Private Members' Business. - On Farm Investment Schemes: Motion.

I move:

"That Dáil Éireann deplores the mismanagement of the on farm investment schemes, particularly the control of farm pollution scheme, by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry and calls on the Government to meet the demand by farmers to make Irish agriculture compatible with the long term sustainable development of our resources."

I wish to share my time with Deputies Brendan Smith, Michael Kitt and Leonard.

Is that satisfactory and agreed? Agreed.

I congratulate Deputy Barret on his appointment as Minister for Defence and the Marine.

Fianna Fáil put down this motion to express its dismay at the disarray in the Government's environmental and farm policies. The motion highlights the chasm between Ministers' rhetoric and the growing pollution problem, the outright contradictions in the policies being pursued by the Departments of the Environment and Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the cost to the economy of inept, ill considered and uncoordinated policies.

The confetti-like disbursal of £1 billion on pollution control is no substitute for a sound policy of prevention. The abandonment of the control of farm pollution scheme marks the death-knell of sustainability in agriculture and food policy and leaves the Government's environmental policy in shreds. Environmental policy must have prevention at its core. The rainbow Coalition Government proposes to spend £1.2 billion on "end of pipe" clean up technology over the next ten years yet it refuses to spend a fraction of that sum on prevention. By turning its back on a credible policy of pollution prevention the Government is undermining its policy aims. Tackling pollution at source is not only good farm policy, it is also fiscally shrewd.

Condemning agriculture to the status of a dirty industry — which is what the Government is threatening — is bad for the environment and disastrous for the economy. Environmental problems will not go away by ignoring them. The economic consequences of pollution are multiplied the further down stream they go. The control of farm pollution scheme was the central plank in a co-ordinated onslaught on farm pollution. Like other on-farm investment schemes it is a grant-aid scheme for capital projects and yields no direct income to farmers. On the contrary, it requires a considerable investment by farmers who want to participate. Grant-aid of between 30-60 per cent on pollution control works to a maximum value of £22,500 and is available to most farmers while on larger farms the maximum grant is 30 per cent on a maximum investment of £45,000.

Modern intensive agriculture is a significant contributor to the growing pollution problem. Farmers recognised this and have been to the fore in seeking a solution. This should be appreciated and welcomed. Credit is also due to farming organisations which have given leadership on this issue, which they could easily have avoided. Heightened awareness of farm pollution comes against the background of a lessening tolerance for anything which degrades the environment. The control of farm pollution scheme, with the rural environmental protection scheme, REPS, represented a serious and integrated solution to a complex problem. These schemes were judged to be vital to the sustainable development of the agriculture and food industries.

The Minister, Deputy Yates, who has not listened to any of the points I made——

He will listen now.

——has abandoned a strategy of sustainable development for the agriculture and food industries against the background of a growing awareness of the problem of pollution. His giant step backwards defies the quality revolution in the marketplace. His refusal to take the necessary political decisions now in terms of his Department's expenditure will give rise to serious fiscal and economic problems down the road. Against this background the contradictory and confusing explanations he has given for his decisions are especially galling.

In spite of having responsibility for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry since 15 December last, it took the Minister until 17 April last to abandon the scheme he now says he never had adequate money to fund. During that time approximately 10,000 farmers applied in good faith for the scheme and made plans and financial commitments on the basis that they would qualify. Why did the Minister delay for so long a decision which he now says was inevitable? His explanations lack credibility. In reality, he played ducks and drakes with the control of farm pollution scheme while he tried and abjectly failed to elicit support in Cabinet or the EU Commission. Did he mention this matter to Commissioner Fischler this morning?

This predicament could be understood if the Minister had not compounded his lack of clout by a complete lack of inclination to take the necessary political action. If funding is not forthcoming elsewhere he should and could find the money within the totality of his resources. His failure to take the tough decisions required highlight the chasm between his rhetoric and reality. The Minister has chosen instead to devote his energies to a farmers' charter which was waste paper before the ink was dry. The frantic chase for photo opportunities does not substitute for leadership.

The control of farm pollution scheme which was designed for 30,000 farmers was shut down with barely 6,000 applicants managing to avail of it. Another 3,000 applicants have been granted the almost theological status of conditional approval. The Minister wants farmers to undertake major works on the basis of a promise from him. He is asking them to ask bank managers for bridging finance. Who does he propose will pay the interest? The agricultural community has a book of broken promises from the Minister, called the farmers' charter.

It is extraordinary that at the same time the Minister was moonlighting as a salesman for the banks he and the Government refused to do the one practical thing which might have improved the situation. The Government should allow in the Finance Bill for an accelerated capital allowance of 50 per cent in the first year for pollution control works. Against a background of a general abolition of accelerated capital allowances, in 1991 Fianna Fáil made an exception for pollution control work on farms. That facility coincided with the previous CFP scheme. Fianna Fáil brought forward a similar proposal on Committee Stage of this year's Finance Bill but the Government, including the Minister and Deputy opposite, voted it down. I reiterate and underline the necessity for such a provision. Because of the Minister's incapacity to fund the CFP scheme, £500,000 for the rural environmental protection scheme is now at risk. This EU fund is designed to enable farmers to adopt environmentally compatible farming methods.

It is the next logical step after the CFP. By the Minister's own admission, 40 per cent of REPS applicants require CFP to be eligible for participation. Administrative chaos has added to a very low take up of this vital scheme. On 12 May last only £7.6 million of a possible £240 million in the present round of funding for REPS has been taken up. The Government is risking hundreds of millions of pounds by its incompetence. Unspent money must be returned to Brussels, and Irish agriculture and the Irish environment will be losers.

The rainbow Coalition's environmental policy is schizophrenic. The Minister, Deputy Yates, is content to allow hundreds of millions of pounds of EU funding for pollution control to go down the Swanee. Alternatively his Cabinet and constituency colleague at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Howlin, promises the panacea of Cohesion Funds to finance his pipe-dream of a sewage treatment plant at every crossroads. If the Minister, Deputy Yates, has his way we will certainly need them all.

