Suckler Welfare Scheme Applications

Questions (238)

John O'Mahony

Question:

238. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person in County Mayo will receive their payment for cow suckler welfare scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26391/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named registered 6 animals under the 2012 Suckler Welfare Scheme. A letter issued to the applicant on 27 May 2013 with a view to resolving errors associated with all 6 animals .

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

Questions (239)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

239. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will give details of the developments on a range of policy areas, with his ministerial colleagues, made at the 26-28 May 2013 informal meeting of Agriculture and Fisheries Council held in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26415/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The informal meeting of Agriculture Ministers discussed a number of outstanding political issues across all four CAP reform dossiers. In keeping with the normal practice at informal meetings, no binding decisions were made, but the meeting made a very valuable contribution to the ongoing negotiations by giving all three institutions the opportunity to discuss each other’s positions and explore the potential for reaching common ground on these issues.

As regards direct payments, attention focused on the distribution of payments within Member States (also known as internal convergence), capping and reduction of payments (the latter also known as degressivity), and voluntary coupled support. On capping, the Council has a clear mandate from the European Council conclusions on voluntary capping, and much of the discussion focused on the question of whether degressivity should be voluntary or mandatory. On voluntary coupled support, the Parliament argued for a higher level of support than that proposed by the Council.

As to internal convergence, this is clearly the biggest issue for Ireland in the negotiations. There is much common ground between the Parliament and the Council concerning the model of partial convergence originally proposed by Ireland and supported by a number of Member States, as an option for Member States. However, the Commission re-stated its preference for a minimum rate of convergence. Further discussion on the issue of redistribution or internal convergence will take place between now and June and Ireland very clearly raised concerns at the informal Council with regard to the Commission’s proposals on a minimum payment.

Three issues under the Single CMO regulation, namely, sugar quotas, export refunds and vine planting rights, were addressed. On sugar quotas, the main issue is the date of expiry of the quota regime, with the Council position (2017) between the Commission (2015) and Parliament (2020) positions. On export refunds, attention focused on whether this measure should be confined to exceptional or crisis circumstances only, as now suggested by the Parliament, or whether it should remain a normal part of the so-called ‘safety net’ measures, as agreed by the Council last March. On vine planting rights, the debate focused on two key points, namely, the commencement and expiry date of a proposed new authorisations regime, in respect of which the Council generally occupies the middle ground between the Commission and Parliament positions.

As regards the rural development proposals, attention focused on proposed areas of natural constraint (formerly known as less favoured areas), and particularly on the commencement date for the new arrangements, where again, the Council generally occupies the middle ground. Finally, on the so-called ‘horizontal’ regulation, which deals with the financing, management and monitoring of the CAP, discussion centred on the number of paying agencies per Member State, where the Council wants to keep the number to the minimum necessary.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Applications

Questions (240)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

240. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a disadvantaged area scheme payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26449/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, holdings of eligible applicants are required to have met a minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units for a retention period of six consecutive months, in addition to maintaining an annual average of 0.15 livestock units calculated over the twelve months of the scheme year. While the holding of the person named was confirmed as having stock on the holding during 2012, the applicant failed to hold sufficient livestock numbers to meet the minimum six month requirement. Therefore no payment is due under the 2012 Scheme.

Bovine Disease Controls

Questions (241, 242)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

241. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason compensation is not paid to farmers who have to dispose of calves that test positive for BVD; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26450/13]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

242. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the requirements on farmers who have calves that test positive for BVD; where and the way they must dispose of such calves; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26451/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 and 242 together.

BVD is a viral disease of cattle that is estimated to cost Irish farmers around €102m each year. The issue of compensation during the compulsory phase of the BVD programme must be placed in the context of the economic benefits accruing to farmers arising from the eradication of this disease as well as the scarce budgetary resources available to my Department. The benefits of the BVD programme represent a private good to farmers: profitability improves as a result of the removal of BVD persistently infected (PI) animals from herds and the payback period for the removal of these animals is very short (6 months for dairy cattle and one year for beef cattle).

Eradication of BVD disease is important to farmers and the strategy of my Department remains one of concentrating its scarce resources in continuing to support Animal Health Ireland financially in its ongoing work in developing the necessary infrastructure to eliminate the occurrence of BVD from the national herd, thereby minimising financial losses for farmers and improving animal welfare. The BVD Order (SI 532 of 2012) requires all calves born on or after 1 January 2013 in the State to be tested for the BVD virus. Persistently infected (PI) animals will shed high levels of virus throughout their lifetime and are a major source of infection for other animals. In light of this, the Order prohibits the movement of these animals except for disposal directly to slaughter or under Ministerial permit.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Applications

Questions (243)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

243. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a farmer who is in REP scheme 4 will receive their 2012 disadvantaged areas scheme payment; the reason for the delay in making this payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26452/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, eligible applicants are required to have met a minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units for a retention period of six consecutive months, in addition to maintaining an annual average of 0.15 livestock units calculated over the twelve months of the scheme year. While the holding of the person named did not satisfy the stocking requirement, the case has been recently reviewed in light of an Agri-Environment plan on the holding. Following this process, the application has been accepted for payment, which will issue shortly, directly to the nominated bank account.

