Farmers must get 'proactive' on knowledge transfer
Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30
FARMERS must take ownership of the new Knowledge Transfer Groups in order to maximise the benefits of the €100m scheme for ordinary members, writes Declan O'Brien.
Well-known Limerick farm consultant David Walsh said it was vital that farmers engaged proactively with the programme and sought to direct their groups.
This view was shared by John Donworth of Teagasc, who pointed out that the strongest dairy discussion groups were those with the most active and participative farmer members.
"For farmers to get the best out of this scheme, they will have to take ownership of the discussion groups," Mr Walsh said.
Teagasc research has found that participation in a dairy discussion group is worth around 1.5c/l in additional output or around €75/cow.
Advisors also point to the heightened expectations and improved technical ability of participants, and to the social benefits to being involved in discussion groups.
The scheme, which is funded under the Rural Development Programme, is worth around €750/year to 27,000 members.
However, Mr Walsh said farmers should avoid the temptation to simply turn up for the required number of meetings and pocket the payment.
"That would be a complete waste of resources for the State and a real lost opportunity for the farmers," he maintained.
"Farmers need to buy into this scheme. They need to take hold of the groups and drive them on. And the best way to do this is for the members to elect a chairman to represent their interests.
"The chairman can hold the advisor or consultant to account if the members are not happy with how the group or the meetings are being run - or even with simple matters such as the scheduling of meetings," he said.
Mr Donworth said it was an "absolute must" for farmers to appoint a strong chairman to their Knowledge Transfer Group.
However, he cautioned against electing someone at the first meeting. "You're to better to wait and see how the dynamic within the group pans out," he said