Other Questions

Afforestation Programme

Richard Boyd Barrett


37. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is satisfied that current afforestation rates are sufficient in view of the requirement to significantly expand climate change mitigation measures as part of commitments under the Paris climate accords; if current rates of felling are negating the already low level of afforestation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41676/17]

There is a lot of lipservice paid to the commitment to deal with climate change but often not the radical action that is required to actually do something about it. Nowhere is that more true than in the area of forestry. What practical plans have we got to significantly ramp up the afforestation programme from its current pitifully low level? We are planting only approximately 6,000 ha a year against an official target of 10,000 ha. There is a pitifully low level of forest cover in this State.

The Deputy should come and live beside me. It is all trees.

These are the actual figures.

Planting figures for 2015 and 2016 combined actually exceed the targets set out in the forestry programme 2014-2020. The Department is involved in a detailed mid-term review of that forestry programme and is engaging with stakeholders in its development.

It should be noted that each year the Department has provided sufficient budget to fund the stated afforestation targets. However, as we are all aware, there is intense competition for planting land driven by a number of different factors, not least expansion in other agricultural sectors and this is affecting demand for the afforestation scheme.

I am convinced that forestry remains an extremely attractive option for landowners and can serve as a complementary income stream for farmers. This is because the Department funds 100% of the cost of establishing the new forest and guarantees an annual premium of up to €635 per hectare payable each year for 15 years, tax free. Forestry is also compatible with other agriculture schemes and farmers can continue to receive their basic payment on land which is also planted.

I recognise the importance of ensuring that the benefits of the schemes are clearly communicated and well understood by landowners. I have established a group jointly consisting of the Department, industry and Teagasc to specifically examine the marketing and promotion of the schemes and this group has met twice already, as recently as yesterday. This group will come forward with a series of initiatives in the very near future on communicating the benefits of forestry to farmers to ensure that landowners are considering forestry as a viable land use option on some or part of their land.

On the subject of deforestation, as the Deputy should be aware, under current legislation forest owners require a felling licence before felling can take place and where clearfelling is undertaken a condition of this felling licence is that the site must be replanted. In a small number of cases, deforestation is allowed but these are rare and exceptional circumstances, the reasons for which are set out in my Department's felling and reforestation policy document. Examples of situations where forests might not be replanted after clearfelling include overriding environmental reasons or for the erection of ESB lines. Therefore, given the exceptional nature of these activities, I do not believe that clearfelling is negating the overall level of new planting that is taking place across the country.

We used to have a target of 17% of forest cover from the current position of 11%, which is one of the lowest in Europe. The average forest cover in Europe is 30% but we are at a pathetic 11%. Previously, the target was to reach 17% by 2030. Now that has been pushed out to 18% by 2045 because the Council for Forest Research and Development, COFORD, said that in order to reach those targets we need to be planting 10,000 ha a year, minimum, with a sustained yield. We are averaging approximately 6,000 ha. The Minister of State says it might go up as high as 7,000 ha this year. That is still well short of the 10,000 ha. That is against a pathetic failure to meet the targets we need to meet if we are to get anywhere close to those further targets. There is anecdotal evidence, which needs to be examined, that felling is happening too early. It is happening at 20 years rather than best forest practice of between 35 and 50 years. If that is happening, even the afforestation that is taking place is being undermined by felling too early which will also slow down our ability to meet the targets.

Can the Minister of State confirm that the ESB imports 40,000 utility poles a year? We cannot even provide poles for the ESB, another indication of our failure in this area. That is how poor our forestry sector is. What will we do to ramp it up?

I agree with the Deputy's point about the premature felling. It is probably not 20 years but 25 years. Teagasc and the Department have jointly rolled out several initiatives. There are Talking Timber events to make people aware of them and the forestry felling tool on the Department's website which indicates the volume increase which equates to value increase if the farmer leaves the plantation alone or thins it at year 25 and leaves it to year 35. This optimises the climate change mitigation capacity and the investment by the State in the afforestation programme. There is an acute awareness of the need to do that. Farmers have tended not to be experts on forestry and that is why we are trying to make them aware. Teagasc is rolling out a series of clinics over the autumn. A total of 40,000 people connect with Teagasc on training programmes. That is part of its continuing awareness campaign.

I welcome the fact the Minister of State has acknowledged that point and the need to address this but our approach to this issue needs to be more robust or aggressive. We are still falling way short. We are completely underutilising public land that could be developed and that would not be useful for other purposes. The McCarthy report suggested that Coillte has 0.5 million acres that might not be suitable for narrowly commercial forestry but in terms of long-term forestry to meet climate change targets and so on, it is just sitting there and could be used. We should be examining those 0.5 million acres. Are motorways planted? We should consider other land that is not being used for other things. Are we planting it? Have we got a plan to get up to the 10,000 ha of planting?

