Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, answered orally.

Ash Dieback Threat

Questions (9)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

9. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will report on his consultation process on an all-Ireland control strategy for Ash dieback; when new measures will be introduced to address the problem of Ash dieback disease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21402/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The purpose of the all-Ireland Control Strategy for Chalara is to provide an all island framework for the policy of identification, control and eradication of the causal agents of Chalara (ash dieback) a major threat to our ash trees.

The draft control strategy has been developed jointly with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland (DARD) to ensure that there is a comprehensive and effective response to the threat of ash dieback caused by Chalara fraxinea establishing on the island. The document itself has been subject to a public consultation process, the deadline for submissions was the 30th April 2013. Submissions received are now being studied by my Department and DARD and therefore it is somewhat premature to make a statement on what new measures might arise from this process.

After comprehensive discussions and a number of meetings, the All-Ireland Chalara Control Strategy was drafted by officials in both Department of Rural Development Northern Ireland and my Department. The document deals with many areas and outlines strategies on four key objectives.

Objective 1 is in relation to reducing the risk of the disease becoming established in the wider environment. This is obviously the key objective and centres around the maintenance of legal measures to restrict the entry of ash plants and wood, surveillance for the disease, destruction of the disease where it occurs and destruction of the associated batches.

Objective 2 is to support research efforts. The strategy document outlines the concrete steps Ireland has already taken in relation to collaborating with our partners in the UK in relation to breeding ash trees for resistance to the disease.

Objective 3 outlines the benefits that can be drawn by involving industry, landowners, voluntary organisations and the general public as partners in the strategy to assist the surveillance and destruction effort.

Objective 4 aims to build resilience in woodland and to support industries associated with ash. Within this objective it is recognised that there is a risk that ash dieback will become established here in the long term. In response to this risk and the long timeframe associated with managing woodland, action to consider how to adapt to the disease’s possible impact and minimise its effect on our trees and woodlands, whether for timber production, for their biodiversity benefits, or for access and recreation, needs to be taken now.

My Department’s officials continue to meet representative groups and individuals in relation to the disease on a regular basis. Both my Department and DARD have each received many submissions on the draft All Ireland Chalara Control Strategy document. The Pest Risk Analysis for Chalara fraxinea is also being completed in the coming weeks and it is important that this document will also feed into the Strategy document. My Department expects further dialogue with our counterparts in Northern Ireland within the coming weeks after which the finalised Strategy will be published in a month’s time.

Coillte Teoranta Harvesting Rights Sale

Questions (10)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

10. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of money he estimates can be raised from the sale of the Coillte forest crop, net of expenses including funding the Coillte pension fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21493/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As I have previously advised, the financial and other implications of a potential sale of the harvesting rights to Coillte’s forests have been examined by NewERA, Coillte, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department. As part of the process, a number of detailed financial, technical and other specialist reports were prepared for Coillte, by external specialist consultancy bodies, in full consultation with the Board of Coillte and its executive management.

This work encompassed the identification of forests for inclusion in a possible sale. I understand this identification process was based on a number of criteria including usage, ownership status, yield class and accessibility. An estimate was then made of the possible returns from the sale of the forests so identified. The calculation of an estimate is complex given the potential length of time of any contract and the associated forecasting involved. As Coillte is a commercial company trading in a competitive environment, such forecasting of yields, timber prices and future revenue is commercially sensitive, and it is therefore not appropriate, to make public the analysis conducted to date.

Aside from the valuation of the forestry assets, a number of issues are being considered in relation to the possible harvesting rights concession. These include, inter alia, the consequential implications for the company, its existing liabilities and its human resources. These issues each require detailed consideration. As I previously advised, as some of the issues identified and the possible ways in which they may be addressed, have the potential of impacting on investor interest, my preference is to await the outcome of that analysis.

