With regard to the presentation by the Monaghan executive of the IFA, I welcome Mr. Seamus Traynor, Mr. Thomas Thornton and Mr. Rory Deasy, vice president of the IFA, to the meeting. There are a number of other members in the public gallery and they are all very welcome. Before asking Mr. Traynor to commence his presentation, I draw witnesses' attention to the fact that while members of the committee have absolute privilege, the same privilege does not apply to witnesses appearing before the committee. Members are reminded of the parliamentary practice that members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against any person outside the House, or of an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I call on Mr. Traynor to make his presentation.
Monaghan IFA: Presentation.
Mr. Seamus Traynor
I am assisted today by the deputy president of the IFA, Mr. Rory Deasy, Mr. Ger Gunning from rural development and Mr. Thomas Thornton and Mr. Sean Greenan, both from Monaghan IFA.
County Monaghan has been hard done by in the last round of surveys regarding severely handicapped areas. In 1972, part of County Monaghan was considered eligible for classification as severely handicapped. At that time "severely handicapped" was considered to be mountain region or bog lands. However, as is usual, some of the best land in County Monaghan was allowed into the severely handicapped class.
In 1989, a survey was carried out of the whole county. It was a 50% survey but some of the survey was not satisfactorily undertaken because only dairy farmers were at home full-time and it was mostly dairy farmers who were surveyed. Small beef and sheep farmers who were only part-time were away at work and were not surveyed. The result of the survey was published in 1992 with County Monaghan having most of the county included in the severely handicapped class but some 27% omitted.
An appeals panel was set up to investigate why Monaghan and other parts of other counties were not included. The appeals panel consisted of Professor Seamus Sheehy, Mr. John Donnelly, then president of the IFA, and Mr. Dan McCarthy of the ICMSA. The result of the appeal was that all of counties Galway, Longford and Cavan qualified as severely handicapped areas. County Monaghan was excluded and no additional land was included.
Our campaign has been under way since then. As a result of appeals to the Department, we met with the then Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Deputy Davern, and, at a later stage, the then Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Deputy Ó Cuív. Nothing was forthcoming from these Ministers. We contacted the Department of Agriculture and Food and had several meetings with Mr. Michael Scullion, a Department official. He agreed to review the Monaghan case as he considered that it had been badly treated in the appeals process.
The county should have benefited more from the appeals process. Therefore, in 1997, Mr. Scullion agreed to put forward to the STAR committee a further 11% of the county land which had been left out. The STAR committee agreed with all that Mr. Scullion had put forward. However, with regard to the 11%, most of the good land went in while most of the bad land remained ineligible. Of the 16% of the land still left out, 9% to 10% has qualified since the start but, owing to the famous phrase, "contiguous blocks of land", Monaghan is still considered ineligible.
I now call on Mr. Greenan to present aspects of a survey we carried out through questions in the Dáil as to why different townlands are not allowed forward.
Mr. Sean Greenan
On the map we brought to aid the committee, members can see the townlands which qualified on the first day, those that were added at a later stage and those which have always qualified but do not go in for different reasons, mostly because the land is not contiguous with the qualifying area. We have picked out 19 townlands where non-qualifying townlands are prevented from joining onto qualifying townlands because of other lands in between. Members have been supplied with the names of the 19 townlands which formed the basis for the survey we carried out in that area detailing the number of farmers, the acreage held by each individual farmer and the number of people surveyed in each townland. This was put together from written parliamentary questions in the Dáil and the map was developed from those answers. Our survey was then carried out on the ground in those 19 townlands.
Members will see that the biggest farmer had 44 acres and his land is kept out on the basis that he is over the income limit of 60% of national earnings. When the information is sorted and understood properly, it does not make sense. In Drumlinney A and Drumlinney B, no survey was carried out but we received an answer for those two townlands that they were kept out due to an income limit. We cannot see how that is possible as no survey was carried out in those two townlands. In Liscumiskey, the farm acreage ranges from 25 to 11 acres, yet two farmers surveyed were kept out due to the income limit.