There are young people in my area who are so exercised about the issue of climate change that they have gone to the local council and said they want to get out and plant trees. We need programmes to encourage that kind of initiative and the use of public land as well as trying to encourage and incentivise farmers.

I come from a county that has almost 18% cover and I am aware of its value notwithstanding some of the issues and the sort of impressions people have. There was a good focus in last week's Irish Farmers' Journal showing some of the economic and environmental benefits.

We must eliminate the fear factor for landowners so that they can look at options for their land and assess its value. Then they can consider whether, for example, if they plant one variety, it will yield them an income that they can use to enhance the rest of the land. We need a change in the mindset. The Deputy said that parts of Europe have an average of 30%. Someone who is a forestry owner or owns land for forestry is called a farmer over there. It is almost a signal of failure here, and that is something we must address, although I do not suggest that can be changed overnight. The target is 18% and it is to be used as part of our effort to combat climate change and is something on which the Government will focus, no matter who is in it.

Question No. 38 replied to with Written Answers.

Legislative Process

Pat the Cope Gallagher


39. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017 in view of the fact the voisinage arrangements between zero and six miles are part of the London Convention and will no longer apply in Northern Ireland waters once the two years UK withdrawal notice expires in July 2019 and in view of the fact that the United Kingdom has served notice in July 2017 that it is withdrawing from the 1964 London Fisheries Convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41518/17]

Where stands the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017 in the context of the voisinage agreement? There are only three questions on the marine before the House today, of which I tabled two. We should take the opportunity of having a brief exchange on the national challenge we face, namely, Brexit.

As the Deputy is aware, on 27 October 2016, the Supreme Court issued a judgment in a case taken by a number of mussel seed fishermen. In the judgment, the Supreme Court found that fishing by Northern Ireland boats within the zero to 6 nautical mile zone of the territorial waters of the State under the voisinage arrangements is not permitted by law.  The voisinage arrangements are long-standing reciprocal arrangements which have allowed fishing boats from Northern Ireland access to fish within the zero to 6 nautical mile zone of the territorial waters of the State and vice versa.

It is important to note that the Supreme Court upheld the High Court finding that the voisinage arrangements are not invalid but that, as it stands, there is insufficient provision for them in domestic law.  The Supreme Court in fact noted that the arrangements were a sensible recognition at official level of practice and tradition, where fishing boats traditionally fished neighbouring waters.

The Government approved the publication of the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill to address issues raised by the Supreme Court judgment, in so far as it relates to access for Northern Irish vessels.  If enacted and commenced, the Bill will give the voisinage arrangements a proper legal footing.  The Bill was published in February 2017 and is available on the Oireachtas website. The Bill has commenced debate in the Seanad.

In July 2017, the UK Government formally announced that it is leaving the London Fisheries Convention. The action by the UK in announcing its withdrawal from the 1964 London Fisheries Convention was not unexpected.

The convention deals primarily with access rights to countries' 6 to 12 nautical mile zones and many of these are also included in the Common Fisheries Policy.   Article 2 of the convention precludes countries from fishing in another country’s 0 to 6 nautical mile zone. However, Article 9 of the Convention gave countries the option to come to arrangements with their neighbours to allow access inside the 0 to 6 nautical mile zone if so desired.  This was the basis for the voisinage arrangements.

The UK Government had been intimating its intention to withdraw from the convention for some time.  It is nonetheless unwelcome and unhelpful as it suggests a signal of the UK intent to take a hard line on fisheries in the context of Brexit.

The UK has stated it wants to retain the voisinage arrangements element of the London Fisheries Convention. It remains to be seen if it can legally do this. On the all-island basis, however, there is still merit in reflecting on an all-island approach to these matters.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Ireland will have to reflect on all relevant issues in the context of Brexit negotiations.  I am actively engaged with my fellow European Ministers to keep Irish fisheries concerns on the EU agenda and to ensure that fisheries are not isolated in the overall negotiations on a new EU-UK relationship.

I accept all that but the Minister is referring to history. I asked him where the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill stands now and his plans to see it through the Seanad and back to the Dáil. Since the Minister first introduced the Bill, the situation has radically changed. As he said, the UK announced it would be withdrawing from the London Convention which had to be done two years prior to Brexit. We have an obligation, even though the Bill is before the House, to continue dialogue with the various sectors. Even since the debate in the Seanad, and subsequent debate in committee, there is a better understanding. It is in everyone's interest that this is resolved, and more dialogue is necessary.

We will not have a proper opportunity to discuss the broader matter of Brexit in this question but it currently operates in a vacuum. There are many ponderables and there is a complete lack of certainty about many things. It is one of the greatest risks to Irish fishermen. When we talk about Brexit generally, we do not often hone in on fisheries, but it is a serious and major challenge. I know the Minister has had a number of meetings but is this dialogue with the industry continuing? Is he working closely with other maritime states in the best interests of Ireland and does he accept that it must be linked to trade?

