January 18, 2024
Claire Kerrane TD calls on Minister to ensure better engagement with farm Advisors on scheme deadlines

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on Minister McConalogue to better engage with farm Advisors on setting scheme deadlines, following movement to address issues around deadlines for the Knowledge Transfer (KT) scheme.

Earlier this week, the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) advised of a private agricultural Advisors strike over unmanageable KT deadlines. Discussion with the Department Agriculture has today resulted in the easing of some scheme requirements to support Advisors in meeting the deadline of 31st March.

However, agricultural Advisors have faced mounting workloads and a series of challenging deadlines in recent months, with the requirements around KT deadlines having added another to that list.

Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:

“Farm Advisors are being placed under significant pressure to meet deadlines for a range of schemes. This is an issue they have been flagging for some months now and it clearly came to a head with the KT scheme deadline.

“The easing of KT scheme requirements, which will now allow farm Advisors to hold four meetings a day instead of two, is welcome and will hopefully assist them with meeting the March 31st deadline.

“However, it is evident that the Minister and his Department must better engage with farm Advisors and representative organisations on the setting of scheme deadlines, to avoid this issue arising again.

“I have raised a number of unfair deadlines for Advisors with the Minister in recent months, including the deadline for scorecards to be submitted under ACRES and the TAMS Tranche 2 deadline which the Minister had suddenly changed. Advisors have essentially been facing a bottleneck of deadlines, often with each scheme as important as the next in terms of farmers receiving their payments. In both cases, the Minister eventually acknowledged the issue and extended deadlines.

“There is also added pressure in that farmers rely on these payments, and should rightly be paid for the actions they carry out under various schemes. Creating a difficult situation for Advisors in meeting those deadlines is absolutely not supportive of ensuring that those payments are made to farmers on time.

“Lessons must be learned around the setting of scheme deadlines and a huge part of that is ensuring greater consultation with those who are on the ground. I would call on the Minister to better engage with farm Advisors and representative bodies on deadlines moving forward, rather than chopping and changing deadlines and scheme requirements as we have seen.

 “Farm Advisors carry out crucial work in supporting farmers, and it is important that they are also supported to be able to carry out and complete their work, too.”

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