The qual­ity of our farm­ing ad­vi­sory ser­vices is sec­ond to

Irish Independent - Farming - - FINANCE - MIKE BRADY

IN SEPTEM­BER, the fo­cus for farm­ers changes from mak­ing the most from long sum­mer days to man­ag­ing and plan­ning for the win­ter and the year ahead.

Irish farm­ers are spoilt for choice when it comes to the avail­abil­ity of ad­vice on how to best man­age their farm busi­nesses.

There is a wide avail­abil­ity of choice be­tween state ad­vi­sors (Tea­gasc), pri­vate ad­vi­sors (con­sul­tants) and em­bed­ded ad­vi­sors (sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives and tech­ni­cal ad­vis­ers in agribusi­nesses). You could ar­gue with mod­ern tech­nol­ogy that there is al­most an in­for­ma­tion over­load for farm­ers on their queries.

The ques­tion is; do Irish farm­ers ap­pre­ci­ate and use this re­search, knowl­edge and ad­vice and is it value for money?

We re­cently saw a high-pro­file pub­lic row about fees for Knowl­edge Trans­fer (KT) groups run by Tea­gasc.

Farm­ers who were not pre­vi­ous clients of Tea­gasc but were par­tic­i­pat­ing in KT groups run by Tea­gasc fa­cil­i­ta­tors re­fused to pay a mem­ber­ship fee to Tea­gasc of €145.

The IFA in­ter­vened on be­half of the farm­ers and Tea­gasc agreed to sub­mit KT data on be­half of the farm­ers with­out hav­ing be­ing paid the mem­ber­ship fee.

These farm­ers choose to join the KT group of their own free will and the irony of it all is that the farm­ers are ac­tu­ally be­ing paid €750 to at­tend the group in the first place.

This shows a to­tal dis­re­gard and un­der­valu­ing of the re­search, knowl­edge and ad­vice on of­fer in the KT groups.

Tea­gasc re­ceives over €130m per an­num be­tween State and EU funds to run its re­search, teach­ing and ad­vi­sory pro­gramme.

This is a mas­sive in­vest­ment by govern­ment in our in­dus­try (see ta­ble 1).

Many other in­dus­tries are en­vi­ous of this in­vest­ment which was main­tained through the re­ces­sion, when other or­gan­i­sa­tions saw their govern­ment grants slashed. Tea­gasc has 27,500 clients who avail of their ba­sic club mem­ber­ship — this is less than 20pc of the farm­ers in the coun­try.

As the fig­ures out­lined in ta­ble 2 show, the mem­ber- ships fees are cer­tainly not pro­hib­i­tive.

Rang­ing from €145 to €290 per an­num, it would not cover the weekly shop­ping bill on many farms.

Yet it could be the very fac­tor that makes the weekly shop­ping more af­ford­able as count­less stud­ies prove that those who avail of re­search and ad­vice con­sis­tently out­per­form those that do not.

Who is to blame for this ap­a­thy? Is it Tea­gasc, the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, the farm or­gan­i­sa­tions or the farm­ers them­selves?

What­ever the an­swer, it is a poor re­flec­tion on Irish farm­ers. Over the past 20 years, I have had the op­por­tu­nity to ex­am­ine and ex­pe­ri­ence re­search and ad­vi­sory ser­vices in many coun­tries around the world.

The level of re­search,

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