Calls to speed up Rural Social Scheme recruitment
A number of places were announced that could be filled by farmers but the recruitment process has been slow.

Recruitment and filling of places for new applicants to the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) needs to be accelerated, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Regional, Rural, Gaeltacht & Island Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív.

The RSS provides a weekly social welfare payment of €220.50 for active farmers who provide 19.5 hours of work in their rural area.

“Earlier this year, the Rural Social Scheme was expanded, with the total number of participants increasing to 3,350,” Deputy Ó Cuív said.

I will be continuing to press this issue with Minister Doherty

“At the time of the announcement, there were 2,948 participants on the scheme and I am growing increasingly concerned about the low level of take up since then.”

This year's 250 new RSS places follow the allocation of 500 new places in the previous year's budget after a 10-year freeze.

Ó Cuív has called on the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, to accelerate recruitment to the RSS.

Places available

“Despite the fact that there are nearly 7,000 people receiving Farm Assist, the number of people on the Rural Social Scheme has only increased by 22 participants to 2,970 since March. This means that there are still 380 places available on the Rural Social Scheme,” Ó Cuív said.

“My office has been contacted by numerous people seeking to secure a place on the Rural Social Scheme. It is imperative that the recruitment process is accelerated so that these additional places are filled and people can begin undertaking this important work.

“I will be continuing to press this issue with Minister Doherty to ensure that the scheme is efficiently rolled out over the coming months.”

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Environment: rule changes to aid fodder production
Flexibilities have been announced for GLAS actions and fertiliser spreading dates to encourage extra fodder production.

Last week, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government announced that farmers will be allowed as an exceptional measure to spread chemical fertiliser and slurry for a fortnight longer than the deadlines set out in the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2017 (SI No 605 of 2017).

The start of the closed period during which land-spreading of chemical fertiliser is forbidden will be pushed back from 15 September to 30 September and the closed period for slurry will not commence until 31 October instead of the normal 15 October.

The Minister emphasised that his announcement represents an extension of time only.

All land-spreading activity is conditional on weather and ground conditions being suitable as set out in the nitrates regulations and the importance of preventing agricultural runoff to water bodies is critical to the good operation of the regulations.

Livestock manures or any fertilisers may not be landspread when, for example, land is waterlogged, flooded or likely to flood, frozen or if heavy rain is forecast within 48 hours.

GLAS flexibilities

The Department told the Irish Farmers Journal this week that on an exceptional basis for 2018, applications in relation to the collection of toppings on low input permanent pasture parcels in GLAS can be submitted in writing and will be examined on a case-by-case basis. A farm visit may be required before such applications are approved.

In terms of silage cutting from these parcels, the Department says further consultations with the Commission are ongoing on this.

The Department of Agriculture is issuing text messages to 10,000 farmers this week who are at risk of exceeding the 170 or 250 kg N/ha limit this year based on their end of June stocking rate. The text messages are a warning to farmers to stay below the above levels or they are at risk of a penalty.

KT deadline gone by
Facilitators had to submit farm improvement plans by 14 August 2018 on clients' behalf for the Knowledge Transfer Programme.

Knowledge Transfer deadline gone

Farmers and facilitators in the Knowledge Transfer (KT) Programme should be aware that the new deadline for submission of data for farm improvement plans has passed. The extended deadline was last Tuesday 14 August 2018.

Each beef, sheep and dairy participant or their nominee had to complete a farm improvement plan with their approved KT facilitator. Group meetings should all be complete now.

In the case of partnerships, each partner who is an accepted participant in the programme must have completed a unique farm improvement plan in respect of their enterprise.

There still remains a number of farmers in partnerships who have not received payment since the scheme launched.

Knowledge transfer scheme for forest owners
The new scheme will involve group meetings and be open to private forestry owners to help them undertake appropriate management activities in their forests.

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Andrew Doyle, today announced a new scheme to establish Knowledge Transfer Groups (KTGs) for forestry. The scheme comes on foot of a pilot run last year for these groups.

According to a statement issued by the Minister, these KTGS are aimed at private forest owners that require additional knowledge to help them undertake appropriate management activities in their forests.

Discussions will be facilitated by a professional forester and will incorporate both classroom-style learning, as well as practical elements. The full terms and conditions of the scheme are available on the Department’s website.

Each KTG can have a maximum of 20 participants and each participant will need to attend seven meetings or outdoor events in order to complete the programme. The KTG participant will be reimbursed €70/meeting attended.

A minimum of four meetings must be attended in order for the participant to become eligible for reimbursement of any costs. This will be verified by attendance sheets. In other words, if the participant only attended three meetings then no reimbursement is due. If he/she attends four then the individual would be due €280 (4* €70).

The maximum payment to each participant is €490. The KTG organiser must make payments that are due to participants within 20 working days from the date of receipt of the payment from the Department.