We are talking about small farms of a few acres in wet, poor quality land. The survey carried out at the time was never used to actually find out what qualifies or does not. It is the same story for those surveyed in Derrykinnard, Dundrennan, Lyslunchan, Losset, Tonagh and Drumuck and for the second Drumuck townland about three miles from its namesake. The farms range in size from nine to 24 acres, yet it was said in the survey that they were kept out because of the income limit criteria. This was also the case in Cornaglare, Gortakeegan, Camla and Ardagheykill.
Ardagheykill stands out because there are 123 acres of forest and 17 acres owned by Lord Rossmore, which is a public park, yet the results of the survey show that two farmers were surveyed in this townland. We on the ground cannot find these two farmers in this townland, let alone know how they were surveyed. The reason given for excluding this townland is again the income limit. The situation with regard to Tullygillen, Bannaghbane, Bannaghroe and Derraghlan is the same. The area contains small farmers in each townland with between one and three farmers supposedly surveyed; the criteria always seems to be the income limit.
Mr. Thornton has a few points to make with regard to the Department's survey and I will make another few points subsequently.
Mr. Thomas Thornton
The average survey on townlands was 24.5% and it should have been 50%. We were told every second farmer was surveyed. We cannot understand how two farms were surveyed because there are 140 acres, of which 123 acres are forestry and the remaining 17 acres are part of a golf course. Only one man lives in Bannaghroe. He has 15 cows and has no other interests, yet he was the only one surveyed. Drumlinney was not surveyed at all and it keeps out six surrounding townlands that meet the criteria. Liscumisky was surveyed at 12.5% and Tonagh was surveyed at 33% with no other enterprises. Together, they keep out 20 townlands that qualify. Derrykinnard is the largest holding with 32 acres and there are no enterprises. This survey does not add up. In Lyslunchan, the biggest farmer has 47 acres and that farmer milks 15 cows, yet only a 16.6% survey was carried out on that townland.
Two townlands were included the last time, including one with two dairy herds and a milk quota of almost 300,000 gallons. We cannot understand how it was included the last time because it is not far from the area we are talking about. Losset was kept out with a 20% survey. Dundrennan does not have one good acre and has no other enterprises but it had a 50% survey, which says much about the survey. Drumuck got 16.6% in the survey and Losset got an 18% survey and together they are keeping out 12 townlands that qualify.
One man has two farms in two townlands. The poorer land is included while the better land is not. These 19 townlands together keep out 70 townlands that already meet the criteria. We believe action needs to be taken immediately if only for the sake of fair play.
Members might have to flick through our survey on the ground. The townland of Losset was surveyed and found to be stretching away. By that we mean it is attached to ground that qualifies but stretches away in a finger shape making it ineligible. This townland is surrounded by four townlands that fully meet the criteria.
This L-shaped finger townland and the four orange townlands that surround it have already met the criteria. They say it cannot be included because it is stretching away. Drumlinney A and Drumlinney B were kept out on the income limit, yet they were not surveyed at all. The point we are making, and the reason we are making it about these 19 townlands, is that they are keeping all the townlands in the orange out. The sense that we can make of this is that these townlands were kept out in order to keep the rest of the townlands out.
In another townland, we feel the income limit was used as an excuse to keep us from complaining. The reason we say this is that in Gortakeegan only one man, Tommy McArthur, was surveyed. He has the results of his survey with him today. He has in the region of 121 acres with 24 cows and 23 weanlings. It takes 121 acres for him to keep 24 cows and 23 weanlings - that is what the ground would support - and yet they have told us that it was kept out because of the income limit. Most of Lyslunchan was purchased from the Land Commission by farmers in the 1980s. Water levels in this area are about eight to ten inches below ground level in summer. The land cannot be drained. There is no farm in the townland capable of making over the income limit. The Land Commission had leased out the land for 15 years or so and partly distributed it to a few small farmers in the area, one of whom was my father, with the result that I now have land in this townland. The reason it did not qualify was because of the income limit. I cut second-cut silage on 12 acres in that townland and made 39 round bales when I should have been getting 10 bales an acre as a fair crop. I cannot drain part of that land and I cannot even get a tractor in on it a day after a dry month.
