Written Answers. - Grant Aid.

Noel Treacy

Question:

144 Mr. N. Treacy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the reason he agreed to the termination of EU-funded grant-aid (details supplied) for Irish draught mares and foals; if his attention has been drawn to the effects of this situation; if he will sanction replacement grant-aid; if so, the date on which this will be done; the amount of grant-aid to be allocated in 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9281/97]

In November 1988, the Minister for Agriculture and Food announced a national programme for the development and servicing of the non-thoroughbred horse industry. This programme included an Exchequer funded scheme which was to run for the five year period 1990-94 and which involved the payment of a grant of £400 to the breeder of each pure bred Irish Draught foal registered in the Irish Horse Register. The purpose of this scheme was to maintain a viable Irish Draught nucleus population. That the scheme was successful is evidenced by the fact that in 1994 727 Irish Draught foals were registered in the Irish Horse Register as opposed to 137 in 1988.

A foal registration incentive scheme was one of the measures included in the Operational Programme for Rural Development 1989-93 to assist the non-thoroughbred horse industry. This programme was co-financed out of Structural Funds. The scheme provided for the payment of £150 to the breeder of each foal registered in the Irish Horse Register or in the Connemara Pony Stud Book subject to a maximum of five grants per breeder per annum.

The purpose of the scheme was to encourage breeders to register their foals in accordance with EU policy. The number of foals registered increased between 1988 and 1993 from 2,626 to 6,582.

As these schemes have achieved their purposes I consider that their reintroduction would not be justified. However the non-thoroughbred horse industry is at present being supported through a range of schemes under the Operational Programme for Agriculture, Rural Development and Forestry, 1994-9.