Fodder Crisis

Questions (244)

Denis Naughten

Question:

244. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to a topical issue of 22 May 2013, the progress made, if any, regarding the importation of fodder by ship from the Netherlands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26453/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I mentioned in the topical issue debate of 22 May that I had understood that one of our main Dairy Co-Ops was considering bringing a ship from the Netherlands. This is a commercial matter entirely for that Company.

Fodder Crisis

Questions (245)

Denis Naughten

Question:

245. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to topical issue if 22 May 2013, the progress made, if any, on facilitating the release of financial support and-or credit for farmers to allow them to purchase fertiliser; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26454/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

On 24 April I established a €1 million transport fodder scheme to help alleviate the difficulties being encountered by farmers. Following consultation with Met Eireann, Co Ops, the farming organisations, Teagasc and the advice of officials working on the ground, the decision was taken to allow a further two weeks for fodder to be imported into the country with a doubling of the transport subsidy fund to €2 million. Fodder, eligible under the scheme and delivered into the country was covered up to Friday 24 May. I also decided, as an exceptional measure, that any definite purchases that were placed by that date, but which will not be delivered until this week, will be included under the scheme.

By the end of this week some 2,300 loads of imported fodder, amounting to about 34,000 tonnes, will have benefited from my Department’s contribution to these transport costs. My Department continues to monitor the situation on a day by day basis and I am very aware of and have seen at first hand, the difficulties farmers are experiencing.

It is also important that while continuing to focus on the emergency fodder position in the short term, farmers should also focus on growing and conserving fodder for next winter’s needs. We should be maximising production in the coming period and I have asked Teagasc to prioritise this policy in their advisory campaigns over the summer months.

It is clear that the main cut of silage will be delayed this year and as a consequence we need to look at the potential for the growing of additional fodder later into the season. In this regard myself and my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr Phil Hogan, T.D., have announced a temporary and targeted adjustment of two provisions of the Nitrates Regulations to support additional fodder production on Irish farms in the coming months.

The adjustments involve:

- A discounting of some concentrate feeding when calculating the overall level of phosphorus allowed on grassland farms in 2013 and 2014; and

- an extension of two weeks to the period during with chemical fertiliser can be applied to grassland.

Phosphorous is essential for grass growth. In order to ensure sufficient allowance of phosphorus for grassland application this year and 2014, some meal feeding in 2012 and 2013 will be discounted. The period during which chemical fertiliser can be applied to land this year has been extended by two weeks up to and including 30 September 2013. These measures will provide every opportunity to farmers to maximise grass growth and conservation into next Autumn.

For many farmers, concerns regarding access to credit and flexibility around loan repayments have been a significant issue. I have been in regular contact with the banks, co-ops and feed merchants to urge flexibility and co-operation at this challenging time. I am delighted that these co-ops introduced a number of extremely helpful initiatives such as interest free credit, within limits, to farmers for the purchase of fertiliser, limited to the month of May and reduced price in respect of feed supplies of meal. Both banks and co-ops have asked farmers to contact them to discuss the terms that are available and have indicated that they will show flexibility on the basis that the longer term outlook for farming is positive and prices are strong across most areas.

The Animal Welfare Hotline which I established remains open for those with emergency situations or who need information about where to source fodder: 1850 21 19 90 (Low-call). The majority of calls received are enquiring about fodder availability and these callers are being referred to Co-ops in their respective areas. Those farmers with animal welfare issues (i.e. animals starving) are being referred to the DVOs where there are systems in place to deal with them on a case by case basis. Further information on the scheme is available from the Department website: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/animalhealthwelfare/fodderassistanceapril2013/.

Fodder Crisis

Questions (246)

Denis Naughten

Question:

246. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will extend the closing date for the fodder subsidy scheme in view of the rainfall experienced in west of Ireland on the night of 26 May last; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there still remains significant demand for fodder in the region; if he will visit the region to experience the problems first hand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26467/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

On 24 April I established a €1 million transport fodder scheme to help alleviate the difficulties being encountered by farmers. Following consultation with Met Eireann, Co Ops, the farming organisations, Teagasc and the advice of officials working on the ground, the decision was taken to allow a further two weeks for fodder to be imported into the country with a doubling of the transport subsidy fund to €2 million. Fodder, eligible under the scheme and delivered into the country was covered up to Friday 24 May. I also decided, as an exceptional measure, that any definite purchases that were placed by that date, but which will not be delivered until this week, will be included under the scheme.