Parts of the county that have been included from day one are Smithborough and Carrickmacross. These areas are the home ground of two of the Deputies of that time and comprise the best land. We believe that the parts omitted were of a far inferior quality and would not have had the same enterprises as, for example Smithborough, which is home to Grove Turkeys, which meant that many local farmers in the area had poultry enterprises on-farm. Carrickmacross is highly regarded in our area as having some of the best land in the country. We have some photographic evidence of the land that is deemed to not qualify if members wish to see the pictures.
As farmers in the area who have been omitted, we feel that we have been dealt an unfair hand. We feel that, having researched the problem, we have proof that we have been unlawfully omitted. We should be included immediately and our entitlements backdated accordingly.
A Department of Agriculture and Food official told me that the reason Monaghan was not put into the severely handicapped area has to do with sheep subsidies. At the time, sheep were the only animal drawing a premium and a farmer outside the more severely handicapped area was getting £5 per head, whereas a farmer in it was getting £20 per head. The official told me that it was in everybody's interest at the time to put the townlands that held the sheep farmers into the more severely handicapped area. We were left out because if all of Monaghan had been included, parts of Donegal would have been omitted. That is fair to whomever it is fair to, but it is grossly unfair to us. We have now suffered for 30 years and every time we get answers, they do not make sense. The written answers we are getting to questions asked in Dáil Éireann do not add up.
I thank the committee for facilitating us in bringing our case to its attention. It is not today or yesterday that this occurred. It has been a festering sore for many years and it would be in all our interests if we could get it fixed. I wish to clarify that this is not an extension because it is already in the disadvantaged area anyway - it is a classification. As one who has walked many of those townlands, I can verify that my wellington boot has been often left behind me. I have sank up to a foot in many areas. It would not be an exaggeration to say snipe find it hard to walk on the ground, let alone a man of my weight or substance. I could not see how this area could not be classified as severely disadvantaged. From my 50 years on this earth I know something about the land. When it comes to the quality of this land, there is no earthly way it could be put into the disadvantaged category and not into the severely disadvantaged category.
Monaghan was the first and, I think, the only county to officially acknowledge and award the Minister's Trojan work during the foot and mouth disease crisis. This shows that the people of the county are quite prepared to call a spade a spade and acknowledge work. They have a grievance which they want the Minister to address. It is contained in our submission to Government under the new PPF that is being negotiated. It is still in it. Even at this late stage of negotiations, we are not going to take it out. There is only a small number of farmers affected but in our view it is a grave injustice that is being perpetrated against them. It is not that a huge amount of money is required. Various figures have been mentioned but we have estimated the figure at a little more than €100,000. The Government side put it at something more - up to €200,000 - but whatever amount is involved, if there is an injustice, it should be remedied.
The land is disadvantaged, as Deputy Crawford knows well. The work done at local level is a testimony to the people's belief in their cause. I have supported them and will continue to do so, as will the IFA. There are many other areas that need to be reclassified or were hard done by but the whole organisation believes in this cause. That is the reason it is included in the programme for Government. The land is so poor, wet and soggy - it is rushy land - many farmers would find it very hard to scratch a living out of it. To be given this further handicap is unjust. We ask the committee to consider the case and will gladly try to answer any questions members may have. My mind is clear, as are those of my fellow County Monaghan members. We have a case that stands on its merits, as was shown on the map.
