Thursday 23rd March 2023: Today, the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) are hosting their AGM in Portlaoise with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue in attendance.
Over the past twelve months, ACA members have facilitated a huge increase in the number of farmers participating in government schemes designed to tackle climate change. Of the 46,000 farmers that applied and were accepted for ACRES, close to 70% of applications came from the ACA network. The ACA has also contributed to a massive uptick in applications for the organic farming scheme, up nearly 1,600 from the previous application period, where just under 360 applications were received. Overall, 70% of applications came from the ACA network and the government funding received for an organic specialist consultant helped facilitate the level of demand generated.
Speaking at the opening of the AGM, ACA President Noel Feeney said: “Today we are highlighting the hugely important role ACA members continue to play in delivering farm advisory services. Increased progress in this area is essential if Ireland is to achieve its environmental, sustainability and climate mitigation targets. All farmers must have equal access to the latest research findings and will need advisory support to implement necessary changes at farm level.”
At today’s conference, the ACA are calling for
- More support for the farm advisory sector as they deliver essential services to help Ireland reach its very important climate targets
- The immediate introduction of an Agricultural Knowledge Innovation Systems (AKIS) group led and governed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), that encompasses all stakeholders in the farm advisory sector.
Knowledge sharing will address the untapped opportunities of encompassing 95,000 farmers outside the public advisory service to all the latest publicly funded information and research. With a joined-up approach between the DAFM and all farm advisory stakeholders, 55,000 ACA farmer clients can be included immediately in the work it has underway. There remain, however, 40,000 farmers that do not use a private or public advisor, and these farmers must be included in an agreed policy framework.
ACA will need greater Government recognition and support in order to help these farmers and our current farmer clients to implement the research findings and farm practices that will help Ireland to achieve its environmental sustainability and climate mitigation targets.
Concluding Mr. Feeney said: “When the government embraces the private advisory sector, more farmers are empowered to participate in schemes and programmes which create a more sustainable agriculture industry in Ireland. The ACA looks forward to working with the Government to increase funding for additional specialist consultants within the private consultancy sector, and to kick-off an AKIS group that encompasses all farm advisory stakeholders as a priority.”