The Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA), which represents private, non-Teagasc agri-consultants, has said that the appointment of Frank O’Mara as the new director of Teagasc is an “opportunity for collaboration” in farm advisory services.

Tom Canning, the ACA president, said yesterday evening (Wednesday, October 6), that the appointment of a new Teagasc director is a “huge opportunity to embrace reform for the betterment of the majority of Irish farmers, taking a holistic approach to farm advice with the inclusion of the private sector.

“Three out of every four farmers use either ACA or Teagasc for advisory services which is a very positive position for Ireland but, in many ways, our overall strategy for the dissemination of advice is not linked up and excludes ACA and our farmer clients,” Canning argued.

“There are so many challenges for our sector presently but one of the untapped opportunities is a joined-up approach between the ACA and Teagasc to ensure that 55,000 ACA farmer clients receive state-funded research, tools and materials, similar to Teagasc clients.”

According to the ACA president, agreement between Teagasc and the ACA on how to address this issue would allow both to target the remaining 35,000 farmers who do not engage with either body.

“The ACA have made numerous attempts in the past three years to engage and find ways to address this situation and we are now very hopeful that, with O’Mara’s appointment, we can explore and commence discussions on national and regional collaborative opportunities and bring world-class research to more farmers,” Canning said.

“Remaining as we are or have been in the past is no longer desirable and indeed is a big risk, as the sector requires full collaboration to ensure we not only meet our sectoral targets, but also find ways to improve sustainability, including farmers’ incomes.

“We congratulate O’Mara on a great personal achievement but it comes with the expectation that, with a new CAP [Common Agricultural Policy], which includes a proposed reformed AKIS [Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System], a solution and working agreement between us will now be found,” Canning concluded.