Mr. Ger Gunning
County Monaghan is part of the BMW region and this severely disadvantaged area is part of the Connacht-Ulster constituency. The surrounding counties, including County Cavan and those across the Border, all have the highest status of disadvantaged area. Mr. Deasy pointed out that the cost would come to about €100,000, of which about 50% would be paid for under the CAP rural development plan of the European Commission. The opportunity has never been better than this year because the rural development plan is under review. Part of the plan includes disadvantaged areas. It is up to the Government to make the case because the Commission will not go through it in huge detail. The criteria have already been met for inclusion in the disadvantaged areas - it is a question of an upgrade. The task is not as onerous as that of having a new area included for the first time.
I thank the Chairman for giving members of the group the privilege of coming in to put their case. It might be said they will not gain much by it but they have tried in every way possible to make their case through deputations and so on and this is one further effort.
I live in the middle of the area and my own farm has recently been partly classified. The area has been totally discriminated against. I make no apology for saying this. It took me a number of years as a Member of the Dáil to get the Minister to answer questions and it was only when we started to get those answers and I was able to feed them back to the IFA that it was possible to put together the map that shows clearly how badly farmers in the region were let down.
I know the fields that Mr. Deasy walked in the townland of Liscumasky, which I have mentioned in the Dáil many times. The townland is just a bog, yet people are expected to graze cows and make a living. It is impossible to believe Drumlinny, especially, has held out so much of another area. I also want to mention Freame Mount, on the County Cavan border along the main Cootehill to Monaghan road. Almost any year but especially one like last year the townland is half covered in water. It was left out, although County Cavan marches one side while the other two are marched by land that has already been included. The whole system used by departmental officials and their advisers is questionable.
I make no apology to the IFA delegation for questioning its role in the independent group set up. Mr. John Donnelly, representative of County Galway, was the IFA delegate but there were also others from the ICMSA, among others. It was hard to understand how the top quality land in County Galway could be included while areas such as my own, Aghabog, or Corcaghan, could be left out.
I thank the Chairman for agreeing to my request for the group to be brought here. My colleagues, Deputies Timmins and Tom Hayes, are unfortunately involved in another meeting they scheduled some time ago, although they did hope to be here. I can assure the delegation that the Minister discussed this in Brussels and it was referred to the STAR committee to discuss the other part left out, part of County Kilkenny. I urge this committee to ask the Minister to resubmit the proposal to have this area included through the STAR committee or by whatever means in order that this injustice can be righted. The people concerned are rightly asking that the inclusion be backdated but even if it is not, a step forward will have been taken. Today, because of the change in criteria for disadvantaged area payments, the difference is not as big as it was. This would have been worth hundreds of thousands of pounds down through the years to these farmers before the disadvantaged area payments were changed to area payments. Now it means somewhere between €100,000 and €200,000. The money involved is minimal but the injustice is still there.
I thank the Deputy for his kind remarks. I was delighted to be able to facilitate him.
I also thank you, Chairman, for meeting the delegation from Monaghan and facilitating these people. The case has been very well put by our guests. They are all very welcome and we are delighted they are here to represent a very worthy cause. They have put their case very well and I can say without fear of contradiction that it is a very true and fair report of the circumstances in Monaghan.
There is no question that the worst land in the county has been left out of the scheme. In the review in 1992, 27% of Monaghan was left out, including the worst land in the county. Some of the best land around Glaslough and Carrickmacross was included in the first tranche in 1989. It baffled everybody that the whole of the remaining 27% was not included in 1997. Some 16% was left out and 11% included. We have been shown the map and the criteria upon which this was left out. It was not a green part of the county. The survey was carried out by Department officials from the land project office. They were perhaps not all from Monaghan but were all from the region. As we saw in the presentation, the 11% was left out on the basis of income limits.
