Tuesday 27 September 2016

New farm discussion groups mired in too much 'red tape'

Published 19/08/2015 | 02:30

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney

Farming bodies have claimed the new discussion group scheme is getting mired in bureaucracy.

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It comes as the Department of Agriculture has extended the deadline for applications by advisors for the new Knowledge Transfer Groups until September 11.

ICSA rural development chair Billy Gray said the minimum 60pc attendance rule and the exclusion of nominees were key examples of "extra unworkable red tape".

"The extra terms and conditions are creating a lot of dissatisfaction among farmers and advisors, and there is a growing risk that farmers will walk away from the scheme if common sense does not prevail," said Mr Gray.

He said farmers were also concerned that herd health plans could cost hundreds, while the actual payment to the farmer was capped at €750.

"The new scheme means that only the person whose name is on the herd number can participate. This will rule out a lot of farmers' sons and daughters who attend on behalf of their parents and who can benefit."

He said the 60pc minimum attendance rule would be difficult as weekend discussion group meetings are ruled out.

"The Department is not dealing with reality, especially for cattle and sheep farmers where off-farm incomes are essential," he said.

Mr Gray said some "flexibility" was essential if they wanted to maintain interest.

Funding of €100m under the Rural Development Programme has been allocated for 27,000 farmers participating for three years in Knowledge Transfer Groups across the dairy, beef, equine, sheep, tillage and poultry sectors.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the discussion group facilitators and vets will assist farmers in completing farm improvement plans that will address profitability and animal health.

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