Accessibility issues around the knowledge transfer (KT) programme need to be addressed by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on agriculture Deputy Claire Kerrane has said.

Minister McConalogue confirmed that applicants to the KT programme must have submitted a Basic Income for Sustainability Support (BISS) application and, in the case of farm partnerships, only one member of a partnership is eligible to participate.

Concerns have been raised that this eligibility criteria could potentially exclude women farmers and young farmers.

The KT criteria, Deputy Kerrane said, while not explicitly exclusionary, will rule some women and young farmers out of the programme.

“While I understand these criteria are not specifically gendered or intentionally exclusionary, the reality is that hinging KT programme eligibility on those conditions will only serve to exclude groups within the farming community,” she said.

Women-specific KT groups

Deputy Kerrane added that women-specific KT groups had been mooted as part of the development of the KT programme, but are not yet in place.

“The Minister has repeatedly stated his ambition to support women in agriculture and young farmers.

"However, this is not being adequately reflected in actual access to schemes and opportunities which support knowledge transfer and skills development among those groups.

“It is crucial that the Minister works to address the identified issue and ensure accessibility for the knowledge transfer programme moving forward,” she said.

On eligibility surrounding female farmers’ accessibility to schemes, Deputy Kerrane said this was seen with the Women Farmer's Capital Investment Scheme (WFCIS) under TAMS III and similar issues are coming up with knowledge transfer.