Specialising in assisting farmers with the various grants and agricultural schemes available to them, Liam Walsh & Co Ltd is celebrating 25 years in business.
The leading private agricultural advisory and consultancy firm was established in Ballina, Co. Mayo in 1995 and has since expanded to open further offices in Birr, Co. Offaly, Maam Cross, Co. Galway and Carlow.
The Carlow office trades under Minnock Agri Enterprises which Liam Walsh & Co took over the running of last September following the sudden death of Pat Minnock. Established in 1991 by Pat and his wife Mary, the business is one of the longest running private agricultural consultancies in the country with a client-base throughout Leinster. Pat was a former president of the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) and chair of the Irish Tillage Consultants Association (ITCA).
“We already have clients in Carlow and Wicklow so opening an office in that area made perfect sense,” Liam Walsh explains. “And things have gone very well for us so far.”
Liam Walsh & Co assists farmers with all Department of Agriculture schemes and in dealing with Department inspections, which is underpinned by its vast experience and attention to detail. The consultancy deals with a full range of farm types, from small farms in disadvantaged areas to large farms on the best of land, all over Ireland.
Liam grew up on a dairy, beef and sheep farm near Ballina and is still an active farmer. He worked for many summers for an Agricultural Contractor in his younger days. He is well-known in sheep breeding circles and had his own Texel pedigree flock. Some years ago, he sold Ballybrooney Lion to Galway-based breeder Pat Lyons for €7,000, which was the joint highest price given for a pedigree Texel in the Republic of Ireland at the time. Liam has also judged at Texel shows nationally and internationally. He recently sold the flock to concentrate on his Farm Advisory business.
In 1993, he graduated from UCD with a first class honours Masters Degree in Agricultural Science and commenced working with a private agricultural consultancy in 1994 in Kells, Co. Meath, before setting up his own agri advisory business the following year.
In 1994, Liam submitted one of the first REPS plans in the country and has been heavily involved in all Department of Agriculture schemes and grants since then. These include various farm buildings schemes, basic payment scheme, young farmer schemes, National Reserve, farm entitlements, GLAS, Commonage management plans and TAMS. In addition, he provides advice on Nutrient Management Plans, nitrates derogations, training courses and in dealing with Department of Agriculture farm inspections and audits.
Liam has experienced all the various changes in the schemes since 1994 and has first-hand knowledge of all the issues surrounding the Department schemes as they have evolved over the years. He consistently attends all of the Department training courses that are relevant to his consultancy and sees this as vital in attaining the attention to detail that is required for the business.
“We look after all of the paperwork for our clients and make sure they are fully compliant,” he explains. “We are here to assist farmers and to maximise their payments and schemes. As some farm enterprises are loss-making, we have clients who wouldn’t have an income without the various grants and schemes. Dairying, in particular, requires a lot of paperwork when things like fertiliser limits, slurry storage capacity and stock numbers are taken into account.
“Farmers need all the help they can get with all these different schemes. Once they bring in the paperwork, we look after the rest. I love what I do and seeing our clients get what they’re entitled to. In my opinion, the farm payments should be doubled to reflect the amount of work farmers do and the service they provide.”
The main services provided by Liam and his 10-strong team relate to basic payment scheme applications, nitrates and nutrient planning, setting up as a farmer, farm entitlements, and environmental schemes. Liam also assists farmers with their farmyard grant applications, and where planning permission is required, refers them on to his colleagues who specialise in this. The Basic Payment Scheme is the basis for a lot of other Department schemes and Liam has been completing these forms for over 25 years. It was formerly called the ‘Area Aid’ and then the ‘Single Payment’ and is the Basic Payment application presently. A large proportion of a farmer’s income can come from this application and Liam Walsh & Co give it the precise attention to detail that it deserves.
Nitrates derogations are required for highly-stocked farmers, generally dairy farmers, and involves a nutrient plan for the farm. GLAS applicants also require a nutrient plan for their farm with soil sampling being a key part of this. Exporting slurry to neighbouring lowly stocked farms or tillage farms is an option for some highly-stocked farmers to reduce their nitrates. When it comes to setting up as a farmer, Liam Walsh & Co prepare the necessary paperwork and submit all applications for new herd numbers and those taking over existing herd numbers, whether it is on owned or leased land. This may involve applying to the Young Farmer / National Reserve and / or transfer of entitlements depending on the farmer’s circumstances. The complex nature of farm entitlements and greening means that this has to be dealt with precisely.
Liam has vast experience with entitlements and has been dealing with them since they were initially established using the base years of 2000, 2001 and 2002. Since submitting his first REPS plan to the Department over a quarter of a century ago, Liam has dealt with all the various environment schemes, including four REPS schemes, three AEOS schemes and is currently dealing with the GLAS schemes.
These schemes are all online and require a large amount of knowledge and experience on the fine detail involved. Farmers are assisted in choosing the most suitable options for their farm, and Liam and his staff also deal with the Department inspections and records. He is there to assist farmers for the full five-year term of GLAS and is available to answer any query that they may have, and deal with all Department issues promptly.
He concludes by thanking his staff for their dedication and expertise, and his clients for their loyalty and continued support. Here’s to the next 25 years!
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 8 No 1, February/March 2020