The contradiction between spending £1.2 billion on end of pipe technology while refusing to tackle the problem at source is absolute. There has been a significant increase in what is inappropriately termed moderate pollution. The figures will be updated later this year for the first time since 1990 and those figures will outline an increasingly intolerable problem. The public will rightly demand action. The likelihood this year of a dry summer succeeding two very wet ones — and hopefully we will have that — will hugely heighten the likelihood of large fish kills.

There is also the scandal at Ballycroy. People have a right to drink water free from animal effluent. They have a right to immediate access to information. It has been a particularly unhelpful feature of this episode that the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin, has refused to answer questions in the Dáil on this matter on the grounds that responsibility lies elsewhere. It is unacceptable that his Department has refused to reveal the terms of an inquiry from the EU Commission on this matter received on Monday, 1 May 1995.

The situation at Lough Sheelin is worse, and I am sure this subject will be developed as the debate goes on. The Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin, has in his possession an unpublished report from the Environmental Protection Agency. That report from an agency of the Minister's Department says that the loss of phosphorous from agricultural activities and from sewage discharge from Ballyjamesduff is a huge threat to fish stocks. A separate report from Greenpeace showed that domestic water in Granard contained a carcinogenic substance. The Environmental Protection Agency has recommended the export of pig slurry from the area. It has also asked for by-laws to control the amount of phosphorous-containing fertiliser used on the land. The report further insists that local authorities insist on the control of farm waste. Clearly the solution is to control farm pollution at source. The Minister, Deputy Howlin, is unwilling to be open and transparent with the information in his possession. He is adamant, however, that it would not be appropriate or possible for local authorities to undertake works in substitution for those proper to the CFP — in other words, the Minister's Department. They were the Minister's words to Dáil Éireann on 9 May. Government Ministers are not prepared to be open with the public about vital information. The policy of openness and transparency ends at the gates of Government Buildings.

There is mounting concern and anger in communities all over Ireland about the cavalier treatment of their environment. In not appreciating that groundswell of public opinion the Government has made a fatal political mistake. People realise they have only one environment and are not prepared to take chances with it.

The Government's abandonment of an effective pollution policy comes against the background of a worldwide quality revolution. Consumers increasingly demand not only quality in the finished product but quality and integrity in the production process. This, in turn, comes against the background of GATT. World trade has become significantly freer. The quality revolution is not only consumer-driven, it is also the new protectionism. If the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry were more interested or more aware, he would know of the eloquent portrayal of his party colleague, Mr. Peter Sutherland, of the danger of quality standards being used as this new protectionism. It is in our vital economic interests that we guarantee the integrity of our production process. If we cannot, we will not be allowed to bring our goods into the marketplace. The consequences for our main industries, food processing and tourism, would be disastrous.

I have pointed out some of the more obvious consequences of abandoning the CFP. The effects on REPS of abandoning CFP are more immediate. Money spent on the CFP-funded scheme is pumped back into the local economies through small businesses. Requiring a tax certificate, as such businesses do, the Revenue Commissioners would also be a significant beneficiary. As I have detailed already, an appreciable amount, and sometimes most, of the money must be put up by farmers. Additionally, there is the pending catastrophe of the loss of hundreds of millions of pounds in EU money for REPS. Farm income from REPS is taxable.

There is no calculation that demonstrates that it does not make environmental and economic sense to fund the CFP. Farmers have proven themselves genuinely committed to improving their environment. In the brief time allowed, 18,000 asked to be allowed to put their money where their mouths are and to take part in CFP. They probably recognise that not just their future viability but that of entire communities depends on a pristine environment. In a quality focused market the integrity of our production process is vital to the value and acceptability of our product.

The foolishness and short-sightedness of the Government's laissez faire policy is underlined by the inadequacy of the alternative. The billions hoped for by the Minister, Deputy Howlin, to fund his empire of sewage treatment works will not be nearly adequate. Furthermore the vision behind the project is gravely misplaced.

Ministers Yates and Howlin and I share a common constituency, that of Wexford. Wexford County Council has estimated that it would cost £190 million to fund all necessary works. Considering that the new sewage treatment works planned for Ringsend will cost well in excess of £200 million we can begin to appreciate how thinly spread the Minister's solution will be. Pollution problems do not neatly rank according to population density. The Department of the Environment's priorities, however, do. Nothing that is planned in Government expenditure will do anything for many pollution black spots. There will not be even an attempt at prevention.

The problem with the Minister's proposed solution does not end here. It will be the responsibility of the local authorities to fund the running costs of those sewage treatment works. The annual running costs of the Ringsend works will be in excess of £10 million. In County Wexford, if works planned for the towns of New Ross, Wexford and Enniscorthy were in operation the local authority would have to find an additional £250,000 per year. These proposals from a Government that will not enforce collection of local authority charges and refuses to bring forward proposals for local government funding are ludicrous. The one immediate step that would be of definite help — prevention at source — is being ignored.

A pristine environment is what we have been repeatedly promised by the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin. Tackling farm pollution was to be the special remit of his constituency colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Yates. That Minister has neither the clout, the inclination nor the capacity to deliver. Because agriculture has, in Deputy Yates view, drawn the short straw, it is to be condemned to the status of a dirty industry.

Money abounds for other projects. A sum of £60 million was found for Irish Steel; £12 million was found for Shannon Aerospace; £10 million was found for community employment schemes; and the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, could command hundreds of millions of pounds upfront for special social welfare payments. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry cannot deliver.

