Teagasc Director Gerry Boyle said the shape of its advisory services will change in the near future. Since 2009, Teagasc has lost 50% of its advisory staff, due mainly to the public service moratorium on recruitment. This, he said, has forced the organisation to reassess its offering to farmers. “Our numbers of front-line advisors has been reduced to 250. We are obviously not going to be able to meet all of the future demands.
“Our participation in schemes such as GLAS cannot be taken for granted, simply because we don’t have the staff. We were heavily involved in REPS, but there is absolutely no way we are going to be involved to the same extent in GLAS.”
The organisation, he said, will focus on technology transfer and supporting the ‘development agenda’.
In an ideal world, he said, the Government would tell us to handle GLAS and we would need to employ 100 extra staff to handle the number of farmers in it. However, with the current number of advisory staff available, he said, Teagasc can best serve the farmer by focusing on the transfer of technology, such as animal breeding, financial management, and grassland management through Discussion Groups and other mediums. “There are real tangible benefits for farmers there.”
He also said there is a role for Teagasc to provide a service to third parties who are involved in advising farmers. The number of graduates being employed by banks and co-ops, he said, is encouraging, but such people need support from Teagasc. “We are developing an out reach service that will be targeted at technical experts in the private consultancy service and other entities.”
This will be launched in early autumn, he said, and will see Teagasc work with ‘rural professionals’ including lawyers and accountants. “We work with a lot of people on an ad hoc basis, so it’s just a case of formalising this.
“Farmers are receiving a lot of influences from a lot of quarters in terms of decision making and we are just one player. The big challenge is for us to mediate our role along side others in a sensible way.