Saturday, January 22, 2011

Government needs to fund agri-education properly

In the next seven weeks, politicians from all parties will turn up at your day looking for your vote. I know I'll be asking them all about their commitment to education.

It's worrying then, to see the effect that cutbacks are having on Ireland's agricultural development agency Teagasc and particularly on their educational remit.

Despite the Irish food industry having a bumper year, Prof. Gerry Boyle, Teagasc Director, says that they have had turn away 250 young farmers because they don't have the staff to train them.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Prof. Boyle explains the effect the governments moratorium on recruitment is having: "We had around 150 contract advisors, but they have all been let go. We are down to around 240 advisors from our previous level of 400.

"As for teaching and lecturing staff, you can get by without staff in some areas, but not without teachers...Agri is being treated differently to other areas in education. For the life of me, I don't understand that.

"We have had to turn away about 250 students due to the moratorium. While I recognise that there is a need to reduce numbers in the public sector, there is a need to ring-fence specialist roles.

"We are under-resourced in beef where applied research is concerned. We need a stronger genetics input. Plant pathology is a crucial competence in managing disease resistance, but we don't even have one plant pathologist".

All this, when Bord Bia is reporting how huge an impact food and agriculture had on the Irish economy last year. Food and drink exports was worth €7.9 billion to Ireland in 2010 and that figure is set to grow again.

Aiden Cotter, Bord Bia Chief Executive was upbeat in his assessment: "In a year in which the world’s population will reach seven billion, growth in global demand is set to underpin food markets well into the future".

If this, or any government is committed to a national recovery, they must realise that food and agriculture is already at the centre of that recovery. While savings in the public sector must be made, it is not in our long term interest to stop training those farmers will be part of that recovery. Maybe mention that to the politicians when they call.


Anonymous January 22, 2011 at 12:54 PM  

It is worth mentioning too that the Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science syllabus was written in the 1960's and a new syllabus is urgently needed to address in dramatic changes that have occurred in the agri-sector in that extraordinarily long time.

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