In their meeting with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture last October, the then CEO of Coillte outlined the company’s involvement in the valuation process and informed the Committee that employee issues including the pension fund liabilities were being discussed as part of the consideration process. At that meeting, he added that the Coillte pension fund deficit is detailed in the company’s Annual Report and that this was one of the work streams the company was looking at in partnership with NewERA. Therefore, I want to reassure the Deputy, that all concerned are aware of the pension fund deficit and that it does form part of the overall analysis.

I want to reiterate that substantial work has been undertaken on the identification of the forestry assets involved, the determination of their value and the consideration of a number of issues associated with the proposed sale of the harvesting rights. This process is a very complex one and it is not possible at this stage to pre-empt the outcome of the analysis or to give an estimate of the possible net proceeds. As I have said previously, the Government will proceed with caution in relation to this matter and no final decision has been taken, as yet.

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

Questions (11)

Dara Calleary

Question:

11. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his proposal on internal convergence is still on the table for the Common Agricultural Policy negotiations; if this proposal has been modified; if so, the way it has been modified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21465/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I can confirm that the proposal on internal convergence I made to the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers at the March meeting of the Council was accepted by Ministers as one of the options that should be available for the distribution of direct payments. As such it forms part of the General Approach of the Council agreed at that meeting.

This issue is now the subject of further negotiations between the three EU institutions in the trilogues process. In this regard both the EU Commission and the European Parliament have their own views and the reality is that the final outcome will be somewhere between the original Commission proposal and the Irish proposal. However, the important point is that the Irish model is at the centre of the negotiations, and I will be working to ensure that the final outcome is as close as possible to this model.

Fodder Crisis

Questions (12)

Martin Ferris

Question:

12. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the ongoing fodder crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21509/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am acutely aware of the difficulties being experienced by some farmers across the country at the moment. I recently announced that the transport fodder scheme will now run until Friday 10th May and clarified that maize silage is eligible under this scheme. The weather has improved which in turn has led to improved grass growing conditions. However, there are farmers in parts of the country who are still finding it difficult to locate enough forage for their animals.

This will ensure farmers have access to fodder for the foreseeable future and will reassure farmers that fodder supply will not be an issue until grass growth improves. While access to fodder is a priority, grass growth in the months ahead will be the key to ensuring that this problem is overcome. The latest initiatives agreed by the dairy co-ops build on the measures I have already introduced which were designed to deal with immediate challenges.

Since the scheme was announced over 900 loads of fodder have been received or ordered. I am satisfied that this volume of imports is making a real difference on farms and assisting farmers through the shortage. The extension of the scheme of a further week will build on this and ensure that further supplies are imported with the benefit of the transport subsidy. The amounts of such supplies will require notification to my Department prior to 10th May and approval for coverage under the scheme.

My Department has been working with the industry on this. I want to commend the Dairy co-ops and farm organisations for their work over the past two weeks. I am delighted that the co-ops have introduced a number of extremely helpful initiatives such as interest free credit for fertiliser purchased during the month of May and reduced prices in respect of feed supplies of meal. The Irish Dairy Board, IFA and Agri – business launched more than €3 million of extra fodder aid for farmers last week.

In parallel with the introduction of the scheme the other issues taken include requesting the banks to take a flexible approach towards extending credit to farmer customers at this difficult time. The co-ops responded already with the introduction of interest free credit to farmers for the purchase of fertiliser in the month of May, which will be a key component in addressing this year’s fodder problem.

I have asked the advisory service to prioritise advice to farmers in the period ahead and to focus on the optimum use of fertiliser in generating feed for the national herd. To assist cash flow issues, outstanding farm scheme payments are being processed with urgency. Approximately 1,500 payments under the Agriculture Environmental Options Scheme issued during the last 10 days and close to a further 600 AEOS payments will issue within the next week. Together these payments are valued at approximately €3m.