The fisheries sector is probably the most exposed to a hard Brexit. As the Deputy will be aware, over 60% of mackerel, which is our most valuable area of fisheries, is caught in what would be termed "UK territorial waters". Our second most valuable area of fisheries is prawns, and the percentage there is over 40%. In terms of value, over 50% of the entire industry is caught in UK territorial waters. We have had extensive engagement which continues. Last week, for example, when I met the National Inshore Fisheries Federation, which is the umbrella body for the regional inshore fisheries forum, it was particularly interested in the voisinage side of things. On the broader matter of fisheries in the context of Brexit, we have been very involved in working with like-minded member states which are equally disadvantaged by the UK decision to withdraw. These member states include Spain, France, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, which all have an exposure to the UK territorial waters to a greater or lesser extent. We have very clearly said, and the Deputy made this point in his question, that we do not want the fisheries negotiations of Brexit conducted on a silo basis, where it is fisheries today and broader trade tomorrow. We want the fisheries to be part of the broader trade context - in other words, if the UK wants access to the EU in order that its financial services be passported there or if it wants to sell cars into the EU, part of the quid pro quo will have to be continued access to UK waters for our fishing industry.

A national response to this challenge is essential and all must work together. Deputy Creed, as Minister, has to head this up. Most of our mackerel is caught off the west coast of Scotland where there is good quality early stage fish. Of course, we will catch them as they move down but they will be a much smaller mackerel, it will be much later in the season and will attract a much smaller price. Provenance is also a major issue. It is vitally important.

We are working with like-minded countries. Some of those countries may be able to survive but if we do not get a fair and reasonable deal, I do not think that our industry will be able to survive.

I spoke to Michel Barnier when he was in the House and to Guy Verhofstadt in Brussels last week, and when he was here. Both agree that the issue must be interlinked. It is the only way it can be done. We must use all our political muscle in Europe to secure a fair and equitable deal for Irish fishermen. Where is the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill at the moment?

The Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill is in the Seanad. It has not concluded its Second Stage debate there. It must be said there is considerable political opposition to it. When the minority Government cannot get sufficient support for the legislation it raises the question of whether the Bill can pass. It should be borne in mind that it is one of the areas that was identified in the Good Friday Agreement as an area suitable for all-island co-operation. Furthermore, the boats in the Republic are under that voisinage arrangement and are still legally entitled to fish in Northern Ireland waters. If an Executive was in place in Northern Ireland, it would be particularly helpful because it might lead to a more rounded debate on the issues.

On another matter in the context of the overall negotiations on Brexit, while I continue to engage with ministerial colleagues in the like-minded member states, I mentioned earlier that the officials in my Department also continue to work with their counterparts, continually refining and updating our position and feeding into the Barnier negotiating team. I am satisfied there is a clear understanding of the extent to which we will be disadvantaged in a hard Brexit.

Animal Welfare

Mattie McGrath


40. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the costs incurred by his Department over the past four years in the seizure of animals, specifically horses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33110/17]

I did not bring any script in case the Minister becomes confused or mixes up his own pages. What is going on regarding animal cruelty?

I wish to know about the money the Minister's Department, and not the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment or any other Department, has spent in the past four years regarding the seizure, impounding and hosting of animals, especially horses, that are neglected and abandoned, and in some cases totally mistreated and left seriously injured. A motion will come before the House this evening and it is very appropriate the question is being answered now.

The Control of Horses Act 1996 provides powers to local authorities to deal with stray and abandoned horses. To date, my Department has provided funding of €4.3 million to local authorities for horse seizures for the period from 2014 to 2017. Local authorities are asked to make every effort to recover all costs associated with horse seizures and ensure they are achieving the best value through the public procurement process.

The number of horses being seized nationally continues to decline, from 4,923 in 2014 to 2,128 in 2016 and 878 to date in 2017. My Department's contribution to local authorities is reducing year on year, from €2.3 million in 2014, €725,000 in 2016 and €426,000 to date in 2017. This reduced funding demand is reflective of a number of factors, including initiatives being progressed by my Department in the animal welfare area. This includes active enforcement of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 and the EU equine identification regulations, which have resulted in the removal of a number of abandoned, welfare-compromised and unidentified horses throughout the country in the period from 2014 to 2017 at a cost of almost €320,000. Department officials have been directly involved in a number of horse seizures and have initiated prosecutions under the Animal Health and Welfare Act.

The number of horses slaughtered for human consumption continues to increase due to greater compliance with equine identification legislation by the organised horse sector. Almost 33,000 horses have been slaughtered for human consumption in the past five years. Horse exports have increased substantially too in recent years, helping to bring about a much greater balance between supply and demand. In addition, animal welfare charities have been rehoming an increasing number of horses abroad.

