ICSA President, Dermot Kelleher, has said that he is concerned that young trainee farmers are getting a raw deal on a small minority of host farms where they do their placements for the green cert.
"I have personally been contacted in a number of cases where the trainee was treated as a source of cheap labour doing the same repetitive task over and over and where learning opportunities were severely constrained.
"I am making representations to Teagasc to look for a review of protocols to ensure that young trainee farmers have a positive experience when on placement," he said.
Mr Kelleher added: "At a time when we are seeing some progress on encouraging more female farmers, it is now more important than ever to review how the system works and to ensure that every host farm is carefully vetted on an ongoing basis.
"For the majority, an on-farm placement is a superb way of gaining invaluable experience and knowledge. No matter how well-run the home farm, there is always something to be learned from other operators, provided that the placement is designed to lead to good learning outcomes.
"However, trainees should not be cheap tractor drivers for the entirety of the experience, nor should they spend all their time doing pure manual work that nobody else wants to do.
"It is fine to expect trainees to pick stones for a day or fork out dung but if the sum total of the placement is pure grunt work, then there is no value in the placement and the host farmer should pay a labourer the going rate.
"ICSA is concerned that the trainees are not given a fair hearing while on placement. Every trainee should be offered at least two private interviews with different Teagasc supervisors who have no conflict of interest.
"Host farms who are the subject of complaint from more than one trainee should have their role reviewed and where they are found to breach the spirit of the scheme there should be sanctions including temporary or permanent suspension as host farms.
"It can also be the case that personality clashes can arise which are nobody’s fault. But in those cases, the logical thing is to move the trainee to another farm.
"In general, trainees should have the right to request a move after an interview if problems can’t be ironed out. Teagasc needs to continuously seek out new farms and pay attention to their duty of care to young trainees.
"Teagasc must ensure that host farms understand fully the commitment in taking in trainees, including the provision of suitable accommodation, the right to reasonable working hours and conditions and time off, proper sustenance and above all the need to treat people with respect."
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