Dáil Éireann - Volume 592 - 18 November, 2004
Written Answers. - State Agencies.
Mr. English Mr. English
41. Mr. English asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to develop the Teagasc service provided to farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29195/04]
Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan
Mary Coughlan: Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, was established under the Agriculture (Research, Training and Advice) Act 1988. Its function under the Act is to provide research, training and advisory services for the agri-food sector. Teagasc is governed by an 11 member authority. The chairman and five ordinary members are appointed by the Minister and the remaining five members are appointed by the Minister following nominations from designated organisations — IFA, ICMSA, ICOS, Macra na Feirme and Teagasc unions.
Teagasc has 1,365 permanent staff, comprising advisers, teachers and research scientists with appropriate supporting services. These are complemented by 250 contract staff, as well as teaching staff in the private agricultural and horticultural colleges. Teagasc staff carry out their functions from more than 90 locations.
Teagasc’s operating budget for 2004 amounts to over €153 million. Advisory services make up the biggest budget item — 35% of expenditure  — followed by production research — 32% — training programmes — 19% — and food research — 13%. My Department’s provision to Teagasc for non-capital purposes in 2004 amounts to €117 million. While no funding for capital development purposes was directly provided from the Exchequer in 2004, Teagasc may use up to €7 million of the retained proceeds from the sale of its assets in 2003 and 2004 to fund its capital programme this year. By any standards these are substantial resources and are a clear indication of the Government’s continuing commitment to supporting Teagasc activities.
It is the responsibility of the Teagasc authority to prioritise activities and to allocate its funding accordingly. This it has done over the years in accordance with the needs of clients, EU and Government policy and industry needs. I am satisfied that in doing so it has provided a first class service to Irish farmers.
In the short term, Teagasc will have to reconfigure its programmes in response to the fundamental changes in agriculture arising out of the single payment. The authority is however already well accustomed to tailoring its programmes to meet the changing requirements of the agri-food sector. Its annual programme of activities is developed in consultation with the key stakeholders in the sector many of whom are represented on the authority. Recently it has undertaken more strategic planning initiatives, the Teagasc 2000 review and the three year strategy required under the strategic management initiative. A new review of its training and education programmes has recently got underway.
I am satisfied that Teagasc is well placed to face the future and to continue to provide the innovation and technology transfer for the sustainable development of agriculture, the food industry and rural communities in the years ahead.
Dáil Éireann 592 Written Answers. State Agencies.