Against the backdrop of a changing climate and new government schemes, members of the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) gathered for their annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday, March 23.
Agri Insider attended to hear an important message for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), from the independent agriculture consultant group, in which better support is needed for the farm advisory sector.
The conference, held at the Midlands Park Hotel in Co. Laois was attended by the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue and officials from various DAFM divisions. ACA representatives stressed the critical role that consultants play in helping farmers meet Ireland’s environmental targets. However, as private firms are not funded by the government money they have called for greater assistance from the government in creating a central hub that can help farmers even more.
More Government Assistance
During an interview with Agri Insider ACA President Noel Feeney highlighted the ‘hugely important role’ their members play in delivering farm advisory services, stating that increased progress in this area is essential for Ireland to achieve its environmental, sustainability and climate mitigation targets.
Feeney also called for the immediate introduction of an Agricultural Knowledge Innovation Systems (AKIS) group, which would be led and governed by DAFM, to address the untapped opportunities of encompassing 95,000 farmers outside the public advisory service to all the latest publicly funded information and research.
While all schemes are important, Feeney emphasised that the Biodiversity Incentive Scheme (BISS) and Eco-Schemes are essential programmes for farmers, forming the bedrock of sustainable agriculture in Ireland. He also acknowledged that the association’s members are under increased pressure due to new government schemes and due to the urgency of meeting environmental targets, but Feeney stressed the importance of patience as some processes take time to be completed accurately.
To address these challenges faced by the farm advisory sector, ACA is hoping to attract new members to the association to provide additional support. In September of last year, ACA announced that 130 new roles were being created within the association.
Minister Charlie McConalogue has shown support for the ACA’s initiatives. As the industry moves towards a more sustainable future, it is crucial for the government and private sector to work together to ensure that Irish farmers have access to the latest research findings and advisory support to implement necessary changes at the farm level.
Mr Feeney shared his optimistic views on the future of farming in Ireland. He emphasised that all stakeholders are relying on research and scientific evidence to help with the biodiversity, water quality and climate change issues facing Ireland at the moment. He also reiterated his confidence in Irish farmers’ ability to rise to the challenges ahead and with government support, ACA can continue to play a vital role in helping them achieve their goals according to its president.