Kirwan Agriconsultants Ltd.
Article for July
The AGM of Agricultural Consultants Association took place recently. This year saw the election of one of what the late Joe Rea would have described as a “hungry young turk” as President. Breian Carroll operates from Swinford, Co Mayo and is representative of the wave of recent graduates who in previous times would have worked in the public sector but are now employed directly by farmers on a private basis. He is fortunate in having the backing from high powered council, as ACA has ever had with 6 pass presidents including Martin O Sullivan,
The rapid growth in recent years both in the number of private consultants and the number of farmers who are using them as advisors/planners has occurred in spite of the fact that almost invariably the cost of hiring an ACA member are sometimes substantially higher than using the local taxpayer funded/state funded service. Surely at this stage the time as come now for a view of the entire system funding in farm advisory service and a debate as to how a level playing field may be introduce which would allow farmers greater freedom of choice in their choice of advisor. Some years ago a voucher system was mooted whereby a farmer could be issued with a voucher to redeem against the cost of his local advisor/consultant. Maybe its time to revisit this idea. In any event the current system is inequitable and need to be revised to a level playing field for all farmers.
This week saw the long awaited announcement that REPS 4 has been passed by
There are 4 categories I see as farmers who are now awaiting entry into REPS 4. The intensive dairy and cattle farmers i.e. those who would require a derogation under the Nitrates Directive, whether REPS 4 is viable for these people will depend to a large extent on the chemical nitrogen limits which are introduced. The second and this is tied in with the price of milk and whether the forecast increase offerability in commercial dairy farming occurs. The next group which are several thousand at this stage are those who have finished in REPS 2. These are generally people who are in REPS in the mid 90’s and have unfortunately lost several months due to delays in getting REPS 4 up and running. These people as long standing customers will be of course are given priority by their planners. The third category are people and there are about 60,000, farmers who have never been in REPS or where in REPS 1 and never went back. I would expect the vast majority of these to enter REPS at this stage, if there are in compliance with the Nitrates Directive, and GAEC, there is no economic reason why they wouldn’t be in REPS. Even those who are thinking of retiring from farming in the next five years who are been provided for in the scheme in certain circumstances.
With REPS 2/3 peeking at 60,000 farmers I wouldn’t be at all surprised if numbers in REPS 4 went up to 80,000 + in the next few years. It really is the only show in town now for most farmers. Especially in light of the doom and gloom in the beef industry. The fourth category of potential REPS 4 participant is those who are now in REPS 3 and will be allowed to convert to REPS 4. A simplified “system” was introduced to allow people to change from REPS 2 to REPS 3. This has turned out to be an administered nightmare for all concerned. With consolidated plans, extra soil sampling etc etc required, hopefully the transfer to REPS 4 one will be more cut and dried. As we are now in early august and peek holiday time for all concerned, it is unlikely any REPS 4 plans will be submitted certainly before mid September at the earliest. Even at that we may be waiting some time for the first REPS 4 cheque to be issued, given the serious pressure of work in the local AES offices are under between the 46,000 FWM applications not to mention the trickle of YFIS which are already on their way. However the scheme runs till 2013 so in due course everyone will be accommodated.
With the silage season still stuttering along in most parts of the country, a timely remainder to everyone to make sure that their effluent channels and storage facilities are in good order and effluent tanks are checked and emptied on a regular basis. Also I have seen some of the road hedgerows been cut recently by the County Council but farmers should be aware under no circumstances in REPS are you allowed to cut hedges until the end of September.