By shutting down control of farm pollution, the Minister is setting his face against the co-ordinated pollution control policy endorsed by previous Governments. He is undermining the ability of farmers to benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds in EU funding for sustainable development under REPS. He is planning his Department's policy in opposition to the Department of the Environment's attempt to curb pollution. The laissez faire policy of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry is outdated and outrageous. It defies every lesson we have learned in our development over the last 30 years. Environmental costs are real costs. Sustainable development based on an integrated approach to economic and environmental factors is simple business sense.

If the contradictory and ineffective environmental policy of this Government was applied worldwide, we would get deforestation, global warming and a bigger hole in the ozone layer. In abandoning control of farm pollution, the Government has changed sides. It has opted to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

How many cases like Lough Sheelin and Lough Derg, how many poisoned water schemes, how much damage to our environment and our economy must be done before the lunacy of this decision is realised? We have only one environment. We cannot afford to take second chances.

I commend this motion to the House.

I welcome the opportunity to support this Fianna Fáil motion, which is of crucial importance to the agricultural industry. This motion is timely and addresses an issue of serious concern in rural Ireland.

The development of agriculture and the control of pollution at source will be seriously hindered by the Minister's and Government's decision. The seriousness of this issue in County Cavan is demonstrated very clearly by the figures given by the Minister to the House recently. In County Cavan there were 1,048 applications under the control of farm pollution scheme and only 86 approvals have issued. There were 311 applications for the dairy hygiene scheme and only 17 approvals have issued. There were 234 applications for the REPS scheme and only 63 approvals have issued. It is scandalous and totally unacceptable that only 8.2 per cent of the applications received under the control of farm pollution scheme since 1 September 1994 have been approved. To compound this serious situation the Minister suspended the scheme and stated that formal approval of existing applications will cease for the time being.

I wish to emphasise the gravity of the situation facing the farming community in County Cavan from a number of points of view, arising from the Minister's disastrous decision to suspend this scheme. The vast majority of farmers want to control farm waste that contributes to pollution. It is eminently sensible from a farming point of view, from an environmental point of view and from a financial point of view. The scheme is not a hand-out for farmers, it is a scheme that provides necessary assistance towards large-scale expenditure. The majority of farmers cannot develop the necessary pollution control facilities without financial support. A large number of those farmers could be forced out of farming as a result of pollution problems.

I wish to refer again to the position in County Cavan. I mentioned earlier that only 86 approvals issued out of a total of 1,048 applications. Let us bear in mind that this is a deplorable situation in a county where there are heavy retentive soils and 70 per cent of the land is classified as difficult. The high rainfall and the heavy drumlin soils extend the winter period up to seven months. Grass growth only begins in mid-April. West Cavan, in particular, has very heavy rainfall in keeping with the trend in the west, and Clones, which has the nearest meteorological station, records this area as the coldest in Ireland.

Due to the work ethic, the diligence and hard work of the farming community we have an intensive agricultural industry, mainly dairying, pigs and poultry. The stocking density is well above the national average. The longer winter results in the need to provide more fodder, predominantly silage, resulting in more effluent. All these factors combined necessitate the need to provide 50 per cent more storage than would be required in other areas of the country with free draining soils.

There is substantial interest in the REPS scheme in the Cavan area. Due to the factors outlined already, many of the applicants wishing to participate in this scheme would need to carry out farm improvements first, with assistance under the control of farm pollution scheme. Again, the position with this scheme is totally unsatisfactory, only 63 approvals have issued in respect of 234 applications. The very existence of this scheme in areas such as Cavan is threatened by the decision to suspend the control of farm pollution scheme.

I wish also to bring to the Minister's attention the very clear message from a survey carried out by Lakeland Dairies. This survey of 3,000 Lakeland producers, with quotas of less than 20,000 gallons, revealed that 56 per cent of those producers were at very high risk of ceasing milk production. The major reason for this was the poor state of development of on-farm facilities. Some 90 per cent of those farmers surveyed have poorly developed on-farm facilities. There is an absolute need to maintain the milk quota in the north west and north east area and every practical assistance must be made available to ensure that the small-scale dairy farmer has a real future. Obviously the Government and the Minister do not share this viewpoint. Unless corrective action is taken, the Minister's policy will help to accelerate the flight from the land.

I wish to emphasise that the position as it pertains to the REPS scheme, the dairy hygiene scheme and the control of farm pollution scheme in County Cavan is not acceptable. The fact that there are almost 1,000 applicants anxiously awaiting approval clearly shows that corrective action is needed as a priority. Will the Minister indicate why the rate of approvals in the Cavan office is so low? What is the staffing position in the Cavan office? What steps will he take immediately to allay the anger and concerns of the farming community? Those farmers will not accept the present position. I fully support their request to have the backlog of applications approved and new applications accepted.

The farming community in County Cavan wants to tackle pollution problems. We need to develop our tourism industry. In a county that has at least 365 lakes and other major waterways, it is essential that the farming community who want to invest heavily in on-farm facilities be given the necessary financial assistance. Such work generates substantial employment and practically all the inputs are sourced locally.

I support the Fianna Fáil motion and everything that has been said by my colleagues, Deputies Hugh Byrne and Brendan Smith. In County Galway there has been great interest in the control of farm pollution scheme, so much so that up to 27 April 2,630 farmers had made application but only 1,056 were approved. Similarly under the rural environmental protection scheme only 139 applications were approved of a total of 221.

I understand that the control of farm pollution scheme designed to cater for 30,000 farms has been suspended although less than one third of applicants have received approval. This is a source of great disappointment. The rural environment protection scheme has also been suspended except in where an applicant has received approval in writing. These two schemes go hand in hand and their suspension raises major questions. Under the REPS farmers have one year in which to implement pollution measures. Will the Minister change the regulations to give them more time to implement these measures?

