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Kirwan Agriconsultants Ltd.

17 Emmet St, Birr, Co. Offaly                                                  

Phone: 057 9125410 / 057 9169816


Monamolin, Gorey, Co. Wexford

Phone: 053 9389807

Email: Kirwan Agri

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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, Tipperary, Paddy Fitzsimmons, Cork, Eddie McQuinn, Richard Rea, my good self and Philip Farrelly.  As Vice-President David Walsh, Treasurer Philip Dwyer from Kerry and Michael Maloney of Mayo as Secretary.  The ACA was founded 28 years ago, but has really come into its own in the last 10 years with the advent of REPS, Area Aid and the various EU backed schemes.  Indeed there are now more ACA member operated offices across the country supplying advisory services to farmers than they are Teagasc offices.  With the recent announcement of the Rural Development package this trend seems set to continue.  At this stage the number of farmers using private planners to draw up their REPS plans is approaching 60% and rising. 

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 Brussels at this month’s star committee meeting as part of the National Rural Development Plan.  While we still await announcement of the details of REPS 4 it appears that it will broadly in line with REPS 3 but with the consider been increased number of options and supplementary measures.  It will also be aimed at bringing in both Dairy farmers who are in derogation situation and large Tillage farmers that will some way be tied in with the Nitrates problem and may also have measures to assist intensive pig/poultry producers leaving disposed of their surplus waste.  The main news is that 17% increase of funding, while this sounds impressive at first glance you must bare in mind the scheme is to run until 2013.  And when you take current inflation rates into account it won’t be long before this increase will quickly be eroded.  Presumably there will be a term review. Either way REPS is now viable scheme for all bare the most intensive farmers.

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. 

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