The land should have been included because of the number of small farmers in each townland. This is there in black and white. All of the local Oireachtas Members visited this land in February and saw it at first hand. I did not have to be told about it and neither did Deputy Crawford. We have known this land for years and it certainly includes parcels of the worst land in the county. I support the case made today and I know that you, Chairman, will certainly bring the case put forward by these men to the Minister. We will all support you in that. This is the last straw and the people who live in these areas are frustrated. They work hard and do their best to rear their families. It is very difficult for decent people to see much better land being included while a severely handicapped area is excluded.
There are men behind me in the gallery who are very angry, and rightly so. I join Deputy Crawford in asking you, Chairman, to bring the case of these people to the Minister. Hopefully something will be done at this 11th hour.
We will certainly do that.
I hope not to be repetitious but I compliment the representatives on an excellent presentation. The map is a work of art and shows the clear need which exists. The use of the word "contiguous" in this context is bureaucracy at its worst. Somewhere along the line a bureaucrat has made a mistake and is not going to admit it. It will be particularly difficult to get the bureaucrats to come back and admit they made a mistake.
If the same presentation was made at the level of the Labour Court or another court, the case would be won hands down. This is the sad part of the case. It is just a single case and we cannot get people to deliver or listen as a result. I know the land in question. I recall going up to Corcaghan creamery one evening and meeting a delegation. They would have taken us to whichever townland we chose and we chose one at random. We were brought to it and shown that the land was mole drained. This was not to put heavy bullocks out on it but free-range chickens.
Mr. Deasy mentioned that the land is not fit for snipe, but the snipe on that land are very safe because one would not be able to walk to shoot them it is so bad. That is my abiding memory of that land. If people have any doubts whatever they should visit the area in question.
One member of the delegation mentioned that he was in a particularly disadvantageous position in that he had to keep in his cattle all year round. He could talk to his colleagues in the south where silage trailers where hopping off the ground, yet his cattle were inside for 12 months. It is a severe disadvantage.
The sad part is that people in the Department will tell you privately that the land does meet with certain criteria but the word "contiguous" debars them from going any further. One is almost blackmailed into not touching this issue on the grounds that it will upset an apple cart somewhere else. The message is to leave things as they are and lie down and take it. The sad fact is that, as some research has shown, about €100,000 a year would rectify the problem in this small tranche of land. Even worse, 50% of that money would come from Europe. We are talking about small nine acre or 24 acre farmers who have to go out to earn a few bob and literally keep the land alive.
I have looked at the chart and the information on it and nobody can argue with it. If people wish to argue with it, however, they should feel free to do so. One can only suspect that the person who did this survey must have done a lot of it from old ordnance survey maps or in a back kitchen at night. Maybe that is an unfair accusation to toss out. It is very frustrating and one has to wonder about the national spatial strategy and various different plans. At times, I wonder if the authorities are trying to drive farmers off the land.
I read some press releases lately outlining how suckler producers are owed €45 million and livestock producers are owed €50 million. One has to wonder about what is being done to farmers. This case should be re-submitted and somebody should take a serious look at it. It is a small amount of money and a genuine case.
I also welcome members of the deputation and commend them for their presentation. I apologise for the absence of our party leader, Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who is in the House and is unable to be here. He has asked me to convey his support for their case.
I know the area, if not intimately, from driving through it. The photographs that were distributed adequately reflect the delegations presentation. In particular, what I find disturbing is the fact that the water table is only eight inches under the surface and if that does not qualify something is wrong. I also find it disturbing that, even in the appeal procedures, that was not rectified. That an official can give a reason it was not done is disgraceful. The farmers are either entitled to it or not and there is no doubt from the presentation, from what I have seen, and what has been put before us today, that they are entitled to it. For an official to say that is admitting they are entitled to it but it is a trade-off and it is wrong. An injustice is being perpetrated against these farmers. Obviously, this committee could ask the Minister to re-submit through the STAR committee so that this injustice would be redressed. I fully support that and I will give the deputation any help I can, and I wish it success in its efforts. It deserves it.
