmers are set to receive is complex and difficult to read.

“We are not blind to the issues and appreciate that what we hear here is a reflection of what is being said on the ground.

“It’s complex and hard for people to read – I accept all that.”

He also said that the concerns that emerge as the Department runs the genomics programme will be taken into account.

However, he said that looking for further changes to the scheme at this point would put this year’s payments in jeopardy.

“The prospect of going back to the EU Commision with further changes would put this year’s payments at risk.

“We will engage with farm bodies in the mid-term review, but it’s important we engage with applicants now.”