The increased emphasis on rehoming of horses is being assisted greatly through my Department's funding to animal welfare organisations. A total of €2.46 million has been paid to 137 organisations to assist their work in animal welfare in 2017. A number of these are actively involved in rescuing and rehoming neglected horses. My Department also provides funding to local authorities to support the development of urban and Traveller horse projects in their respective areas.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

To date, funding of €866,273 has been drawn down across several local authorities, including a contribution of €500,000 to South Dublin County Council for the Clondalkin Equine Club, the opening of which I officiated at earlier this year, and funding for Kildare, Kilkenny, Longford, and Leitrim projects. These projects focus on education and create awareness of compliance with animal welfare regulations, thereby reducing numbers of straying horses. My Department continues to stress that it is the responsibility of individuals to ensure the welfare of horses in their ownership and-or their care and to dispose of them appropriately. My officials continue to work closely with local authorities and animal welfare organisations in dealing with the issues which necessitate seizure of horses.

In August, I asked the Minister and the Department to consider introducing more effective penalties to deal with the mistreatment and abandonment of horses. I spoke after the Minister told me in a reply to a parliamentary question that the Department had spent €4.5 million. Today, the Minister has said it is €4.3 million so €200,000 is missing. This is with regard to the seizure and control of horses in the three year period from 2014 to 2017. I do not know why the Minister cannot keep the figures the same as he told me the last day. Local authorities have been engaged from 2008 to 2016. It is farcical. We have a very proud equine record in Tipperary, as the Minister knows and I am sure he often has a flutter. We have very prominent racing horses. We have to deal with this issue. It is an underbelly and it is happening.

I am aware of a very serious situation at present, and I asked the Minister a question about it back in August. It is with regard to a horse who was totally mistreated. This horse had travelled the world to England and America and back again. It fell into criminal hands. It was then abandoned in a boghole in Littleton and taken away by animal rescue people. It has been treated but is not yet back to full health. The Department told people where the horse was and is insisting it be handed back to the same people it came from. Where is the tagging? Where is the traceability? We have to have it in all aspects of farming. Why can we not have it for these horses and these people?

On the individual case, the Deputy is aware we have engaged in considerable correspondence with him on that individual matter. Whether in the area of equine matters, puppy farms or conventional farming of cattle, sheep or pigs, the Department has a commitment to the highest levels of animal welfare, and that reflects what society would want. For this reason, in 2013 we considerably updated the legal framework within which the Department is able to prosecute people who breach those standards. It is an appalling sight to see, particularly for people who come from an agricultural background who are the first to be offended by signs of animal cruelty. Concern about animal cruelty is not something that is the preserve of any particular sector in society. Farmers are the most committed to the highest standards of animal welfare. The horse has a particularly strong position in Irish society. The Deputy made reference to Tipperary, the home of the thoroughbred racing industry.

Nobody wants to see any diminution of our standards. We have the legal framework now. We are prosecuting more people now. We are working with more voluntary bodies now and delivering funding in all of those areas to address this issue. I am satisfied that while there will always be an individual case which will make the headlines, we are doing everything possible and financial resources are not the constraining factor.

I do not accept the Minister's answer good nor bad. Farmers as we all know are excellent at animal husbandry and they are caring, and they are penalised severely with traceability and everything else. We have seen sulkies driven by horses that tumble upside down on the road and the horses are left there for dead and dying. It happened in Cashel this year, it happened at Horse and Jockey last year and it continues to happen. A blind eye is being turned here because in this case, this particular horse travelled the world and was exploited for money, and when it was no more good it was left in a boghole where it lost its foal and nearly died. Now, the Department is part of a prosecution and wants the person in the sanctuary, who is very sick and traumatised because the criminal gang who had the horse know where the horse is, to hand it back with no fines or penalties. A blind eye is being turned by many agencies to what is happening in this area.

Not a week goes by when I do not get an email or contact about sulkies and the abuse of horses on the roads. Some people are exempt but farmers are not. They must be traceable and rightly so. We must be traceable and proper about all animal husbandry and they are, as the Minister said himself, but there is an element out there who can do what they like with their horses, including mistreating and abusing them, and then abuse the people who try to bring them back to health and mind them, who are animal loving people who get no support from local authorities. The animal welfare places get little bits of grants every Christmas.

The Deputy's time is way over.

I know it is, but we need to wake up here and see we must have fair play for everybody who treats an animal and everybody who mistreats an animal.

There is nobody beyond the law in the context of animal welfare issues, be they sulky racers or anybody else.

That is not true.

I can assure the Deputy there is nobody beyond the law.

I know differently.

On the issue of what is the most appropriate way to deal with the issue of sulky racing, I have been on the old Cork to Dublin road going through Limerick-----

Yes, that is what I am talking about.

