Macra na Feirme has again called on the Government to provide Teagasc with sufficient staff to help it carry out its vital educational role.
Seán Finan, president, said expressions of interest outstrips places in courses available, such that young farmers will miss out on schemes that require them to have their Green Cert.
He said Macra welcomed the approval of the additional 20 staff last year but highlighted Teagasc’s calculation that it requires further personnel to meet the unprecedented demand for agricultural education.
“Enrolments in Teagasc colleges have increased 154% from 600 in 2006 to 1,500 in 2014 while staff numbers have declined from 108 to 98 in the same period.
“Similarly, the advisory services are now delivered to 45,000 farmers by about 220 advisors which is down from 400 in 2007,” he said.
Mr Finan said Teagasc has found it needs a minimum of 230-240 advisors to meet client needs.
He called on Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to respond to Teagasc’s extra requirements.
“We believe the matter is under consideration and that is welcome,” he said. “However, it is imperative that action is taken now as Irish farming is suffering while Teagasc is under resourced.”
Mr Coveney, replying to a Dáil question from Kildare South Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon, said the Teagasc Green Cert course has been developed to meet the training needs for full-time or part-time farmers.
It is offered at Teagasc Regional Education Centres and Agricultural Colleges as a distance learning option. Mr Coveney said it is Teagasc policy to accommodate all farmers seeking Green Cert course places.
“My department, and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, approved the appointment of 20 temporary teachers in 2014 to meet the Green Cert demand,” said Mr Coveney.
“It enabled Teagasc to substantially increase intake from a normal level of 500 annually to 1,500 enrolees, a threefold increase.”
Mr Coveney said Teagasc was recently granted approval to hire a further 20 temporary teachers, bringing the overall allocation to 40.
“It will enable Teagasc to provide an additional 1,000 Green cert places this autumn,” he said.
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