My Department’s emergency animal welfare helpline is still receiving calls from herdowners. Over 550 calls have been received to date through the system. The vast majority of calls are being adequately supported through fodder being made available under the transport subsidy scheme but a small portion of farmers, in need of more substantial support have been assisted directly by the Department. The Department’s Veterinary Inspectors continue to be actively engaged in providing emergency assistance under the Department’s early warning system to farmers whose animals are currently experiencing serious welfare issues and where the farmer him/herself is unable to cope with the situation.

I want to remind farmers that the animal welfare emergency assistance continues to operate where animal welfare is seriously at risk at the emergency helpline number - 1850 21 19 90 (Low-call). I want to reiterate that no animal should die of starvation in this country and help is available to those farmers who cannot cope. I believe this comprehensive set of measures outlined here will assist farmers. I will continue to work with all stakeholders in the sector to get through this difficult period caused by very unusual weather patterns.

Departmental Investigations

Questions (13)

John McGuinness

Question:

13. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the names of the meat slaughtering and processing plants that have had their licences to operate suspended; if this is temporary or permanent; if there are further plants that will be refused permission to operate arising from the horsemeat scandal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21496/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The report on the ‘Equine DNA and Mislabelling of Processed Beef Investigation’, which I published on 14th March, includes details of the companies that came to my Department’s attention during this investigation and the actions taken by the Department.

As a result of the investigation activities were temporarily suspended by my Department at two plants. The plants in question were B&F Meats in Carrick-on-Suir, Co.Tipperary, and Ossory Meats, Banagher, Co Offaly. Both plants have since been allowed to resume activities, subject to an increased level of official controls. B&F Meats, a small scale plant approved to debone beef and horsemeat, was found to be involved in mislabelling of a limited quantity of horsemeat for export to the Czech Republic. The Department suspended all operations at the plant on 22nd February, served a Legal Notice on the company and the plant was included in the wider Department and Garda investigation. While fraudulent intent was denied by the company the use of what was known to be a wrong label designation is not acceptable practice and the question of instituting legal proceedings in this respect remains under consideration. Details of the findings were provided to the UK and Czech authorities. Following the plant’s compliance with the Legal Notice, it was in a position to resume deboning on 28th February.

As the equine mislabelling investigation progressed a separate but parallel investigation was conducted on horse slaughter plants and associated horse traceability. It was decided in that context to introduce more robust controls and it was agreed with the County Managers concerned that my Department would take direct control over the two local authority equine slaughter plants, including Ossory Meats. On Friday 8th March, the Department carried out identification checks on horses presented for slaughter at Ossory Meats. 25 of the horses presented had irregularities, related to passport and microchip identifiers. These animals were humanely slaughtered and destroyed. The company was suspended from operations on 13th March and allowed resume on 8th April following compliance with the terms of the Legal Notice which had been served. The ongoing investigation of this matter involves an examination to determine how and where the irregularities occurred and a focus on the respective roles played by the implicated Passport Issuing Agencies, the veterinarian(s) whose signatures appear on the irregular passports, the persons who registered the horses and to whom the passports were issued, the traders who supplied the horses for slaughter and of course the conduct and management oversight at Ossory Meats. Operations in two other plants were suspended on a voluntary basis during the course of the investigation and one of these plants remains closed.

Food Labelling

Questions (14)

Clare Daly

Question:

14. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will push for DNA testing of fish across the EU, similar to that undertaken in relation to the testing of beef products, in view of substantial evidence of fish mislabelling. [21408/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Responsibility for co-ordinating the enforcement of food legislation in Ireland rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). The FSAI is an independent body under the aegis of the Minister for Health.

The FSAI carries out its enforcement function through “service contracts” with official agencies. These official agencies include the Sea Fishery Protection Authority (SFPA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The SFPA is an independent body under the aegis of my Department. It carries out, on an ongoing basis, a range of official controls on seafood in accordance with its contract with the FSAI and the relevant EU and national legislation, from harvesting stage up to, but excluding, retail level. Comprehensive labelling and traceability checks are carried out as part of routine inspections by authorised SFPA officers.