I welcome the deputation and I am pleased with the presentation it made. We are so used to high-tech modern technology now that it was great to see a simple, truthful presentation of a situation aided by photographs which tell a thousand stories. Looking at the farmers and the acreage involved tells us that there are many small farms. Few of them have more than 50 acres and even in good land today one would want to get a lot with 50 acres to make it viable. I do not know this countryside except to pass through and see it from a car but I would support the deputation's cause. There is no doubt the case has been well made and that this committee should go to the Minister and seek to have the case reviewed for these men. I support their case.
Deputy Wilkinson has said it all for me. The case was compelling, the delegation has done its research well. The evidence seems to stand up clearly and the only thing for the committee to do is ask the Minister to have the matter revisited as a matter of urgency because it appears an injustice is being done to the farmers concerned.
I, too, welcome the delegation and compliment it on its presentation. I have a couple of questions. When the survey was done was there any type of intensive farming such as fowl and pig production, or even grain growing in any of the townlands? That would come into the criteria. It was evident from the photographs that no grain was growing. When the committee forwards its recommendation it should be also pointed out that a precedent has been set in that several surveys have been done and areas have been brought in. Deputy Crawford would know if that is correct. I can see no reason the Department in its submissions should not get that brought forward. The precedent has been set and precedent is important.
I apologise to the delegation for being late, but there was a vote on the Order of Business in the Seanad. I did not hear the verbal presentation the delegation made and I apologise for that. I have looked at the written submission and quite frankly I have some difficulties with it. I will ask Mr. Deasy one question. The survey included representatives of the farming organisations of that time, if my memory serves me correctly. I think Mr. Donnelly from the IFA was in that survey group. This is a very sincere question and I want the delegation to take it that way. Why has it waited this long to come before us when its case is so well supported and absolute? I am amazed that the delegation is so late in coming forward. I would just like some background information to that because there is no doubt from what has been written for us that this case is sustainable and right. However, why is it so late coming forward?
I apologise to the delegation from Monaghan for being late. I had a prior arrangement that I could not change.
I attended a meeting on the Nice treaty in Cootehill on 19 or 20 September at which many people brought up this issue and Deputy Crawford has apprised me of the difficulties there. I listened to Senator Callanan stating that the delegation has a case. I will try to go through the material later because, from the information I have, the delegation does seem to be victimised, particularly in its case to the independent appeals commission where, perhaps, it has not had a fair hearing. If there is anything we can do in the future we will follow up on it. I do not know what can be done at this stage but we will continue to press the issue on the delegation's behalf.
Somebody asked if there was any intensive production in the area. To clarify the point, we are talking here about two surveys. The original survey was done in 1989, I think, by Department of Agriculture officials who surveyed, or supposedly surveyed, the area and decided which parcels of land did or did not meet certain criteria. This list of the names of the townlands, the names of the farmers, the number of acres and those that were surveyed were prepared on the ground by Mr. Thomas Thornton and me.
There was another question and the IFA can answer its side. However, my point is that only three to four years ago my attention was drawn to the fact that 80% of Monaghan was included in the severely disadvantaged area. I always knew part of Monaghan was classified as a severely disadvantaged area, but I thought the Bragan Mountain region and the Knockatallon bog region were the two areas that qualified. I was gobsmacked when I was told originally that 85% of the county was included and that the 15% in which I live was not included. We went to get answers and to gather information and so the map evolved. The foot and mouth disease held us back from organising meetings for 12 months. We then went to each townland and surveyed them ourselves. The acreage in these 19 townlands is, to the best of our knowledge, accurate to within a range of 95% to 99%. This is the best we can come up with, not being a national organisation like the Department of Agriculture and Food which can go out and ask specific questions.