I have come across sulky races and their entourage hogging the main thoroughfare. It is quite a sight to behold and a dangerous one. Local authorities have an issue in terms of by laws and a role to play. Anybody who is found guilty or is suspected of the maltreatment of animals, be they horses in sulky racing, will not find a hiding place in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and I can assure the Deputy of that.

They are and they have.

Agriculture Scheme Eligibility

Charlie McConalogue


41. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will include in the financial assistance scheme farmers who lost grain crops, potato crops or second cut silage crops or had farm road networks destroyed in the County Donegal flooding on 22 August 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41679/17]

This question is to ask the Minister if he will include in the compensation scheme announced for those farmers affected by the very severe and unprecedented flooding in the Inishowen area on 22 August farmers who have lost grain crops, potato crops or second cut silage crops or had farm road networks destroyed. With regard to the response, and the Minister mentioned the script earlier to Deputy Mattie McGrath, we are aware of what is in the scheme and we appreciate those who are covered. This question specifically focuses on those who are excluded and asks why they are excluded and whether the Minister will include them because it is unacceptable that they are not included.

As the Deputy may know, I visited the Inishowen Peninsula with my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, following the exceptional rainfall of 22 August to see at first-hand some of the very significant problems that a number of farmers faced as a result. I committed during my visit to supporting these farmers, and my Department, in conjunction with other State agencies, moved swiftly to offer practical solutions to those affected.

In the aftermath of the flood I prioritised the availability of support by means of the animal welfare helpline, which gives guidance on protecting animal welfare and safety, in addition to responding to urgent requirements for emergency feed provision. Staff from my Department as well as Teagasc were in the area. Teagasc provided advice to affected farmers in dealing with the immediate challenges that arose.

From my experience of visiting Inishowen, together with the findings of my officials and Teagasc, it was clear that the principal and most widespread impacts of the floods on farms in the Inishowen Peninsula centred on damage to land, fencing, fodder and livestock. To address these pressing issues in the most effective manner I introduced a targeted measure of assistance.

Support under this measure will apply to losses of livestock, conserved fodder of hay or silage and as a contribution towards the clean-up cost of agricultural lands, including repair to fences damaged by debris washed up by the floods.

The measure will be subject to the provisions of EU de minimis state aid rules in the agriculture sector and only losses not covered by insurance will be eligible for consideration.

While it is not possible to address all of the problems that unprecedented rainfall caused on farms on the Inishowen Peninsula, this measure is a most comprehensive, timely and appropriate response to the main difficulties farmers had to deal with. It closed for the receipt of applications last Friday, 29 September. Applications will be processed as quickly as possible.

The Minister had a go at Deputy Mattie McGrath earlier for using a script. Specifically, my question is whether the Minister will include those who are excluded. They include farmers who have lost potato crops, cereal crops and second-cut silage and those whose farm road networks have been extensively damaged. There is no rational explanation as to why the Minister is including some and excluding others. The flooding, severe as it was, did not discriminate in who it affected or the types of farmer on whom it had an impact, yet the Minister in his scheme is excluding certain farmers. For example, one farmer lost 40 acres of barley, which is entirely unusable and was wiped out. He is excluded from the scheme. Others lost potato crops, while others lost second-cut silage. Why is the Minister excluding them? Can he give us an explanation? There has been no rational explanation for the exclusion of farmers. No one should be left behind. The Minister is leaving behind farmers in dire need by not including them in the scheme.

It is fair to say no compensation scheme ever compensates in the order of 100% of all those affected for damage inflicted on them. I visited the area and saw at first hand the damage caused. I walked the land and saw carcases of livestock, particularly sheep, that had been lost in the flood. I saw bales of fodder that had been transported long distances by the flood and fencing that had been damaged. We made what the Government believes, on the basis of the analysis it had made, to be the most appropriate response. When we consider the debate we were having in the House this time last year on the effects of adverse weather on grain producers, we must determine the most appropriate response. In the context of the next CAP, for example, it may be appropriate to explore instruments used in other countries, including an insurance model for farmers dealing with crop losses, etc., that arise in particular circumstances. There is no proposal, however, and the scheme, as approved by the Government, is now closed. There is no proposal to extend it to anybody else.

There is simply no defence and the Minister has not given one. He has given no explanation as to why he is excluding farmers. He has not at any stage attempted to give a defence. The best argument he could mount was that we could never cover 100% of all losses or 100% of farmers. The reality is that, in a number of cases on the Inishowen Peninsula, the Government is covering 0% of farmers' losses; they are entirely excluded. They have experienced a massive loss as a result of the flood, the same as anyone else, but that is not being recognised by the Minister. With no justification, they are being entirely ignored by him and left to fend for themselves. The Minister was in the area. I ask him very specifically for his reasons, but he has no answer. He is leaving farmers behind. While 90% of them are included, why is the Minister ignoring the 10% who are being left to fend for themselves, some of whom have experienced the most severe losses? It is entirely indefensible, but it is not too late to change the scheme. I urge the Minister, on the back of the motion last week directing that what I propose should happen, to reopen the scheme and include the affected farmers in it.

