Written Answers. - Cattle Schemes.

James Leonard

Question:

53 Mr. Leonard asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if he will seek to have the terms of the 1995 suckler cow premium reviewed in the case of applicants who only have cows but included Friesian cows in their applications and who find that not only are these animals deemed ineligible but that they are debarred from the scheme for two years. [19242/95]

James McDaid

Question:

79 Dr. McDaid asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if he will seek to reduce the two year debarment clause to one in respect of the EU suckler cow scheme where Friesian cows were applied for in view of the hardship being caused to farmers. [1130/96]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 79 together.

In the reform of the CAP introduced in 1993, eligibility for the suckler cow scheme was confined to cows of beef or predominantly beef breeds. Farmers were, however, allowed a two year transition period to meet this requirement. Therefore, in 1993 and 1994 farmers could be paid suckler cow premium on cows belonging to non-beef breeds such as Friesians up to the total number of suckler cows on which they had been paid premium in 1990 or 1991 and provided those cows had been inseminated by bulls of beef breeds.

From 1995 the revised eligibility rules applied in full. Farmers were informed by the Department that only suckler cows of a beef or predominantly beef breed were eligible for suckler cow premium. Where a farmer openly applied in 1995 for suckler cow premium on a Friesian cow, the only penalty applied was that for the animal in question the premium was not paid; full premium was paid on the remaining eligible cows.

There was a significant number of 1995 suckler cow applications where an animal declared by the farmer as a Friesian in previous years was shown as a beef breed. In all these cases the following procedure was followed: (i) an onfarm inspection was arranged to see whether the animal was a Friesian or belonging to a beef breed; (ii) if the animal was found to belong to a beef breed, it was accepted for payment; (iii) if the animal was found to be a Friesian and to have been declared by the same farmer as a Friesian in previous years and there was no possibility of the animal being confused with one of a beef breed, the applicant concerned was ruled out of the scheme for two years as a result of the deliberate false declaration involved. The EU Commission advised my Department that no lesser penalty could apply in such a case. In case of dispute after such an inspection a second inspection by a different officer was arranged; (iv) if the animal was found to be a Friesian and had been declared as such by a previous owner in an earlier year's suckler cow application but where the cattle identity card moving with the animal to the new owner showed it to be of a beef breed, then that animal alone was rejected for payment of the premium with a consequent reduction penalty on the premium payable on the remaining eligible cows.
My Department has taken a very reasonable line in the situations I have described and my officials have in all cases checked the position on the ground to ensure that no farmer is penalised incorrectly.