Many farmers are losing confidence in the Knowledge Transfer (KT) Programme, according to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association’s (INHFA’s) National President Colm O’Donnell.

The INHFA has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to intervene on the behalf of farmers regarding Teagasc’s fees for the KT Programme.

O’Donnell outlined how Teagasc continues to charge farmers for a service that the Department of Agriculture is already paying for.

As it stands, the INHFA says, the department pays €1,250 in total for every participant of the KT groups.

Of this, €750 is paid to the farmer while the facilitators (including Teagasc) get the remaining €500 for their services.

However, farmers who were not clients of Teagasc previously, but participated in their groups, are seeing membership fee demands for a minimum of €145, the INHFA has said.

“Of the farmers we have talked to, these membership fees were never outlined on the commencement of the programme and they only became aware of them well into the program when they received their invoices from Teagasc,” O’Donnell said.

“We understand that Ireland’s EU monitoring committee for the Rural Development Program and other farm organisations have approved this extra costs for non-Teagasc clients as part of the KT Program, which is very disappointing.

Previous statements by the INHFA have requested that Teagasc reviews these fees and we also raised it directly in a meeting with Teagasc CEO, Prof. Gerry Boyle.

“We would have hoped that they would see reason and recognise that the €500 fee was more than enough for the service provided,” he added.

Unfortunately, through contact with members in recent days, the INHFA has learned that Teagasc is “not for turning” on this issue.

This is why the INHFA is asking Minister Creed to intervene and direct Teagasc to waiver these fees and reimburse any farmer that has already paid them, O’Donnell said.

“Many farmers – especially on the hills – are losing confidence in the KT Programme, as they see a programme not suited to their needs with a poor return; while facilitators and, in particular, Teagasc reap the financial rewards,” he concluded.

In response, Teagasc clarified that it only facilitates discussion groups for Teagasc clients who have a contract with it. The €145 mentioned is for a club contract, the agency pointed out.

According to the Teagasc Advisory Charges Summary, the ‘KT Group Membership Package’ is listed as a package addition.