It is not possible to say definitively that, because of the level of rainfall on 22 October, second-cut, first-cut or third-cut silage was lost. Neither is it possible to say definitively that floods caused 100% of the losses, as the Deputy tried to convey. We are not compensating anybody in the order of 100%, but we are compensating for the loss of livestock, fodder and fencing, as well as damage caused to lands. These were substantially the issues that were reported and that I saw myself.

Why is the Minister ignoring and leaving behind some farmers?

Because one cannot state definitively-----

-----that because of heavy rainfall on the day in question-----

They were surveyed. The Minister is just ignoring them.

-----somebody lost the second cut of silage entirely. That is not simply the case.

Beef Exports

Joe Carey


42. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress made in opening and developing new markets for Irish beef; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41664/17]

Against the backdrop of Brexit, identifying opportunities and securing business in a diversified range of markets have never been more important. I have put forward this question to establish the work that has been done to open and develop new markets for Irish beef.

My Department is always conscious of the need to gain access to new third country markets for the beef sector and improve and widen the existing levels of access that we enjoy. This was a central component of the Food Wise 2025 strategy and has been a key part of recent trade missions.

Ireland gained access to the US market in 2015, making it the first EU member state to do so and we also enjoy access for beef intended for grinding. Ireland has been granted equivalence by the USDA in terms of its systems, which is a very significant achievement.

The promotion of Irish beef was a focal point for the trade mission to the United States and Mexico in June. While there, I announced the approval by the USDA of the process verified programme for labelling Irish beef as grass fed and reared outdoors. Irish beef is now on sale directly in retail for the first time in the USA. In Mexico I officially announced our intention to seek access for beef and there was significant engagement between experts at a technical level.

China is a very high priority for beef market access and significant progress has been made. In August my Department hosted an audit visit from the Chinese Certification and Accreditation Administration which undertook a series of plant inspection visits in order to assess the applications made by Irish beef processors to gain access to the Chinese market. Feedback form the audit team was broadly positive and we are awaiting the official report on its audit visit.

My Department has also hosted visits from two delegations from South Korea in the past two years in connection with our market access application. The most recent was in June and I intend to raise the issue of our beef market access application during my forthcoming trade mission to the country in November.

The beef sector received a boost at the beginning of 2017 with news of the reopening of the Egyptian market to Irish beef. In Saudi Arabia beef access has been expanded to include minced beef, cooked beef and processed beef as part of the trade mission earlier this year. We have also negotiated positive changes to the veterinary certification for beef to South Africa and Singapore, which has broadened access and opportunities for exports. We are actively pursuing opportunities to gain access in a number of other countries, including Vietnam and Ukraine.

Live exports have also been a significant feature in 2017, providing for a much needed balance in the marketplace, and to date in 2017 amount to some 157,000 head.

I welcome the progress made. Our beef exports to third countries represent only 5% of the total. Therefore, there is significant room for improvement. It is welcome that we have opened up markets in the United States and Mexico. I welcome the progress made in China and South Korea and also on live exports which I view as a very important market for us. I encourage the Minister to make further progress in that regard. Has he further plans in place to expand our markets? Has he trade missions in mind for the coming months and years? We need a sustained effort to market and promote our beef abroad. In Germany, for example, that has been done and one can see the improvements. I would like to hear from the Minister on this issue.

Notwithstanding Brexit, the United Kingdom will always be an important market. It takes in excess of 250,000 tonnes. It is important to say we are not walking away from that market. My Department and Bord Bia have put a lot of effort into securing the foothold we have in that market. Businesspeople will always seek the market that pays them best. The Deputy is correct that 50% of our beef goes to the United Kingdom. Most of the balance goes to mainland EU member states, with in the region of 5% going to third country markets. That reflects where the best price opportunities are available. The function of the Department is to make sure we open as many markets as possible. Thereafter the industry leverages one against the other to secure the maximum price, thereby, in theory, delivering the best opportunities to the primary producer.

In that context, we are working in the UK market. We hope to go on a trade mission to Japan and Korea later this year. Live exports are a critical export of the industry and are up, I understand, in the region of 45% in 2017.

Greyhound Industry

Thomas P. Broughan


43. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the process that takes place when a racing greyhound tests positive for banned substances; if he is reviewing that process in view of recent test results in the racing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41227/17]

Many people were shocked during the summer when the champion greyhound Clonbrien Hero tested positive for benzoylecgonine. It seems the only sanction for the owner is a significant withdrawal of prize money and the fact the dog will not be allowed to race again until it has passed further tests. What is the process when a racing greyhound tests positive for banned substances? How is the process being monitored and enforced? Are we doing enough testing?

