Consultants face two-year delay on KT payments
Farm consultants are waiting up to two years for payment from the Department of Agriculture for their work on the Knowledge Transfer (KT) scheme.
And growing frustration with the slow payment may see some consultants opt out of their role as KT facilitators, they have warned.
Department figures show that the total expenditure on the KT scheme last year was €21.66m, with €12.4m paid to farmers and €9.26m paid to Teagasc, private agri-consultants and vets.
A breakdown of these figures indicates that farmers received 57pc of the total expenditure on the scheme in 2018, while 43pc went to Teagasc, private agri-consultants and vets.
Private agri-consultants and Teagasc act as facilitators for the scheme by organising KT groups. Participants, in conjunction with their KT facilitator, are required under the scheme to draw up a farm improvement plan and attend two qualifying KT events each year.
In a statement to the Farming Independent, farm consultants pointed out that they incurred significant costs in running the KT scheme and that many advisors were still awaiting payments for the first two years of the programme.
Carlow-based consultant Pat Minnock, said that while Teagasc had the benefit of “significant State funding” in delivering programmes such as the KT scheme, these initiatives had to be commercially viable for private consultants.
“Private consultants receive €500 gross per client but this must cover all meeting costs. For example organising hotel rooms, administration costs, speaker costs, etc,” Mr Minnock explained.
“I have kept good record of my costs in year two [of the KT scheme] and after allowing for all expenses this works out at €41 per hour for my time,” he estimated.
“Some consultants calculate that it takes 15 hours per farmer per year, equating to €33 per hour,” Mr Minnock said.
Mr Minnock added out that the Department of Agriculture applied penalties after 25 days to private consultants if KT money has not been paid out to clients.
“Months or years later, no penalties apply to the Department for non-payment to consultants,” he commented.
“If consultants were surveyed ,it is most likely that many would not continue or reapply to be facilitators,” Mr Minnock claimed.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Teagasc has increased its annual contract fees by between €15 and €85 per farmer.
The charge for Teagasc club clients increases by €15 and ranges from €170 to €310, depending on farm size.
For Teagasc clients on the club package plus derogation, the hike in fees range from €55 to €85 depending on farm size, with overall costs varying from €315 to €490 per farmer.
Fee increases of €15 are also in place for Teagasc technology clients. Charges now range from €225 to €385 per farmer.
Fees increased by €50 to €85 per farmer depending on farm size for Teagasc technology clients plus derogation. Charges for these clients now range from €370 to €565 per farmer.