Minister to meet Mountbellew (and other colleges) over GLAS qualification upgrade

The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney is to meet with a number of agricultural colleges to discuss the feasibility of adapting existing courses to fulfil the GLAS planning requirements.

He said they would be looking at the educational qualification requirements for FAS advisors, the feasibility of adapting existing courses to meet this standard in the future and to identify options to facilitate past graduates in achieving the required standard of qualifications.

EU Regulations governing the Direct Payment Schemes requires my Department to operate a Farm Advisory System (FAS) to provide advice to farmers on a range of issues relating to land and farm management.

He said the regulations require that advisors are suitably qualified and regularly trained. In addition, in order to be approved as a GLAS advisor, an advisor must also be an approved FAS advisor.

“In determining the level of educational qualifications required to be a FAS/GLAS advisor, my Department must ensure that such qualifications are of an appropriate standard to meet the objectives and the requirements of the various schemes, and the associated governing legislation, on which advice is being provided.

“Advisors must be qualified to interpret soil tests, understand the requirements of all schemes and understand constraints of land management imposed by various land designations.”

The Department has insisted that all advisors must have attained a HETAC Level 8 Bachelor Degree in Agricultural Science/Land Management in Agriculture and must have taken soil science and an animal or crop production subject to a level 8 (NFQ) degree standard.

The Department recently carried out a review of the educational qualification requirements for FAS/GLAS advisors following the receipt of an appeal from Mountbellew Agricultural College/GMIT in relation to the level 7 BSc in Agriculture and Environment Management with the add-on level 8 BSc in Rural Enterprise and Environment Management, which had been deemed as not meeting the required standard.

The review was undertaken by an officer independent of the original decision making process.

This review, which incorporated a detailed examination of all documentation submitted as part of the appeal, identified that this course did not meet the standard of educational qualifications required.