Committee given update on scheme

DUP MLA Willaim Irwin
DUP MLA Willaim Irwin
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Stormont’s Agriculture Committee received a briefing from the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise on its delivery of the new Young Farmers’ Scheme qualification.

The course which was introduced in October 2014, gives young farmers the opportunity to study towards a Level II Agriculture Business Operations Course and once qualified will enable them to apply for a ‘top up’ payment to the basic payment (formally known as the Single Farm Payment).

Speaking after the briefing, committee chairperson William Irwin MLA said: “The Committee welcomed today’s briefing from CAFRE which provided us with a more detailed analysis of the components of the new course, student take-up and on how the training is progressing generally.

“My committee was very much at the forefront in ensuring that this course was offered as a Level II qualification rather than at a Level III as originally intended by the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development. The fact that 93 classes are currently running with up to 30 people in each class is reassuring and underlines the importance of opening up the qualification to as many eligible applicants as possible.

“Of course, while take up is high, we were keen to ensure today that the quantity of students does not diminish the quality of the training. We were interested to hear more about how CAFRE sourced qualified and experienced tutors to deliver the course and on how the training was developed to meet the needs of the industry. It is crucial that the young farmers working towards this qualification are able to use the theory and practice they will learn to better manage and advance their farming businesses in the future.”

Deputy chairperson Joe Byrne added: “The committee has been very impressed today with the work CAFRE has completed to develop this course and the qualification in such a relatively short timeframe. We particularly commend them on their foresight in ensuring that the first batch of successful students will have qualified in time to claim the ‘top up’ payment before the deadline of 15 May 2015.

“It is important, however, that the funding for this course and any similar subsequent courses is provided and assured and we will be pressing the department to guarantee that this will be the case.

“Our young farmers will very much determine the future success of our agricultural sector. We look forward to seeing how this course, qualification and the additional payment will help them to develop their farming skills and to enhance their businesses and rural communities.”