Going back to 1989, and to the best of our ability, we believe this is closest to the acreage of each of those farms. I have names for each of those farmers but I felt it would be wrong to put them on a page to hand around to the committee. Those figures are accurate. In our survey of those 19 townlands we failed at any stage to come across any heavy enterprise or heavy production on the land. I think part of the delay was due to the fact that we were misinformed, but we will let Austin answer that. That seemed to be our problem. The information we were getting and have always got does not seem to add up.
It would not cost a great deal to include this whole area. It will stand to us because as Poland and other countries enter the EU, they will qualify as being more severely handicapped. At some stage the allocation of money will become tight and the first areas that will not receive grants will be those classified as less severely handicapped. It is very important at this stage that we get in for the future of our own farms. I will not be happy unless this wrongful action is corrected and the money we have been done out of in the past 20 to 30 years is refunded.
In reply to an earlier question, I was the only one surveyed in my townland. At the time of the survey, I had 25 milking cows and was the only milk producer in my townland. I had a 31,000 gallon milk quota when the survey was done. A neighbouring townland, which is already included, had a 90,000 gallon milk quota and a poultry industry. I see snipe every morning when I am moving the fence and any Deputy who wants to come and shoot snipe is more than welcome.
This fight has been going on since 1992. This is my 12th time coming to the Department of Agriculture and Food and my second time visiting the Oireachtas. On the last occasion, I met Deputy Noel Davern and Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív who were Ministers of State at the time. The Minister for Agriculture and Food must deal with severely handicapped areas but has refused to meet us. We have asked Senator O'Brien to contact him to see if he would meet a deputation and allow us to put our case to him. The STAR committee is only willing to hear a case from the Government. I have visited Dublin 12 times in the past ten years to argue the case of severely handicapped areas. As Mr. Greenan said, the foot and mouth crisis put a big block on us at that time.
Senator Callanan asked why the IFA has not taken up this issue. The original appeals were taken in 1992. There were three people on the committee at that time - Professor Seamus Sheehy, Mr. John Donnelly of the IFA and Mr. Dan McCarthy of the ICMSA. The result of those appeals, as we explained earlier, was that all of County Galway, County Longford and County Cavan qualified for severely disadvantaged status. It was a good platform. I will let members make their own deductions.
In my time in the IFA, this has always been an issue. The people of Monaghan never accepted the decision and have always kept it to the fore. The Birmingham Six were a long time looking for justice too. It is only fair that we keep fighting until we get the due justice these farmers require. Right will out in the end.
On the question of whether there was intensive farming in any of these areas, unless one classifies snipe farming as an intensive farming occupation, the answer is no. The only grain that could be considered in the area, if we were to experience global warming on a large scale, would be rice. That is for the next century.
If I may just make a brief point, what really annoyed the people before you here today Chairman was that the most intensive dairy herds in the county were actually included in the 11% that got in on the last survey, some of which are located right in the middle of the areas these people represent. A very senior IFA person, who had one of the largest herds, got in and said he wished he had not. That shows how wrong was that decision.
I was asked to set up a meeting between the delegation and the Minister for Agriculture and Food and I conveyed that message to the Minister. Even IFA headquarters sought a deputation but it has not taken place to date.
Could I suggest that the committee forward a copy of the survey to the Minister for Agriculture and Food, advising him that the County Monaghan executive of the IFA has met the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food, and seeking his support in forwarding the case to have these lands in County Monaghan reclassified? Is that agreed? Agreed.
Once again I would like to thank the deputation; I was delighted to facilitate them and the Deputies and Senators from County Monaghan. As Chairman of the joint committee, I am willing to do anything we can. Like everybody else, we do not have the power but certainly we will try to force the Minister for Agriculture and Food and his Department to revisit this issue. I can understand the difficulties, coming from an area - even though there is talk of County Meath having good land - which borders County Monaghan and County Cavan. I know the area very well, although maybe not the land the deputation is discussing, but we border some of the better land in County Monaghan. I thank the deputation for attending the committee. It was a very good presentation. We will not be found wanting in trying to further this case.