‘Unjustified’ fees being charged by Teagasc for farmers participating in the Knowledge Transfer (KT) Groups have been called into question by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).

Farmers have been contacting the organisation after they reportedly received invoices from Teagasc, which referenced the KT Groups, according to the INHFA’s National Chair Vincent Roddy.

“Currently the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine pays €500 per annum for each participant, to any facilitator, which would include Teagasc, as part of their overall contract,” Roddy said.

This €500 payment should be more than sufficient for a facilitator; especially when you consider that some participants/farmers who receive (€750/year) will not have €500 left themselves, after the vet has being paid for the Animal Health Plan, he added.

Most farmers who contacted the association in relation to the additional invoice from Teagasc were unaware of the practice, according to the INHFA.

In most cases, farmers would not have taken part in a Teagasc KT Group if they knew they were going to have to pay this additional fee, it added.

“Teagasc were already being well paid directly from the Department and surely they should not expect to get a second payment, irrespective of how they disguise it when private advisors/facilitators were very happy with the €500 fee,” Roddy said.

The INHFA’s National Chair called on the Department to review this issue to see if it is breaching the terms and conditions of the scheme.

The €500 payment per participant to a KT facilitator covers the standard costs related to running their KT Group(s) set out in the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, according to the Department.

This includes costs related to meetings, collaboration with farmer participants on the Farm Improvement Plan and administration of the Knowledge Transfer Group.

“Contracts between Teagasc and farmer participants for other services are a separate matter outside the scope of the programme,” it added.