Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue says the Knowledge Transfer Group (KTG) scheme is one of many rural development programmes which has fallen victim to complex bureaucracy.
New figures from the Department of Agriculture reveal that there are only around 20,000 farmers are enrolled in the scheme. This is 26% behind the initial target set by the Fine Gael led government of 27,000 participants.
Deputy McConalogue explained, “The idea behind the KTG scheme was extremely credible – it would provide discussion groups for farmers with advisors who could help them with improving their business with regard to profitability, herd health, breeding and environmental sustainability.
“While the scheme has merit, the fact of the matter is that under Fine Gael, these Rural Development Programmes are not working for farmers. GLAS, beef genomics, TAMS and now the KTS are rigid, with a high degree of bureaucracy. The proof of this is in the participation levels. Schemes under Fianna Fáil worked for farmers be it REPS or the Suckler Cow Scheme.
“Funding of €100m had been allocated for 27,000 farmers to participate in the KTG over a three year period. It is imperative that Minister Creed ensures that his Government’s failure to get farmers to register does not result in them losing out on these funds.
“Farming families are coming under increased pressure. Higher costs and price volatility is making it difficult to keep their businesses going. The Minister needs to reopen a more flexible Knowledge Transfer Scheme in 2017 to make it more accessible so that farmers are encouraged to sign up and that all available funding is fully drawn down”.