Farm Ireland

Friday 19 January 2018

Teagasc's fees hike will push up costs

Dairy clients worst off as cost of popular package rises by 90pc

Dairy farmers will be the hardest hit of all farmers due to the recent increases in Teagasc fees
Dairy farmers will be the hardest hit of all farmers due to the recent increases in Teagasc fees
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Teagasc fees have almost doubled for many farmers under the new fees structure recently introduced the State agency's farm advisory service.

While comparison with the old fees structure is limited, due to the complete overhaul of the type of farm packages that the organisation now offers, a number of significant increases are still apparent in the new charges.

The most popular package aimed at most dairy farm clients has increased in cost by more than 90pc. For dairy farmers with 100 income units, or €25,400 a year, the old business and technology programme package cost €235. For this price, farmers were entitled to two farm visits along with membership of a Teagasc-facilitated discussion group.

This year, these same clients now face charges of €450.

Despite the hike in charges, farmers will be disappointed to learn that the 'Premium' package offered by Teagasc will only include a single farm visit or face-to-face consultation, along with telephone assistance on farm payment or fertiliser advice. The client is also eligible to join a discussion group that meets up to 12 times a year.

Dairy farmers with an annual farm income of more than €50,800 saw a much smaller increase in their fees. Their charges have increased by less than 5pc.

REPS fees have also increased significantly, up by 24pc across the six farm-size categories. The largest increase was a 43pc hike for the smallest farms under 16ha, while larger farms of 50ha saw their old charge of €435 jump by 24pc to €540.

While all "consultancy work not covered" by standard plans and services was charged at €75/hr since 2008, it would appear that there are also higher fees for farmers who avail of one-off consultations or visits. A two-hour visit was charged at €100 last year. This year, farmers will pay €150 for the same service.

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As Teagasc staff cut-backs reduce the number of personnel that are available to spend time at REPS and AEOS applications and support work, private agricultural consultants have been gearing up their capacity to deal with queries.

Breian Carroll, the general secretary of the Agricultural Consultants' Association, says that most consultancy and advisory services provided by his association's members are charged at €75/hr.

"AEOS charges typically vary from a minimum of €300 up to a maximum of €500 plus VAT," he said. "REPS annual fees tend to be 1-2pc of the farmer's total payment over the life of the scheme, while Natura environmental reports cost €150."

Indo Farming