Written Answers. - Land Commision Annuities.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

102 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if he will make a proposal to Government to introduce a similar scheme to the 1993 buy out scheme for all Land Commission annuity payers which allowed them to buy-out their annuities at a discount of 50%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4710/00]

I have no proposals to introduce a further buy-out scheme. The 1993 buy-out package consisted of three elements: write-off of annuities of less than £20, an option to buy-out the annuity at a discount of 50% of the outstanding capital provided any arrears were also paid, and where the buy-out was not accepted and the annuity rate was over 10%, the arrears were capitalised and added to the outstanding capital and the annual amount payable was reduced.

When that package was introduced, 42,500 farmers were paying annuities, of whom 19,000 benefited from the write-off and 12,900 paid £10.3 million to avail of the buy-out concession. The number of farmers now with annuity liabilities is just over 7,000.

I am concerned at the high number of these farmers who are in arrears with their annuities. Where there are genuine difficulties my Depart ment is prepared to be reasonable. Where it is found that the annuity is excessive relative to the earning capacity of the farm and the family circumstances, the arrears are capitalised and the annuity is reduced to a more reasonable level. On the other hand, if the farmer can afford to pay, the annuity will not be reduced and, in such cases, warrants are sent to the county registrar for enforcement against the farmers.