The HSE has responsibility for official controls, including labelling, at the retail stage, including catering.

In Ireland, genetic analysis of fishery products is not done as part of routine official controls but it is available as a tool if necessary to detect mislabelling of food products. Currently under the EU Food Hygiene Regulations there is not a requirement to carry out genetic testing of fishery products as part of official controls.

However, the Irish seafood industry comes under a range of food labelling and traceability legislation. A key principle in labelling is that consumers should not be misled.

Seafood is covered by general food labelling legislation, including Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 (General Food Law) and Directive 2000/13/EC (labelling requirements for pre-packaged foods), which prohibit the misleading of consumers with food labels. These rules have been enhanced with the recent adoption of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers. The new Regulation extends explicit compulsory origin labelling requirements to meats other than beef and adopts rules on compulsory labelling where the origin or place of provenance of a food is given and where it is not the same as its primary ingredient.

There are additional labelling requirements for fishery and aquaculture products set down in Council Regulation (EC) No. 104/2000 (on the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products) and Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2065/2001 (laying down detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No. 104/2000 as regards informing consumers about fishery and aquaculture products). These regulations were transposed by the European Communities (Labelling of Fishery and Aquaculture Products) Regulations, 2003 (S.I. No. 320 of 2003). The Common organisation of the markets is being reviewed in the context of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

There has been an extensive review of labelling legislation at EU level which has resulted in a number of additional labelling and traceability requirements coming into place during 2012. These include traceability and labelling requirements under Council Regulation (EC) No. 1224/2009, enhanced traceability record requirements for food business operators in respect of food of animal origin (Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 931/2011), and additional labelling and traceability requirements for frozen food of animal origin (Commission Regulation (EU) No 16/2012).

Commonage Division

Questions (15)

Joe McHugh

Question:

15. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the proposals he has to update regulation of commonage lands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19159/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Commonage lands form an important part of the farming enterprises of many farmers, particularly along the West Coast. They also form an important part of the local environment from the point of view of bio-diversity, wildlife, amenities and economic returns e.g. tourism. However, there is a substantial risk of land abandonment as under-grazing becomes more of a problem.

Under-grazing leads to an increase in ineligible land under Direct Aid and Agri-Environment Schemes and leads to risk of financial corrections being imposed by EU Commission. It is vital, therefore, to maintain the commonages in GAEC (Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition), or where there is under-grazing, to return the habitat to GAEC. It is my stated aim that this will be achieved by working with the farmers directly managing the lands, relevant State Agencies, the farming organisations and all other interested stakeholders.

I readily acknowledge that it will not be an easy task, but it is achievable if all stakeholders work in a co-operative basis. If action is not taken now, the areas will continue to deteriorate and will lead to more land abandonment. If this is allowed to happen, Ireland will lose a valuable resource from the point of view of farming, rural economy, bio-diversity and wildlife. While grazing is the only method of managing these lands, the task facing us is how to ensure that these grazing levels are appropriate to the individual commonages.

In order to ensure that the achievement of this objective, as already stated, we need the input of individual shareholders. Grazing plans, at the level of each commonage, will allow for greater flexibility for shareholders and will enable the active farmers to increase their stock to cater for dormant and inactive persons. It will be matter for agreement between the shareholders – as was always the case – to decide how best to reach the stocking levels. Professional assistance will be required, in particular where the commonage has been damaged by under-grazing.

The Grazing Plan will have to cater the traditional farming methods for the area, with provision made for sheep and other animals, such as cattle, providing that they are appropriate to the habitat. An appropriate time-scale will have to be put in place but the Plan should include the incremental steps to achieve GAEC. The whole concept will be output driven, in that the assessment of the Plans will be based on whether the commonage is in GAEC or not or whether the appropriate progress has been achieved.

