The linking of participation in rural development schemes, such as the genomics scheme and discussion groups, is unacceptable according to the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association.

It says that it is demanding that the Minister for Agriculture immediately removes this condition as it says it will be a major stumbling block in the uptake of the Knowledge Transfer Groups by suckler farmers.

“This news will come as a bombshell to the many farmers that didn’t apply for the BDGP due to genuine concern regarding unrealistic targets and excessive penalties,” INHFA policy spokesperson Colm O’Donnell said.

He added that the INHFA understands that many of the farmers that didn’t apply for the genomics scheme have less than 10 cows.

O’Donnell also that these farmers will be left at a disadvantage and this barrier to entry to the genomics should be removed.

He said that each new scheme should stand individually and that the underlying participation terms of the BDGP were unacceptable.

“Each scheme should stand on its own merits.

“It is not acceptable that farmers are expected to check the terms and conditions of other schemes to see what barriers to entry it may create.”

The latest figures for the genomics scheme show that 27% of applications to the recently launched Beef Data and Genomics Programme have come from farmers with herds of 10 cows or less.

Speaking in the Dail recently, he said some 7,851 herds with 10 suckler cows or less have applied for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme.