Higher advisory fees for discussion groups a concern

27th February, 2012

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) president, Gabriel Gilmartin, has said that there is widespread disquiet among drystock farmers as the realisation dawns that participation in the new beef discussion group programme will lead to substantial hikes in their annual Teagasc fees.

The concerns have emerged as many farmers are being told that they will be paying €395 per annum rather than €250, if they wish to avail of the new scheme.

“There is a widespread feeling that schemes such as AEOS and the discussion group schemed are being set up in a way designed to maximise Teagasc income at a time when the Croke Park agreement is meant to deliver a more cost effective public sector.  This has not been helped by the fact that Teagasc fees are being increased by €10-20 for 2012 on a like for like basis.

“However, the reality for many farmers is that they will have to switch from the basic Teagasc packages to the much more expensive discussion group packages.  For example, a farmer with over 100 income units, who was looking at a bill of €250 to avail of the Teagasc Plus package (one farm visit) will now have to fork out €395 in order to participate in the new discussion group scheme.

In some cases, there will also be additional up-front costs such as soil testing charges or herd health plans.  Farmers will certainly be hoping that the scheme delivers a timely payment in December.  Any repeat of the AEOS debacle, with excessive payment delays, cannot be countenanced,” said Mr Gilmartin.

However, Mr Gilmartin said that the discussion group scheme was still worthwhile and that farmers would benefit in many ways from participation. “The onus is on Teagasc and farmers to ensure that the discussion groups are well run, innovative and worthwhile.”