Apart from ensuring that the Grazing Plan is valid, there are a number of other complications, including:

- Dormant shareholders – in the majority of cases, these persons are no longer farming;

- Current claimants on the commonages, who do not farm or manage the lands. The issue of whether the latter claimants will continue to be eligible for payment will have to be examined.

There are other issues that will need to be considered. These include the fact that many commonage habitats have been significantly damaged by under-grazing, with resulting problems that must be addressed including land abandonment, spread of scrub and invasive species.

While it is generally accepted that this is a very complex matter and requires a very detailed action plan to cover the various issues, I intend to set out proposals on how these matters will be progressed in the near future.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments

Questions (16)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

16. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers that were written to in relation to their 2012 disadvantaged payments under the stocking density rule; the number that have been refused a derogation, including after appeal, broken down by county; the number of cases still to be decided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21480/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Payments under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme commenced, on target, on 26 September 2012 and, to date, payments worth in excess of €207 million have issued to 94,671 of the total of 102,072 who applied. In any event, as demonstrated below, no undue delay currently exists in processing cases and payments continue to issue twice weekly, as individual cases are confirmed eligible.

A major factor impacting on processing of 2012 Scheme applications arose from the changes made to better focus the Scheme in light of budgetary realities and, in particular, ensuring that affected applicants could have access to robust and fair derogation and appeal processes. In this context, my Department wrote to in excess of 10,000 beneficiaries under the 2011 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme whose holdings had not achieved the minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare, as required under the Terms and Conditions of the 2012 Scheme.

In response, my Department received a total of 9,829 derogation applications of which 7,414 were successful. Those, whose applications were unsuccessful, were informed of their right of appeal to the independently chaired DAS Appeals Committee, on foot of which 1,574 appeals were received. On the basis of additional information which had not previously been submitted, my Department was in a position to overturn the original decision on 614 cases, without the need to refer the cases to the DAS Appeals Committee,

Of the appeals submitted to the Committee, decisions have been taken in respect of 960 cases, of which 343 were allowed, 506 disallowed and 111 requested to submit additional information. Processing of the outstanding appeals remains ongoing.

On a more general note, the overall position is that those who have not received payment under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme are not yet confirmed eligible for payment. Of the 7,401 cases in question, 3,435 have not, as yet, shown that their holdings satisfied the Scheme minimum stocking density requirements in 2012. The holdings of a further 2,790 did not achieve the minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units in 2011; 444 cases relate to applicants being deceased or change of ownership where my Department must await legal formalities to be completed. A further 47 cases relate to cases where it has not been demonstrated that equines are eligible. The remaining 685 cases in the main relate to outstanding area-related issues.

It will be recalled that, faced with budgetary realities, rather than simply apply an across the board cut to the rates payable or reduce the maximum payable area as a means to achieving these savings, I decided that real efforts should be made to focus the Scheme on those farmers who are most actively contributing to achieving the aims of the Scheme. These are ensuring continued agricultural land use, thereby contributing to the maintenance of viable rural communities, maintaining the countryside and promoting sustainable farming systems, which take account of environmental enhancement measures.

A table outlining the current county breakdown in relation to unsuccessful derogation applications will be provided directly to the Deputy.

Fodder Crisis

Questions (17)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

17. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy and availability of sufficient animal fodder to meet the needs of the agricultural community in the course of the ongoing fodder crisis; if any particular strategy is required to deal with the issue of the shorter growing season arising from the harsh spring weather conditions; if any plans are afoot to address the situation in the event of the continued spell of inclement weather conditions throughout the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21512/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am acutely aware of the difficulties being experienced by some farmers across the country at the moment. My Department has been working with the industry on this and in a collaborative effort, a comprehensive range of measures has been put in place to assist the sector during this difficult period. The Deputy will be aware that my Department has put in place a €1m fund to contribute to the transport costs of importing fodder to the country, which has reduced the cost of purchasing fodder for farmers by approximately a third. More recently I announced an extension in the duration of the Imported Fodder Transport Scheme to Friday 10th May, and a broadening of its scope to include maize silage. All fodder ordered in advance of that date will be supported by this scheme. The amounts of such supplies will require notification to my Department prior to 10th May and approval for coverage under the scheme.

The co-ops have introduced a number of extremely helpful initiatives such as interest free credit for fertiliser purchased during the month of May and reduced prices in respect of feed supplies of meal. In addition, The Irish Dairy Board has announced the establishment of a €2 million emergency fund for its dairy farmers to be operated through the Board’s supplier co-op members. I have also asked the banks to take a flexible approach towards extending credit to farmer customers at this difficult time.

For people in particularly acute situations, my Department’s animal welfare emergency assistance continues to operate, and where animal welfare is seriously at risk at the emergency helpline number - 1850 21 19 90 (Low-call).

I should also pay tribute to farm organisations that have been pro-active in their efforts to provide assistance for the importation and distribution of fodder for hard pressed farmers.

These measures will ensure farmers have access to fodder for the foreseeable future and will reassure farmers that fodder supply will not be an issue until grass growth improves. At this point, over 900 loads of hay, haylage and maize silage has been received or ordered. I am satisfied that this volume of imports is making a real difference on farms and assisting farmers through the shortage. The recent extension of the scheme will build on this and ensure that further supplies are imported with the benefit of the transport subsidy.

While access to fodder is an immediate priority, grass growth in the months ahead will be the key to ensuring that this problem is overcome. In this regard I have asked Teagasc’s advisory service to prioritise advice to farmers in the period ahead and to focus on the optimum use of fertiliser in generating feed for the national herd.

It is of course entirely appropriate that in circumstances such as these, the stakeholders in this critically important sector should pull together to overcome the difficulties being experienced by farmers. For my part, I will continue to work with all stakeholders in the sector to get through this difficult period caused by very unusual weather patterns.

Special Areas of Conservation Designation

Questions (18)

Mick Wallace

Question:

18. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has made contact with a person (details supplied) in relation to the assessment of Waterford Estuary and Bannow Bay as suitable sites for oyster farming; if he is willing to meet with them to discuss this important matter further; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21510/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The bays referred to by the Deputy are designated as Special Areas of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive and/or Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 sites).

In 2007 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) declared in Case C418/04 that by failing to take all measures necessary to comply with Article 6.3 of the EU Habitats Directive in respect of the authorisation of aquaculture programmes, Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations under that Directive. As most aquaculture activity takes place in ‘Natura 2000’ areas it is necessary to undertake an ‘Appropriate Assessment’ of the effects of aquaculture activity on these areas before any new licences can be issued or any existing licences can be renewed.

In the negotiations to address the ECJ judgement a process was agreed with the European Commission. This process includes the following steps:

- Data Collection in 91 Bays/Estuaries

- Detailed analysis of the raw data collected

- Setting of Conservation Objectives by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in respect of each site

- Carrying out Appropriate Assessments (AA) – by the Marine Institute - of aquaculture/fishery activities against the detailed Conservation Objectives set, and

- Determination of Licences/Fisheries on the basis of the Appropriate Assessment and other relevant factors

Conservation Objectives have now been set for a significant number of bays. The appropriate assessments are being carried out by the Marine Institute on behalf of the Department and to date four bays have been assessed - Castlemaine, Dundalk, Roaringwater and Lough Swilly.

As outlined my Department has been working closely with the Marine Institute, BIM and NPWS to achieve full compliance through a multi-annual work programme. A key factor of this Work Programme is the identification of prioritised bays, based on the number of aquaculture sites, the ready availability of scientific data and other factors. The prioritised list of bays is kept under continuous review by my Department so as to facilitate the use of scientific and other resources on a flexible basis across the full range of bays, if deemed necessary. This approach is consistent with the maintenance of a prioritised list which includes Bannow Bay and the Waterford Estuary.

It is important for all involved in the aquaculture industry to understand that the sustainable development of the industry and the creation of long term employment from aquaculture into the future can only take place if there is full compliance with all EU and national legislation on environmental protection. Ireland’s reputation as a producer of top quality seafood is predicated on the implementation of a sound regulatory system which has the confidence of the public in general and also the EU Commission.

My Department continues to make every effort to expedite the determination of aquaculture licence applications including those in Bannow Bay and Waterford Estuary having regard to the need to comply with all relevant national and EU legislation.

The Above information has previously been conveyed to the individual referred to by the Deputy, both directly and indirectly. In addition officials from my Department would be available to meet with the individual in question to discuss the matter if this is considered helpful.

Neonicotinoid Insecticides

Question No. 20 answered with Question No. 7.

Questions (19)

Clare Daly

Question:

19. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will justify his stance in relation to the temporary ban on neonicotinoid insecticides. [21409/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The European Commission proposed a partial ban on the use of 3 neonicotinoids over concerns for bees.

The European Commission proposals to restrict the use of neonicotinoid insecticides was discussed at the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health on 14/15 March 2013 and the resulting vote was inconclusive, with 14 Member States refusing to support the measures proposed by the Commission.

Accordingly, the matter was tabled at an Appeal Committee meeting held on 29 April where again the vote on the proposal did not receive a qualified voting majority. Under comitology procedures, it is now a matter for the European Commission to legislate on the matter. It is likely that a ban on the three substances under consideration will now come into effect later this year.

At the Appeals Committee meeting on 29 April, Ireland engaged with the Commission and the Member States in a constructive and helpful way and actively supported efforts to find a workable and meaningful compromise on the proposals to restrict the use of neonicotinoid insecticides. These efforts aimed to find solutions that allowed suitably controlled use of the compounds without presenting unacceptable risks to bee populations.

Ireland initially opposed the Commission proposal to allow time for further consideration of the scientific evidence (e.g. UK bee study) and to create the space for consideration of a compromise. Hungary and Germany drafted compromise texts which Ireland could support if they were broadly supported by Member States and by the Commission.

Ireland recognised the importance of the precautionary principle in relation to this matter, and fully bore this in mind in discussions aimed at achieving an approach that would enjoy broad support among EU Member States and be acceptable to the Commission.

However, the Hungarian and German proposals were not acceptable to the Commission and efforts to find a compromise failed and Ireland decided not to oppose the Commission proposal.

Question No. 20 answered with Question No. 7.

Rural Development Programme Funding

Questions (21)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

21. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of money spent to date broken down between EU funding and national funding under each heading of the current 2007-13 rural development plan; the allocation for the programme under each heading; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21472/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under the current approved financial plan in the Rural Development Programme 2007 - 2013 [RDP] close on €4.8Bn is allocated at programme level. This amount includes an allocation of EAFRD funding of €2.49Bn. Since the launch of the RDP expenditure under the programme up to the end of March 2013 amounted to €3.8Bn. This represents close on 79% of the total value of the Programme and 85% of the EAFRD amount. Axes 1 and 2 of the Rural Development Programme are administered by my Department while Axes 3 and 4 are delivered by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Details of the allocation and expenditure per measure under the RDP up to the end of March 2013 are set out in the table. This table does not include funds already committed but not as yet claimed.

The programme, like all national spending, is subject to ongoing budgetary constraints but is configured to maximise all available EU funding. Ireland’s draw down rate under the Programme has been among the highest of EU Member States over the lifetime of the current Programme.

Spending under a number of measures may continue until the end of 2015 and this will provide considerable scope to allow all measures to spend up to their full allocation. Adjustments have already been made to the RDP financial plan and will continue to be made to the end of the Programme in order to achieve the fullest possible draw down of available funds having regard to available national funding.

Axis / Measure

Total

RDP

Allocation

€m

EAFRD and Exchequer Expenditure

2007 – March 2013

€m

Of which EAFRD spend

Of which Exchequer spend

AXIS 1 – Competitiveness

Vocational training (REPS)

5,675,440

7,227,927

4,120,729

3,107,198

Installation Aid

12,261,081

12,892,430

6,504,938

6,387,492

Early Retirement

219,188,239

216,450,154

115,915,664

100,534,490

Farm Modernisation

154,570,446

80,054,052

47,251,733

32,802,319

TOTAL AXIS 1

391,695,206

316,624,563

173,793,064

142,831,499

Axis 2 – Environment and land management

Less Favoured Areas

1,617,984,198

1,295,213,902

712,367,647

582,846,255

Natura 2000

528,582,998

89,717,139

50,226,637

39,490,502

Agri-environment

1,922,493,570

1,929,663,382

1,076,014,860

853,648,544

TOTAL AXIS 2

4,069,060,766

3,314,594,423

1,838,609,144

1,475,985,301

Axis 3

Broadband

17,884,000

0

0

0

TOTAL AXIS 3

17,884,000

0

0

0

Axis 4

Competitiveness – Food Projects.

5,000,000

89,554

76,120

13,434

Implementing Local Development Strategies – Quality of Life

265,470,511

118,145,071

78,894,141

39,250,930

Co-operation Projects

7,878,000

2,124,193

1,505,080

619,113

Running of LAGS

62,464,000

52,727,893

33,935,170

18,792,723

TOTAL AXIS 4

340,812,511

173,086,711

114,410,511

58,676,200

Axis 5 – Technical Assistance

Technical Assistance

6,000,000

1,441,575

720,789

720,786

OVERALL RDP

4,825,452,483

3,805,747,272

2,127,533,508

1,687,213,786

Fodder Crisis

Questions (22)

Martin Ferris

Question:

22. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the failure of co-ops to extend three months credit to farmers in order to address the fodder crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21508/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The credit arrangements referred to in the question are of course a matter between the supplier and the processor. However, I am delighted that the Dairy Co-ops have introduced a number of extremely helpful initiatives such as interest free credit for fertilizer purchased during the month of May and reduced prices in respect of feed supplies of meal.

I also pay tribute to the farmers and farm organisations that have gone to such great efforts to help their fellow farmers in need of fodder. Since the scheme was announced over 900 loads of fodder have been received and ordered. I am satisfied that this volume of imports is making a real difference on farms and assisting farmers through the shortage. The extension of the scheme will build on this and ensure that further supplies are imported with the benefit of the transport subsidy.

Apart from this initiative on the fodder transport scheme, I have also addressed the issue of credit facilities with the banks and the co-ops. The banks have been requested to take a flexible approach towards extending credit to farmer customers at this difficult time. The co-ops responded already with the introduction of interest free credit to farmers for the purchase of fertiliser in the month of May which I referred to above and which will be a key component in addressing this year’s fodder problem.

Aquaculture Licences Applications

Questions (23)

Seán Fleming

Question:

23. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when it is expected that a decision will be made on the application by Bord Iascaigh Mhara for an aquaculture licence in respect of a fish farm in Galway Bay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21488/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

An application by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) for an aquaculture licence for the cultivation of finfish near Inis Oirr in Galway Bay was received by my Department last year. The application and its accompanying Environmental Impact Statement is being considered under the provisions of the 1997 Fisheries (Amendment) Act and the 1933 Foreshore Act.

A determination in respect of the application will be made as soon as possible following completion of the necessary assessment process. This assessment process will take full account of all national and EU legislative requirements and will reflect the full engineering, scientific, environmental, legal and public policy aspects of the application. The fullest consideration will also be given to all submissions received as part of the statutory and public consultation stages of the process. As the application is under active consideration as part of the statutory process it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this time.