By the end of this week some 2,300 loads of imported fodder, amounting to about 34,000 tonnes, will have benefited from my Department’s contribution to these transport costs. My Department continues to monitor the situation on a day by day basis and I am very aware of and have seen at first hand, the difficulties farmers are experiencing.

It is also important that while continuing to focus on the emergency fodder position in the short term, farmers should also focus on growing and conserving fodder for next winter’s needs. We should be maximising production in the coming period and I have asked Teagasc to prioritise this policy in their advisory campaigns over the summer months.

It is clear that the main cut of silage will be delayed this year and as a consequence we need to look at the potential for the growing of additional fodder later into the season. In this regard myself and my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr Phil Hogan, T.D., have announced a temporary and targeted adjustment of two provisions of the Nitrates Regulations to support additional fodder production on Irish farms in the coming months.

The adjustments involve:

- A discounting of some concentrate feeding when calculating the overall level of phosphorus allowed on grassland farms in 2013 and 2014; and

- an extension of two weeks to the period during with chemical fertiliser can be applied to grassland.

Phosphorous is essential for grass growth. In order to ensure sufficient allowance of phosphorus for grassland application this year and 2014, some meal feeding in 2012 and 2013 will be discounted. The period during which chemical fertiliser can be applied to land this year has been extended by two weeks up to and including 30 September 2013. These measures will provide every opportunity to farmers to maximise grass growth and conservation into next Autumn.

The Animal Welfare Hotline which I established remains open for those with emergency situations or who need information about where to source fodder: 1850 21 19 90 (Low-call). The majority of calls received are enquiring about fodder availability and these callers are being referred to Co-ops in their respective areas. Those farmers with animal welfare issues (i.e. animals starving) are being referred to the DVOs where there are systems in place to deal with them on a case by case basis. Further information on the scheme is available from the Department website. http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/animalhealthwelfare/fodderassistanceapril2013/.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments

Questions (247)

Denis Naughten

Question:

247. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total savings in 2012 disadvantaged areas scheme payments solely due to the changes in the stocking rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26477/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As processing of the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is not yet finalised, it is not possible at this stage to give precise figures as to the overall level of savings that will be achieved on foot of the various changes introduced to the Terms and Conditions of the 2012 Scheme. However, to date, payments worth in excess of €208 million have issued to 95,302 beneficiaries; a total of 102,070 applicants went identified as having declared DAS-eligible land under the 2012 Scheme.

It will be recalled that, arising from the 2012 budgetary process, savings needed to be found in my Department’s expenditure for 2012 to keep it in line with government targets. Accordingly, it was necessary to adjust the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. However, rather than simply apply an across the board cut to the rates payable or reduce the maximum payable area, 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, namely:

- ensuring continued agricultural land use, thereby contributing to the maintenance of viable rural communities;

- maintaining the countryside; and

- maintaining and promoting sustainable farming systems, which take account of environmental protection measures.

I was also determined that those adversely affected by the 2012 changes should be afforded the opportunity to appeal, where they could show legitimate reasons for their inability to meet the new requirements. In total, 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. These appeals have largely been processed, with the residue of cases expected to be finalised in the coming weeks. It is only at that stage, therefore, that it will be possible to determine the definitive outurn.

Fodder Crisis

Questions (248)

Denis Naughten

Question:

248. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will reduce below seven months the holding period for animals under the 2013 disadvantaged areas scheme and revise down the stocking rates in view of the impact that this may have on animal welfare due to the current and projected fodder shortage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26478/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The 2013 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, as already announced, is focussed on the protection of the smaller and most disadvantaged. It must also be borne in mind that the minimum stocking density requirement is equivalent to one ewe per eligible forage hectare and can not in any way be regarded as onerous. It will be recalled that, in response to budgetary realities, it was decided to re-focus the Scheme, with greater consideration been given to those contributing most to achieving the aims of the Scheme, which are:

- Ensuring continued agricultural land use, thereby contributing to the maintenance of a viable rural society;

- Maintaining the countryside;

- Maintaining and promoting sustainable farming systems, which, in particular, take account of environmental protection requirements.

Given the restrictions faced by those farming in recognised Disadvantaged Areas and mindful of the aims of the Scheme, as outlined, it will be readily appreciated that appropriate stocking levels are crucial. In this regard, balance must be struck between the need to ensure that at least the minimum is done to ensure the land is adequately utilised and grazed, while at the same time being sufficiently aware of the natural constraints. In this regard, it is clear that the minimum stocking levels currently set under the Scheme achieve this twin objective. Thus, the terms of the 2013 Scheme remain as previously announced. Farmers with genuine fodder-related stocking difficulties may avail of the force majeure provisions of the Scheme.