The Farm Development Service office in Loughrea has received 700 applications and the office in Tuam 500. The majority of applicants are still awaiting their first visit. It has been suggested in the Farmers Journal that farmers who submitted applications before December 1994 and have received provisional approval will not receive any payment until 1997. This news has shocked smallholders in particular who are prepared to make an investment under the scheme. As Deputy Byrne said, since farmers are being advised to borrow money they should be allowed relief on any interest payable. As they will not receive any payment until 1997 the Minister should ponder the question of whether small farmers will be able to obtain money from financial institutions to make the investment.

The sum of money involved is not enormous. The maximum grant payable is approximately £13,000. As well as protecting the environment the scheme is also sustaining farmers' incomes and creating jobs in the construction industry in the production of tanks, sheds, slates for slatted houses and so on, but because it has been suspended the contractors engaged by farmers will find that there is no work to be done. The State obtains a good return from these contractors and farmers in the form of income tax. Farmers have been told that no further applications will be accepted and that the applications already received will not be processed but kept on file.

Which schemes have not been suspended by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry? If a farmer has not had a plan devised by Teagasc he will not be able to commence work under the farm improvement programme and there is also a question mark over the hygiene regulations. It appears that the only scheme which has not been suspended is the alternative farm enterprises scheme. If one is involved in the business of rearing horses, goats, deer or ostriches one may get the go ahead. Smallholders in my constituency are anxious to proceed but they need the money first.

While other Ministers have been able to secure money for FÁS schemes, Shannon Aerospace, TEAM Aer Lingus and equality payments, the Minister has not delivered and is not fighting on behalf of the farming community at the Cabinet table.

I support this motion. I am amazed that the amendment reads as follows: "Dáil Éireann supports the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry in his efforts to ensure the effective operation of the on farm investment schemes, particularly the control of farm pollution scheme". The best way of ensuring the effective operation of these schemes is by providing grants to those entitled to receive them.

A total of 1,048 applications were received from County Cavan of which 9 per cent were approved while 690 applications were received from County Monaghan of which approximately one-third were approved. Last night I attended a meeting in Cootehill which was attended by two thirds of the 1,400 people who have been left on the sidelines in counties Cavan and Monaghan. They were very angry. Despite the commitment in the farmers' charter that payments would be made within two months farmers who have received approval are now being told that they will not receive any payment for at least two years.

The Minister of State, Deputy Deenihan, spoke about priorities. What are the Minister's priorities? Will priority be given to areas where there is extensive pollution or to small farmers who will be unable to obtain £20,000 from the banks during the next two years to enable work to proceed? There are 12,000 farmers still awaiting approval who will be compelled to spend between £20,000 and £40,000 because of the pollution problems being encountered.

In 1993 Monaghan County Council secured £100,000 for a study by Teagasc. The study found that surface water quality in the county had continued to deteriorate over a 20 year period. A study carried out in 1971 showed that 83 per cent of the Monaghan river channel surveyed was unpolluted — this was comparable to the national average at the time. However, by 1990 this figure had declined to 29.5 per cent while the national average was 77.5 per cent. This highlights the need to continue the scheme in that county.

The report on the 1993 study stated that investment was considered necessary for environmental improvements to facilities for housing wastes and effluents on 65 per cent or 3,500 farms in the county. An investment of £45.8 million was required for slatted sheds, slurry storage facilities, new slurry tanks, repairs to existing sheds and tanks etc. This was a significant requirement not least when it was considered that farmers in County Monaghan had already invested £25 million, £11.7 million of which was provided in grant aid under the farm improvement programmes and the previous control of farm pollution scheme.

The report further stated under the heading "Recommendations" that the county had reached a cross-roads in the sense that too many activities were having a negative impact on the county's environmental resources but that at the same time the continuation and expansion of some of these activities was critical in sustaining the economy of the county. The dilemma for Monaghan County Council was to balance environmental sustainability with economic progress and any solution to this environmental-economic problem had to accommodate certain technical, social and economic realities. The report then pinpointed the incentives to improve waste facilities on farms.

In 1983 not alone were schemes suspended but excise duties were imposed. This wrecked the economy of the area. The poultry and mushroom sectors account for 47 per cent and 12 per cent respectively of the county's gross agricultural output as compared with 4 per cent and 2 per cent of gross national agricultural output. We cannot sustain our present level of development, never mind improve it. Bearing in mind that there are 1,700 people employed in the food industry, which has enormous potential for improvement, this latest proposal constitutes a body blow.

With the agreement of the House, I propose to share my time with you, Sir, and Deputy Crawford, if that is in order.

I am sure that is agreeable.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"Dáil Éireann supports the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry in his efforts to ensure the effective operation of the on farm investment schemes, particularly the control of farm pollution scheme."

The Operational Programme for Agriculture, Rural Development and Forestry, approved by the Commission in December 1994 during the term of office of my predecessor provides for total public funding of over £1,122 million — of which £764 million will come from the European Union in the agriculture, rural development and forestry areas in the period to 1999. When investment in the food sector, provided for under the Operational Programme for Industrial Development is added, total public funding under the Structural Funds in these areas amounts to £1,405 million including £969 million in EU aid.

On-farm investment is one of the priority areas for funding under the operational programme. Other priority areas include general improvements in agricultural structures, compensatory headage allowances in less favoured areas, forestry, farm diversification and research advisory and human resources requirements in all these areas.

Under the National Development Plan it was anticipated that a sum of £245 million would be required for the on-farm investment measures in the programme. However, the actual figure agreed by the previous Government was £195 million with about half of this earmarked for the control of farm pollution scheme. My analysis of the situation at this stage is that there is an under-funding of at least £60 million.

The Minister is in office. These excuses are not good enough.

A further complication in this round of Structural Funds is that the overall financial plan is broken down into annual allocations, unlike the previous round, where the total allocation could be committed at an early stage. The net effect is that funding of the various schemes is subject to review throughout the period rather than in the final years only. The only advantage the new system has is that it enables funds released from cancellation of works to be reallocated at an earlier stage.

