Farm advisory service Teagasc has predicted significant growth for Tipperary agriculture over the next five years.
In its strategic plan for the county up to 2020, it has targeted a fifty per cent increase in milk output following the ending of milk quotas this year, increased output from the sheep industry and better profit from efficiency in cattle.
It has also committed the agency to expanding the dairy sector in Tipperary and working to train new entrants to the industry.
However at the launch of the plan last week, attended by local TD and Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Tom Hayes, Teagasc issued a note of caution on falling staff numbers.
While acknowledging the huge growth potential for agriculture in the county, the agency has expressed concern over the number of advisors available to it to maximise that growth.
Minister Hayes launched the plan, ‘Food Harvest 2020’, and said it sets out the key priorities and strategic actions over the next five years.
He said the main purpose of the exercise was to engage with stakeholders regarding the future services to be provided in the region in the context of ‘Food Harvest 2020’ targets and the post milk quota era.
And he highlighted the critical role the Teagasc advisory service in Tipperary has in supporting farmers over the coming years.
Teagasc board member Tommy Cooke said the plan highlighted the enormous opportunities for growth in the farming sector in the Tipperary region but he underlined the need for a well-resourced advisory service if the targets are to be achieved.
“The Teagasc Advisory Services have a vital role to play in leading and guiding growth and expansion in the region but Teagasc has seen a 50% decrease in advisory numbers since 2008”, Mr Cooke said.
He added that it was “imperative that we maintain a strong advisory service in the region. Because of increasing demand for Teagasc Advisory Services and reduced staff numbers, advisors are carrying unsustainable workloads and this is putting the achievement of Food Harvest 2020 at risk. T
“This strategic plan clearly sets out the minimum number of advisors required to support the sector between now and 2020 and it is essential that existing vacancies and impending retirements are replaced immediately”.
Teagasc Regional Manager for Tipperary, Donal Mullane, said that Teagasc is “committed to delivering high quality support to the industry locally and to working in close association with farmer clients, state agencies and local partners in achieving the 2020 targets.
“This process has provided us with a set of solid strategic actions for the next five years. Following consultation with our stakeholders, we anticipate an increase in the order of 50% in milk supplies in the region over the next five years”, Mr Mullane said.
“In addition we anticipate increased output from our sheep industry and better profit from efficiency in cattle.
“We have seen a huge demand for our Green Cert/Distance education courses and our new education courses will help farmers implement low carbon environmentally friendly and safe farming. This is an exciting time for agriculture in the region”.
The strategic plan profiles the farming systems, land type and fertility, and the farm sizes in Tipperary. Teagasc facilities and staff are then examined and the consequences for the service if current trends of declining staff numbers continue. Also highlighted are the partners with which the service works locally.
The document includes a listing of the main research requirements specific to the area and how stakeholders will be engaged with during the period of the plan.