Bord na gCon is a commercial State body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, chiefly to control greyhound racing and improve and develop the greyhound industry. While the issue referred to by the Deputy is an operational matter for Bord na gCon, it has informed me that, pursuant to the greyhound industry racing regulations 2007-2017, when a racing greyhound returns an analysis result for a prohibited substance the owner and trainer are notified as soon as is practicable. In addition to publishing adverse analytical findings, Bord na gCon also reports the findings to the independent control committee, pursuant to the greyhound industry regulations 2007-2017, with a request for the committee to investigate and determine the matter as provided for in legislation.

Since 1 October 2015, greyhounds returning an adverse analytical finding for prohibited substances are prohibited from further racing until the greyhound is re-sampled and a subsequent analytical result is determined to be free from any prohibited substances. Bord na gCon has informed me that, as part of its commitment to greater transparency in the area of anti-doping and medication control, it introduced secondary legislation in 2015 to provide for the publication of all adverse analytical findings in greyhound samples and to ensure the publication of the outcome from all cases before the control committee. These publications are published in the regulatory section of the board’s website.

In addition, in 2016 the board introduced secondary legislation to provide for the mandatory maintenance of record keeping in respect of the use of all animal remedies and veterinary treatments for all greyhounds eligible for racing. In addition to this secondary legislation, Bord na gCon officials are now authorised to sample greyhounds out of competition at the premises of owners and trainers, whether or not greyhounds are in training. Bord na gCon has frequently exercised this new testing regime as part of its integrity management.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I intend to introduce a new greyhound industry Bill in the autumn which will address the governance of Bord na gCon, strengthen regulatory controls in the Industry, modernise sanctions and improve integrity with a view to building a reputation for exceptional regulation in the sector. The draft general scheme of the Bill has already progressed through the pre-legislative scrutiny phase and a memorandum will go to Government in the coming weeks requesting approval to publish the updated general scheme and to submit it to the OPC for drafting.

Is it true the Department's special investigations unit was not immediately alerted to the positive tests of Clonbrien Hero, which was reported by the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation? It complained that there was not an immediate report. Some 80% of racing greyhounds in the UK are Irish dogs and because there a belief in Britain that there is widespread doping here the UK has begun mandatory testing on imported Irish greyhounds. There is a serious issue.

The Minister of State will remember that in March this year our great broadcaster, Sharon Ní Bheoláin, and her "Prime Time" team aired its famous programme, "Gone to the Dogs", which put the spotlight on doping and poor regulation in the industry. At the time of the Clonbrien Hero announcement, the IGB confirmed that there had been eight other adverse findings in June and one in July. What about the other months? Why are there not quarterly reports? The IGB said it tests between 5,000 and 6,000 dogs a year. Can we have more clarity and transparency?

I intend to introduce a new greyhound industry Bill in the autumn which will address the governance of Bord na gCon, strengthen its regulatory controls in the industry, modernise sanctions and improve integrity with a view to building the reputation of the industry. The draft general scheme has already gone through pre-legislative scrutiny. The report from the joint committee has come back and the Bill is currently being drafted. It is to be hoped a memo will be sent to Government for its publication very soon.

Approximately a year ago Bord Na gCon invested in a new state-of-the-art analytical system which allows for the detection of substances, including anabolic steroids, at very low levels in samples taken from greyhounds. Very low levels of drugs are now detectable. To be honest, some of the samples which are now showing positive for drugs would not have so tested until the machine was installed. It is all part of a greater effort to improve and enhance the reputation of the industry by putting in stronger controls and monitoring of all animals.

I thank the Minister of State. As he knows, we will discuss an animal welfare motion later. Has he given any more thought to the Welfare of Greyhounds (Amendment) Bill which I introduced and integrating it into the Bill he will bring forward to regulate the industry? It included a white list of countries to which we should not export our dogs under any circumstances.

That will not form part of the Bill, but many of the other issues covered by the Deputy's Bill which we discussed during the last session will be incorporated into the new Bill. The report from the joint committee which carried out pre-legislative scrutiny is on the Oireachtas website. Members here were part of that. It deals substantially with integrity and governance, in particular.

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

Brendan Smith


44. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the discussions he has had with the EU Agriculture Commissioner and the EU Budget Commissioner in regard to the need to protect CAP funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41645/17]

A very strong, clear message needs to go out from all of Government and the Minister to our European partners that there is a need for an increase in CAP funding post-2020. CAP has been very successful in ensuring a secure supply of safe food for the citizens of Europe. It is essential to support rural communities. As the Minister knows, it is essential to support primary producers and sustainable methods of food production. We have to start a very strong campaign now that under no circumstances can there be a reduction in CAP funding and that we need an increase in funding post-2020.