A feature of the last scheme was a stop-go element; the scheme was suspended in April 1992 and reopened in April 1993 for outstanding applications. A fairly high drop-out was another feature of the last CFP scheme. Of a total of 37,000 applications received, some 6,500 farmers did not proceed with their applications and a further 7,500 whose applications had been approved failed to undertake necessary works. The Department found it necessary to reallocate funds at a very late stage. I will be constantly reviewing the progress of work under the present scheme to ensure funds are not tied to approvals for work which does not go ahead.

The on-farm investment measures in the programme provide for two new schemes. A dairy hygiene scheme, introduced on 1 September 1994, will assist farmers under 40,000 gallons quota to bring their dairy facilities up to the standards set by the new EU milk hygiene directive. The second scheme, which will be launched during this year, will be a scheme for improvement of animal housing welfare standards in the pigs and poultry area related to maximum stocking densities, building requirements and banning of particular confinement systems. These schemes will make an important contribution to improvement of hygiene and welfare standards on farms. The other schemes, both of which operated in the previous round, are the control of farm pollution and farm improvement programme.

Turning to the farm improvement programme, when I came into office I found it necessary to review the funding allocations for the on-farm investment measures, including FIP. As I already indicated above, the amount allocated fell far short of requirements. In the circumstances I had no option but to narrow the eligibility conditions for participation in FIP and to confine its scope in future to investment in horticulture, an area where capital investment is essential for expansion and which was not catered for elsewhere. The amendment of the operation programme to enable the FIP to apply to the horticulture area only was submitted to the Commission in early April for approval. I expect to receive their agreement to introduce the new scheme shortly. I emphasise that all outstanding commitments on farm plans under the old FIP will be fully met.

There has been unprecedented demand from farmers for aid under the control of farm pollution scheme since its launch in September. In the light of this level of demand and the level of funding set aside for the scheme under the Structural Funds, I was left with no choice but to suspend it on 27 April. From that date no further CFP applications are being accepted until further notice. Similarly, formal approval of existing applicants also ceased on that date.

Since the launch of the scheme last September, until its suspension on 27 April, about 18,600 applications were received. This demand was driven by: the fact that a CFP scheme had not been available to new applications since April 1992; the need for some participants in the rural environment protection scheme to have pollution control work done under the CFP; pressures from local authorities and fisheries boards to address pollution problems and the fear that funds would run out.

By 27 April about 6,000 of the CFP applications received had been approved to commence work. Payments in respect of these applications will be made following completion and validation of the works.

I have been concerned about the impact the suspension of the scheme will have on my efforts to build a modern, environment-friendly agriculture industry. I have, therefore been anxious to establish procedures which would enable as many as possible of the 12,600 unapproved applications currently on hands to proceed with essential work. To deal with unapproved applications, I envisaged granting "conditional approval" to facilitate farmers proceeding with their works on the understanding that payment would be guaranteed but deferred until funds become available.

Does the Minister believe they will?

Therefore, I set up a consultative group involving officials of my Department, farm organisations and other interested parties with a view to establishing priority categories for processing unapproved applications. The group reported to me recently.

In line with the views of the group, I decided to give full approval to processing approximately 220 CFP applications from farmers who had already received the first year's payment under the rural environment protection scheme and who are required, as a condition of REPS, to carry out pollution control works within 12 months. I have decided to give full approval also to applications on hands from farmers who have had section 12 notices served on them by local authorities under the Water Pollution Acts prior to 27 April 1995 and which require capital investment in waste storage. Finally, I have accepted the group's recommendation that the fairest and most transparent approach with regard to the unapproved applications currently on hand is to deal with them on the basis of date of receipt. I am arranging, therefore, for the processing, firstly, of all remaining applications — approximately 3,000 — received up to 31 December 1994. Subject to meeting the conditions of the scheme, such applicants will be given conditional approval in writing to proceed with specified works. The approval will be given on the understanding that payment will be made in 1997.

Live horse——

I am satisfied to give an assurance of payment in 1997, following consultation with the Minister for Finance on bringing forward funds from later years. The conditional approvals will issue on a month by month basis in order of receipt. This will enable my Department to bring into line applications from counties where progress was particularly affected by staffing difficulties in my Department. I should add that good progress with regard to resolution of these difficulties has been made in recent months. The position regarding the balance of the unapproved CFP applications will be considered as part of a further review of the scheme to be carried out by next September. In addition, I will be making a strong case for additional funding under the review of the Community Support Framework which will be carried out by the Commission next year. If additional funding is secured, it will be possible to reopen the scheme to new applicants.

I wish to make some final points on the unapproved applications. It will be clear from experience with earlier schemes that the balance of unapproved applications is probably a fair degree higher than the number of farmers who wish to proceed with work. This is obviously a factor we will be taking into account. Moreover, I understand that farm building contractors throughout the country already have full order books and they would not have the capacity to undertake now all the work which would be involved if all the unapproved applications in the Department received the green light at this stage.

I am very concerned to ensure that the suspension of the CFP will have minimal impact on the participation in the REPS. It is for this reason that I have given the go-ahead for approval of the 220 REPS participants I referred to earlier. I am also making every effort with the European Commission with a view to relaxing the provision regarding the 12 months' deadline for carrying out pollution control works as a condition of REPs. Officials of my Department will discuss the matter with the Commission in Brussels this week and I also raised the matter today with Commissioner Fischler.

However, I must emphasise that the success of the REPs scheme is not solely dependent on the current CFP scheme. For example, the overall situation on grant aid is that, over the last five years alone, some £170 million has been paid to over 30,000 farmers for pollution control works on their farms under the old control of farmyard pollution scheme and the farm improvement programme. Moreover, on the basis of approvals in recent years, a further 3,000 FIP applicants can carry out pollution control works in 1995 working on their existing plans. In addition, considerable numbers have already been farming in accordance with the REPS standards for many years, for example, sheep farmers who do not require CFP work.

