Members of discussion groups get cash payout
Dairy discussion group members are set to receive individual payments of between €900 and €1,000 each in the coming weeks as part of the Dairy Efficiency Programme (DEP).
Department of Agriculture officials have now confirmed that they are in the final stages of processing the returns from discussion group facilitators.
While the Department refused to speculate on the payment each farmer would receive until they have assessed all qualified applicants, it is believed that close to 7,000 farmers participated in discussion groups through DEP.
With an annual budget of €6m and an expectation by the Department that around 6,000 farmers would participate, the scheme would have generated an individual payment of €1,000 per farmer. However if more than 6,000 farmers are approved, the average payment will be reduced.
The increase in discussion group participation has been widely welcomed by both the IFA and ICMSA, which say the groups have both an educational and social function in the industry.
However, ICMSA dairy chairman Pat McCormack has criticised the Department's new policy of linking participation in the Dairy Efficiency Scheme to other schemes such as the new Dairy Equipment Scheme.
"Discussion groups should stand on their own merits in terms of the knowledge a farmer receives from them and forcing a farmer to participate in the scheme to qualify for the grant is not the correct approach and actually detracts from the status of the discussion groups," he maintained.