I thank the Deputy for raising this very important issue. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has no involvement in the regulation of peat extraction. As the Deputy outlined, this issue crosses several Departments. My Department does not have an involvement in the regulation of peat extraction. This is a planning process under the remit of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and an integrated pollution control, IPC, licence process under the remit of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
As regards the future use of peat moss in the horticulture sector, which is of significant importance to us in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, on 7 September 2020, the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Noonan, published a report on the review of the use of peat moss in the horticultural industry. The review report was prepared by an inter-agency working group following on from submissions from stakeholders. After the publication of this report, the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, proposed the establishment of a working group to include representatives from relevant Departments and State agencies, environmental non-governmental organisations and industry stakeholders under an independent chairperson to examine the issues identified during the review. In this respect, the working group will address the key issues raised in the report, including future use of peat by the horticulture sector. The independent working group sent an interim report to the Minister of State at the end of May for his consideration. The Minister of State and his officials are currently examining the report.
In addition to these developments, I, as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for research and development, along with my ministerial colleagues, am actively looking at alternatives to peat. I have overseen the funding of two research projects to date and recently sought to ensure further research is conducted here to explore alternatives to peat-based growing media for horticultural production in this area in our latest research call for 2021. These alternatives must be available, affordable and sustainable and meet quality as well as environmental requirements, as I am sure the Deputy will agree.
It is an important issue for us. It is of huge concern to everyone in both the amenity horticulture and mushroom farming sectors. I have no doubt but that it is an issue of great concern in the Deputy's constituency, as it is in mine. It is one on which we are all determined to work together to find a solution.