It is quite clear, therefore, that there are many farmers with adequate pollution facilities who could now participate in REPS. Surprisingly enough, the overall level of participation in REPS does not reflect the large numbers of farmers who do not have pollution problems. There is no reason, therefore, the take-up of REPS should be significantly affected.

To sum up I believe that the resources available will enable farmers to carry out a substantial amount of pollution control work in the next few years. I am also taking the following action: giving full grant approval to all CFP applications on hands at 27 April from REPS participants and those with section 12 notices who are required to carry out pollution control works; giving conditional approval of an extra 3,000 applications by bringing funds forward into 1997 from 1998 and 1999——

That is a weak response.

——confirming to the banks the fact that these conditional approvals will be fully honoured in 1997; launching a communications initiative to clarify the position for all farmers; reviewing the position with regard to remaining unapproved applications in September; at the mid-term review making a strong case for extra funds. In advance of that, I am carrying out a detailed examination of all other measures in the operational programme to see if any savings can be directed to on-farm investment; and keeping a critical eye on the extent to which approvals already granted — over 6,000 — translate into actual investment. I have already drawn Members' attention to the fact that over 14,000 farmers who made application under the 1989-93 scheme did not proceed for various reasons. We have to be realistic in assessing the actual amount of funding we will need up to 1999 rather than an amount based on what may be an exaggerated estimate.

The Minister failed, he has nothing new for us today.

A number of points were raised in the debate to which I would like to refer. The position in Cavan-Monaghan was raised by a number of Deputies. I acknowledge that people there were badly affected because one district superintendent out of two had been sick for some time. The conditional approvals approach is designed to help counties from which early applications were made but not approved, and Cavan should catch up substantially in this respect. The existing schemes greatly benefited Cavan and Monaghan heretofore in that 870 farmers in Cavan were paid £5.4 million and in Monaghan 1,050 farmers received grants worth £5.3 million. Staffing in the Cavan office was recently improved. The clerical staff have been taken on, and that position will be considered further.

I listened with interest to Opposition speakers in the Seanad and here but no suggestions were forthcoming. When people ask what I have been doing in five months in office——

We know; the answer is nothing.

——are they suggesting I should have suspended the scheme earlier? If so those who have applied would be denied a grant and in the last few weeks 3,000 to 4,000 applications were submitted. If I had suspended the scheme earlier those people would have had no opportunity to apply. I am not sure if that is what Deputies are suggesting.

The Minister gave a commitment two months ago that payment would be made in two months.

I am glad the Deputy raised that point. At the launch of the charter I specifically said there was a problem with the on-farm investment scheme. If the Deputy reads the charter he will see that it states "when operational". The day the charter was launched I knew there were horrendous problems with on-farm investment and no quick administrative procedures would overcome the fundamental problem which is a shortage of money. Anyone present that day knew that a suspension of the CFP was imminent — I made that absolutely clear at the time.

On whether I should have suspended the scheme earlier, I would argue it was best to suspend it at a time when I knew all applications on hand could be paid. Perhaps I should not have suspended it but how can any responsible Minister continue to receive applications in the full knowledge that the requisite money is not available?

The Minister for Social Welfare delivered £210 million.

I spoke today to Commissioner Fischler and he made the position abundantly clear. As any officeholder in the previous Government will know, if it was as simple as getting another tranche of money from Brussels that Government would not have settled for £5.8 billion but would have insisted on £8 billion.

It was that Government that made a hames of it.

Commissioner Fischler queried my raising the issue today in terms of whether I knew that the only questions to arise are lateral movements of money for some schemes that do not have a draw-down. I welcome all positive proposals to take money from forestry, FEOGA grants, headage, the animal welfare scheme or any other area. I have an open mind on this, I am happy to establish priorities and have ordered a full financial review of the matter. People in the real world must understand there will be no more money except in the limited circumstances of the mid-term review if and when Spain, Greece or Portugal do not draw down their nationally agreed Structural Funds. Those countries have no prospect of getting more money in a given area.

There is a shortfall of EU money in all areas and we have to live within the revised amounts set out in the National Plan. I am very willing to deal with suggestions and constructive proposals. I share the points raised by Deputy Byrne and others about environmentally friendly agricultural production.

Is the environment a priority of this Government?

Absolutely, but I must——

I do not know how the Minister can say that because every other Minister seems to be able to get money while he has neither the interest nor the inclination to do so.

Why did Deputy Joe Walsh not get it when he was in office?

The Minister should be allowed to continue without further interruption from either side of the House.

Deputy Connaughton knows the position from his constituents.

Deputy Walsh let us down.

He put on the pressure and got the money.

Let us hear the Minister, please.

One would think listening to the Opposition that this is the first time there was a suspension of a farm investment scheme, whereas all previous schemes were suspended on the same basis.

We are talking about today.

I will talk about today and I will very shortly talk about tomorrow.

The Minister is looking for excuses. We are browned off with excuses.

I must ask Deputy Byrne to desist please.

The farm modernisation scheme, the FIP and the CFP were all suspended at different stages.

Who suspended them? This Government.

In April 1992 Fianna Fáil was in office. The record speaks for itself. Do Fianna Fáil Deputies know the figure that was agreed by my predecessor?

The Minister is in Government now.

Deputies will not like what I am saying. How much money remained——

We have been listening to that for the last three months.

The Minister should be allowed continue without interruption.

I stayed quiet for the Deputy's diatribe. Perhaps Deputy Byrne is not aware that the amount allocated by my predecessor for the CFP was £3.7 million whereas I succeeded in getting the £40 million required. How did the then Minister realistically think that would work? He must have known it was impossible. If ever there was a case of live horse, get grass, that was it.

