Speaking after what he called a “very useful meeting” with Minister Coveney on the submission of the Irish CAP Rural Development Plan 2014-2020 to the EU Commission, the ICMSA President, John Comer, said that he was happy to both acknowledge and welcome the decision of the Minister to reverse the proposal to exclude dairy farmers from funding under the proposed Knowledge Transfer scheme.
Mr Comer said that ICMSA had made a very strong case to the Minister that rested on the undeniable fact that dairy farmers have been to the forefront in establishing knowledge transfer groups and it would have been a major retrograde step to exclude existing dairy farmers from this scheme.
According to Mr Comer the Minister’s decision will be worth €750 per dairy farmer participating in a Knowledge Transfer Group and potentially €13.5m annually to Irish dairy farmers along with the associated benefits with Knowledge Transfer Groups.
Mr Comer said that he was pleased that the Minister had made a number of positive changes to the programme and he believed that the programme can be further built on as the programme progresses.
The ICMSA President specifically welcomed the decision to relax the provisions in relation to the minimum educational requirement.
This amendment has positive implications for both the TAMS scheme where such farmers will qualify for a 60 percent grant and also for Pillar I where qualifying young farmers will qualify for a 25 percent top-up for up to five years, he pointed out this week.
He also welcomed the decision of the Minister to give priority access - after Natura & Commonage Areas - to persons in excess of 140kgs of N per hectare - stating this was the only means by which this group – a significant number of whom would be dairy farmers.
In relation to AEOS participants, the decision that farmers who are currently in AEOS can transfer to GLAS if they wish is also positive, and provides these farmers with a degree of flexibility to pick the scheme and options that are most suitable to their circumstances at this time, said Mr Comer.
An additional consideration on TAMS is that ICMSA has sought the inclusion of grant aid for cluster removers on existing units and secured the positive response of the Minister in this regard.
This is important from a dairy farmer viewpoint and will allow him/her to plan their investment over a period of years and will result in labour savings as well as likely improvements in SCC levels.
“These are real improvements and are welcome”, Mr Comer said, “but, from a farmer perspective, there are a number of critical outstanding areas including ensuring the need for these schemes to open as soon as possible and the necessity of farmers being able to secure a full year’s payment under GLAS in 2015. In addition, in the immediate future, we need to look at the maximum level of payments under GLAS and access to GLAS+.”