‘Teagasc Authority must bring sectoral balance to the table’ – IGGG

The Irish Grain Growers’ Group (IGGG) issued a statement to AgriLand today, Monday, February 24, declaring that the majority of farmers are not being fairly represented on the board of Teagasc and that “this huge imbalance must be tackled immediately”.

“The Teagasc Authority, the Department of Agriculture, the ministers approving the personnel and the farmer representative bodies on the authority must be questioned as to why they have let this happen,” the statement read.

The IGGG made it clear that the group does not question the integrity of those who sit at the table, but went on to say that “they must recognise the imbalance that exists”.

The statement continued: “They must prioritise this at their next monthly meeting and set about how they are going to rectify and avoid the imbalance into the future.

Farming has evolved inside the farm-gate, influenced in part by the work done by Teagasc staff since its foundation. We have specialist sectors now.

The IGGG commented that farmers are now very specialised; that their depth of knowledge tends to be focused in their respective farming areas.

Chairperson of the IGGG Bobby Miller stated: “To ask a tillage farmer what is best practice for a livestock farmer, and vice versa, these days simply is ignorant of the fact of how specialist and technical farming has become.

Yes we can learn from each other when advice is sought, but the Teagasc authority must reflect how farming has evolved. All sectors must have a voice at the table.

Research spending

The group went on to comment on spending and questioned: “To what extent does the authority influence the direction of Teagasc activities like research and development?”

The biased representation on the authority – in favour of dairy – would beg the question which farming sectors really benefit?

“Should the farming bodies [that are] in partnership with Teagasc on the authority be asked why dairy farmers sit on the authority when such an imbalance exists?

“Teagasc’s annual research portfolio comprises some 300 research projects undertaken by 500 scientific and technical staff according to its Statement of Strategy 2017-2020,” the statement read.

“What is the sectoral breakdown of these research projects and the budgets involved in the projects?

“There is no question that we do need a body like Teagasc, but it must make sure that there is balance at the table, especially at the very top – as in the Teagasc Authority.”