I have been asked to deal with the position in the context of the money available. What I have done — this is the only fair way to proceed — is to withdraw further full approvals because the maximum amount of money for 1995 and 1996 will be exhausted with existing approvals. I decided to deal with the remaining applications on the fairest basis which is to give conditional approval to those who applied first, those who were discriminated against due to lack of staff in certain counties. We are meeting the banks — I am surprised at Deputy Byrne's disparaging remarks about the efforts of the banks — and we will explain to them that bridging finance will be required for a maximum of 18 months. I have a guarantee from the Minister for Finance that the money will be paid in 1997. We intend to proceed with the conditional approvals.

I welcome the debate, any constructive measures to deal with the matter and any proposal for lateral movement. I will not mislead farmers by pretending there is a crock of gold when there is none. At all times I will act in a transparent way and ensure that farmers have a choice as to whether they want to proceed with the works. I will maximise the number of approvals on that basis.

I would like to hear the banks' response to small farmers seeking loans.

I thank the Minister for sharing his time with me. This debate is relevant because of the serious difficulties facing many farmers. It is an opportunity to put on record the reasons those difficulties have arisen. Like my colleagues, Deputies Smith, Leonard and Boylan. I attended a meeting of hundreds of farmers from Cavan and Monaghan last night. They were extremely worried about their position. As stated, 1,048 applications were submitted to the Cavan office but only 86 were dealt with. In all 890 applications were submitted to the Monaghan office, but only 82 were dealt with.

I congratulate the staff of the Monaghan office on the manner in which they dealt with the matter in a reasonably short time. That is proof of the need for a charter of rights for farmers as announced by the Minister some weeks ago. Every farmer, irrespective of which county he or she lives in, is entitled to the same standard of service. Farmers in County Cavan face a serious problem due to a lack of organisation, staff and the need for a review of the entire scheme.

There is still a great need for pollution control in Cavan and Monaghan. As previous speakers said, those counties have drumlin soil and heavy stock rates. I want to ensure that money is found, from whatever source to deal with the problem. I was amazed to hear some Opposition speakers say this scheme was planned for 30,000 farmers.

Who said that?

I heard it on the monitor in my room.

That is what Deputy Crawford would like to have heard.

I heard two speakers refer to that.

There were 30,000 participants in the previous scheme.

I understand 18,500 farmers have applied, and the average grant is £8,000 per farm. There is a deficit of £50 million. A sum of £100 million, or something less, was provided out of a so-called EU bonanza of £8.8 billion. Those facts are not encouraging. We must realise that the then Minister failed to secure any allocation near the amount he required to fund the proposal put forward last September.

There has been a change of Government since then.

Yes, and I assure the Deputy that I am confident that the Minister will deal with this matter. A year ago last February I was in Opposition——

The Deputy will be back there shortly.

——and secured a promise fron the then Minister that pig farmers in Cavan and Monaghan would be looked after. They were looked after in December within three days of Minister Yates taking up office.

What did he do?

They are back in profit.

I suppose the Minister takes the credit for that and for the weather conditions.

The Minister also looked after the poultry farmers. I want to assure the farmers of Cavan and Monaghan that I will work with Deputies opposite provided they are prepared to put forward realistic proposals. I am not saying we can find £50 million by simply waving our hands. For many months I listened to Deputies opposite tell us how reckless is the Government how it is not controlling its finances and yet some of them who speak at public meetings find it opportune to claim that £50 million or £100 million can be easily found. I will support the Minister to ensure that farmers throughout the country get the opportunity to do their work and this debate is useful towards that end.

I thank the Minister, Deputy Yates, and Deputy Crawford for sharing their time with me. I welcome this important debate and I support the Minister's amendment. I fully support the Minister and have every confidence that he will lead the farmers out of this difficult problem and the trauma they experienced under the previous Administration. This problem did not arise overnight, it was handed to the Minister, Deputy Yates, by the previous Minister, Deputy Walsh, who negotiated the Structural Funds last October through his officials and advisers. This was the card dealt to the Minister, Deputy Yates, who when he realised how little had been provided, had no alternative but to stop approving applications on 27 April. They are the facts.

I attended the meeting in Cootehill last night. The debate was good, but many farmers were confused. I had no difficulty going to Cootehill and meeting IFA delegates. The large turnout indicated that farmers are interested and extremely concerned about their positions. Misinformation will not benefit anybody and we must ensure farmers are given the facts so that they will know where they stand and we can then deal with the problem. If we do not go to the root of the problem farmers will be further confused.

Following a good meeting and much discussion I was amazed that in some instances the picture painted was bleaker than it is. Farmers were told that they would not be paid for another three years, but that is out of line with the commitment given by the Minister that approvals will be issued up until 31 December and farmers will be paid by 1997. That shows that some people add two and two and get five if it suits them, but they are not fooling anyone.

The Deputy is operating the principle that two and two makes two.

From 1995 to 1997 is not three years. Farmers will be paid within two years at maximum and on average within 18 months.

I am aware of the problems facing farmers in Cavan and Monaghan and I acknowledge that the Minister's knows them. He has details of the number of applications and the interest in that scheme because of the problems and intensity of agriculture in those counties. He is also aware of the ability of Cavan farmers to do their work. They do not sit around moaning that there is not somebody else to do it for them as may be the case with farmers in other parts of the country. That is the style of the Cavan people. They have the get up and go mentality and get the job done. They want to know the facts.

I acknowledge the Minister's concern about dealing with the serious problems in the Cavan office which I brought to his attention early in the year. It was then I became aware that a senior official was absent due to ill-health and applications were mounting up in the office. It is unfair that Cavan farmers who had inspections of their farms and were awaiting written approval should be penalised. As they submitted their applications on time and junior officials carried out inspections of their farms they should not be penalised because a senior person was not present to sanction their applications. Had that senior official been in his office those farmers would have received their written approvals, would have been able to carry on with their work and be paid in the usual way. I hope the Minister will consider their position.

