THE number of Teagasc advisers has fallen by 40% in the past two years, the Agricultural Science Association annual conference was told in Tullow, Co Carlow.
It was also revealed that the number of Teagasc advisory offices has dropped from 90 to 50.
However, Teagasc director of knowledge transfer, Dr Tom Kelly, said the number of farmer clients serviced by Teagasc advisers remains at over 40,000.
This, he said, reflects the long-term Teagasc strategy of maintaining services to the maximum number of farmers.
Dr Kelly said the challenge for the Teagasc advisory service is to prioritise its more limited resources in areas of most impact.
“Activities such as discussion groups, the BETTER farms programme and targeted training courses will be utilised to a greater extent in the future,” he said.
Dr Kelly said the implementation of the Food Harvest 2020 report will require a major focus on low-cost, efficient production at farm level.
“Teagasc has a huge contribution to make in ensuring that the best technologies are disseminated to farmers,” he said.
Michael Brady, director of Brady Group Agricultural Consultants and Land Agents, Cork, said: “State funding of farm advisory services will decrease and the ability of Teagasc to deliver effective advisory services will diminish due to the ban on public sector recruitment.
“There is a national network of private consultants ready and willing to assist in delivering the ambitious targets set out in the Food Harvest 2020 report,” he added, advocating a public-private partnership approach.
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