I am in regular contact with the Commissioner, Mr. Phil Hogan, and my European counterparts in regard to maintaining a strong CAP budget post-2020 and my position on this issue is well known. I met the Commissioner most recently at the end of August and again re-iterated the need for a well-funded CAP.

Regarding the Commissioner, Mr. Günther Oettinger, and the Commission’s final reflection paper on the future of EU finances, published on 28 June 2017, I am keenly aware of the potential implications some of the proposals within this paper would have on future CAP funding. The paper contends that economic strength, sustainability, solidarity and security must be focal points for the EU finances of the future and that future budgets needs to be simpler and more efficient and flexible. This is a principle to which Ireland can subscribe.

However, the paper outlines five possible funding scenarios, ranging from continuing with the current reform agenda to radical redesign, with the consequential effects on EU expenditure and revenue. Some four of these scenarios point to a potential reduction in the CAP budget. The paper also refers to a number of options for managing a cut in CAP funding, including reductions in direct payments to farmers, the provision of farm supports only to those under special constraints, and a requirement for member states to co-fund direct payments, which currently are 100% EU funded.

Such proposals would have a significant adverse impact on the economic sustainability of farms or impose a significant additional burden on the Exchequer, especially given that many livestock farm incomes in Ireland would be negative without direct payments. The certainty and stability the direct payments provide to farmers cannot be underestimated, as has been evident during recent market crises. Cuts in CAP could also have a negative impact on efficiency and investment on farms, with knock-on impacts on food processing and associated sectors and the rural economy generally.

It is worth noting that the amount of CAP funding per member state for Pillar 1, direct payments, and Pillar 2, rural development, is fixed until 2020 in regulations of the Council and European Parliament. Any change to these figures will require a co-decided amendment to these regulations.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The Commission was expected to come forward with proposals for the new multi-annual financial framework for the period 2021-27 by 1 January 2018. However, due to Brexit and other pressures, this is not likely to happen now until mid-2018. While formal discussions on the multi-annual financial framework have yet to commence, I support the retention of a strong and well-funded CAP and my position on this matter has been articulated at official and political level and is well understood by the Commissioner, Mr. Hogan, my counterparts in other member states and in the Commission. I will be working hard with my European counterparts to ensure that the CAP budget post 2020 provides a solid and effective foundation for the continued development of the agrifood sector.

I do not think we can highlight enough the importance of direct payments which account for two thirds of farm income, as the Minister knows. It is extremely important not just for the farming community but the entire economy, in particular the economy of rural Ireland.

Again, the importance of CAP cannot be over-estimated or highlighted enough from the point of view of sustainable food for the citizens of Europe and indeed markets much further afield. We all know we would like to see improvements in the governance of CAP and in some of the arrangements but what we need to focus on at the moment is the quantum of money that will be available for the budget post-2020. I know, and the Minister knows better than any of us in this Chamber, that there are competing demands and there are people at different Councils in Europe, be it at Heads of Government level or other ministerial Councils, and at parliamentary fora as well outlining the need for additional funding for defence and migration so we do not underestimate the challenge that lies ahead regarding increasing the funding for CAP. I would focus very strongly on the quantum of money that will be available for CAP in general as well as the other issues we would like to see regarding simplification, etc.

I concur entirely with the Deputy. Since its inception, CAP has shown itself to be an extremely flexible and adaptable policy, not just in terms of its original objectives of delivering food security for Europe after the Second World War. It has evolved substantially since then to meet environmental concerns, the sustainability of our production systems and the public good in the area of biodiversity, water quality, etc. Notwithstanding the fact that Europe, as identified in a number of reflections in this area, faces many new challenges that were not dreamt of at the time its founding fathers met to pen the Treaty of Rome, new challenges require new money. The Government's position is not to raid a successful existing policy instrument of the EU to meet those new challenges. In due course, we may well have to meet and consider who funds it. Nobody is putting his or her hands up at the moment to take a penny less or put in a penny more but if we are serious about CAP, that is something we will have to address at another stage.

I hope the Minister can give us an assurance that all of Government will back him fully in identifying the need to increase funding for CAP post-2020 and that whatever Council of Ministers is identified by members of the Government will be totally supportive of the need to increase funding for CAP in the next round.

The Government is entirely committed to an adequately funded CAP post-2020. There are questions as to whether it will slot in immediately after 2020 because of complications arising out of EU budgetary contributions to CAP. Notwithstanding that, it is clearly our position that Europe faces other challenges but other challenges require new money. It is not our position to raid the existing CAP, which is delivering in spades not just in terms of food security, quality and traceability but also sustainability and a host of other public goods. The taxpayer gets exceptional value for CAP and it is our clear position that this needs to be adequately funded post-2020.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.