Following the meeting last night and the general confusion about this matter, many farmers who submitted applications in October and November asked me if they would be included in the scheme and I told them that they would. They asked if their REPS application would be included and I told them it would be, but that they would have to wait until 1997 to be paid. I told them that was a guaranteed payment and that they could bring that approval to their banks to raise money. They were quite happy with that because they realised that was a good option. Many farmers who do not have the opportunity to apply under the scheme would be pleased to have the option to apply for a 60 per cent grant. I am sure the Minister will consider giving those farmers an opportunity to participate in this scheme as that would be in everybody's interest. No amount of criticism from Fianna Fáil will solve this problem, we want a constructive approach.

I would like the Deputy to introduce me to some of those farmers' bank managers in Cavan.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Ellis, Hughes and Cullen.

I am sure that is agreed.

The Minister has reneged on farmers by suspending the control of farmyard pollution grants scheme. Does he not recognise that his approach to agricultural matters is completely inconsistent? On the one hand, he stresses the importance of a green image of Ireland for the promotion of our food industry and, on the other, he suspends the control of farmyard pollution grants thereby preventing pollution control work demanded by Irish and European Union consumers. The Minister is obviously not serious about promoting Ireland as environmentally green and does not accept that pollution control brings reward in the marketplace.

The control of farmyard pollution scheme has had unparalleled support among farmers who are prepared to make genuine attempts to upgrade their farms. As I am sure the Minister is aware, such improvements can cost £30,000 or more and delay in grant payments will raise the cost through interest payments. There have been 1,190 applications for the scheme in County Clare with only 245 approvals to date. The suspension of the scheme will also slow down the uptake of the REP scheme; it has been estimated that approximately one-third of applicants intend joining the REP scheme in the near future.

Suspension of the control of farmyard pollution scheme will have major consequences for the environment, jobs and the REPS scheme. The IFA and the ICMSA view its suspension, a mere six months into what was supposed to be a six year period, was regrettable; farmers who submitted applications were geared towards dealing with the scourge of pollution. The Government has ignored the need to prevent pollution which can have only a major detrimental effect on the tourism industry.

Does the Minister intend suspending the EU backed agri-tourism and dairy hygiene schemes or the alternative enterprise and farm development programmes? It is ironic that we are debating this tonight following the publication of the Waste Bill. Does that not demonstrate the piecemeal and inconsistent approach to Government policy by a Fine Gael Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry and a Labour Minister for the Environment?

It could be said that the control of farmyard pollution grants scheme has been the victim of its success, but the real victims of its suspension will be the farmers, the food sector, its potential markets and our tourism industry. Will the Minister convince his Cabinet colleagues of the need to release funds for the scheme thereby demonstrating his commitment to the farming community? I cannot accept his defeatist attitude of referring to the lack of money. Surely in such an important industry as agriculture he has a major obligation to fight to secure funds from his Cabinet colleagues.

I am getting a second bite of the cherry on this matter because I raised it on the Adjournment approximately three weeks ago when the Minister of State, Deputy Deenihan, replied.

The Minister must convince his Cabinet colleagues of the need to give him more money for this scheme. I have no doubt he has similar clout to that of the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, and others who were able to secure funding for matters they believed required priority in their Departments.

The Minister suggested that it will be 18 months before farmers approved under the scheme will be paid. Unless the Department is prepared to pay the interest that accrues on money borrowed by farmers over that period, they will lose up to 20 per cent of their grants. As the Minister sought positive suggestions on the matter, perhaps the Department would consider underwriting the interest paid by farmers over the period. Are there funds remaining under the old scheme which could be reallocated to this scheme? It has been suggested that up to £4 million was not drawn down under the previous scheme. As some grant approvals under that scheme will not be paid out, that matter should be investigated.

The reason for the large uptake of the control of farmyard pollution scheme is obvious. For the past two or three winters weather conditions have been very poor and farmers who traditionally out-wintered cattle can no longer do so. The Minister must approach this matter at two levels. I welcome the fact that today he requested the EU Commissioner with responsibility for agriculture to do something about this matter. There is a commitment at European Union level to solving this problem. The Minister's main problem lies with his Cabinet colleagues, some of whom do not share his interest in rural life, something which has been proven already. The Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, committed the Government to spending £200 million this year, probably without his Cabinet colleagues being aware of it. This Minister must let his Cabinet colleagues know he is determined to ensure the necessary money will be provided for this scheme. Expenditure in other Departments is way out of line and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry should not carry the can for colleagues who are not as prudent as he appears to be regarding available funding. If this matter related to TEAM Aer Lingus or other such issues which have arisen in the past six months, the necessary funding would be found.

A total of 18,000 farmers applied for grants under this scheme, only 6,000 have been approved and it is questionable how many of those 6,000 will be able to carry out the necessary work this year. I am sure the Minister is aware there are not enough contractors to carry out the necessary work this year for the number of applicants approved under the scheme and in October or November he will discover he has more funds available than he thought possible.

It is pointless asking people to control pollution and then informing them that to obtain funding under the REP scheme they must erect the necessary buildings without providing the required funding which, if the Minister puts pressure on his Cabinet colleagues, he could secure. Despite what the Minister may say, many farmers who are in the process of preparing their REP scheme applications will not have the work carried out. I appeal to the Minister to inform his Cabinet colleagues that this issue is as important as other issues for which money was provided.

The Minister said nothing that would signal hope to the many farmers awaiting approval under this scheme, and many more, mainly in the west, who have not yet applied. In County Mayo, because of satisfactory staffing levels, there has been a high level of application and approval in respect of the control of farmyard pollution scheme, but there has been a low level of take-up in respect of the REP scheme. The farm development services are encouraging farmers to apply for the REP scheme. There are large areas of commonage in most western seaboard counties and it is desirable that farmers stock them sensibly.

Debate adjourned.