The Department of Agriculture’s decision to offer only online training to participants of the Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) has provoked a backlash from the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA).

ICSA suckler chair Jimmy Cosgrave said that “this move is very concerning, especially considering the older age demographic of suckler farmers".

"Many of these farmers may not have reliable internet access or have the necessary computer skills to navigate complex online platforms.

"The focus should be on ensuring as many farmers as possible can benefit from the scheme rather than putting barriers in place."

Low incomes

Cosgrave highlighted the importance of the scheme for the sustainability of the suckler sector and said that the majority of participants are older and operate with extremely low incomes.

He called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to provide alternative training options for SCEP participants.

“By offering online training only, we risk excluding those who need this scheme the most.

"The onus is on the Minister to ensure no farmer gets left behind and the only way to ensure that is to provide an option to complete this training in-person for those that need it.”