Dáil Éireann - Volume 686 - 30 June, 2009
Written Answers. - Farm Advisory Services.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore Deputy Eamon Gilmore
Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is assisting farming groups with regard to the establishment of advice clinics for farming families currently under financial pressure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26051/09]
Deputy Brendan Smith Deputy Brendan Smith
Deputy Brendan Smith: I fully understand that the current economic climate represents a particularly difficult time for farmers. Farmers are already in a cyclical business and that situation has been compounded by the current international and domestic downturn and low prices for certain commodities. Assistance is provided to farmers in a number of ways and by a number of different agencies and Departments.
Advisory services to farmers are primarily offered through Teagasc. These services help farmers improve efficiency and reduce costs through applying the latest results from the Teagasc research programme. Teagasc has some 500 advisers and specialists, located at over 80 centres throughout Ireland. The advisory service is divided into four particular programme areas, namely: Business and Technology, Good Farm Practice, Rural Development and Adult Training. Teagasc are in contact with some 80,000 farmers and rural dwellers each year, of whom approximately 45,000 avail of an intensive on-farm consultancy service.
With regard to those in the farming sector directly experiencing financial difficulties, there are a number of targeted schemes, which offer assistance. The Farm Assist is a means tested scheme aimed at low-income farm families, which is administered by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. At the end of May 2009, there were approximately 7,831 participants on the scheme, an increase of 6.3% on the previous year. The Rural Social Scheme (RSS) was launched in May 2004 to provide an income supplement to low income farmers and fisher persons while at the same time harnessing their skills for the benefit of rural communities. The scheme requires participants to work 19.5 hours per week and is administered in a farmer/fisher friendly manner allowing participants to work flexible hours.
Despite the downturn in our economy the Irish Government’s commitment to the farming sector remains strong. In the Supplementary Estimate for 2009, €1,985 million was provided for my Department. The Government continues to support the farming sector and farming families to the fullest extent possible. In 2009, total public expenditure will amount to over €3.3 billion when the Department’s Vote is combined with EU funding of €1.4 billion. The most recent National Farm Survey data from Teagasc indicates that average Family Farm income was just short of €19,700, with 84% of that net total accounted for through various direct payments demonstrating my Department’s commitment to providing an income platform for farmers.
Dáil Éireann 686 Written Answers. Farm Advisory Services.