Ireland fared better than most EU countries on metrics used to assess the effectiveness of advisory services over the 2014-2020 CAP period, an independent evaluation of the advisory sector has found.
A European Commission report based on the evaluation suggests that Ireland performed better than most EU countries on realising targets for farmer training attendance and spending under CAP measures.
The evaluation also found that Ireland’s farm advisory services have a “strong coherence” with the objectives of CAP, with Ireland seeing a “large increase in advice activities” from 2014.
The independent evaluation referenced UCD’s Professor Tim Kinsella’s finding that “two-thirds of farmers choose to formally engage with advisers through contracts”, recognising this to be high by European standards for farmer engagement.
The Commission also concluded that a larger number of farm advisers with better training had been made available to Irish farmers under the CAP.
The development of a national programme of knowledge exchange, innovation and advisory activities was recognised as an asset to Ireland’s advisory activities from 2014-2020.
A number of consultations with farmers, advisers and the public helped to inform the Commission’s report on advisory services. Of the total 187 submissions it received, 83 came from Irish stakeholders.
The country with the next highest number of submissions under the consultation was Italy, with 21 submissions made by stakeholders there.
The Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA), which represents private consultants in Ireland, said that the knowledge transfer (KT) programme that ran until 2019 was a welcome support for the advisory sector over the consultation.
It did acknowledge that “only the delivery of knowledge transfer was funded” under the programme, leaving advisers in the private sector to gather information at their own expense.
The ACA recommended that public aid for research and advice be granted to private advisers, as well as funding for training.
Further developing farming, European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) were also recommended in the evaluation as a means of improving farmer engagement with advisers.
The report recommended that the administrative burden of delivering farm advice be reduced in future information-sharing initiatives and suggested that member states’ CAP strategic plans ensure information can move within the advisory sector.