Fodder Crisis

Questions (249)

John Deasy

Question:

249. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of aid that has been distributed per county for animal fodder in 2013. [26498/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Fodder Transport Subsidy Scheme had played an important role in contributing to the efforts of recent weeks, with the transport costs of sizeable quantities of fodder being significantly offset by my Department’s contribution. While the Scheme itself ended on Friday, 24 May, as an exceptional measure, I announced that any definite purchases that had been placed by that date, but which will be delivered on or before 31 May, will be included under the Scheme. As with all fodder included under this Scheme, only fodder sold to individual farmers is eligible for the transport subsidy.

Application forms (the relevant sections of which were required to be completed by individual farmers at time of purchase), were initially be retained by the Dairy Co-operative/Milk Purchaser/Mart; these are now in the process of being submitted, en bloc, suitably completed and verified, to the Department for checking of individual thresholds and payment. It is intended that only one payment will issue to each Dairy Co-operative/Milk Purchaser/Mart in respect of their submission for aid on behalf of participating farmers. In excess of 2,300 loads of imported fodder have benefited from my Department’s contribution to the transport costs under this Scheme; this amounts to in excess of 34,000 tonnes of fodder.

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

Questions (250)

John Deasy

Question:

250. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the timetable for Common Agriculture Policy negotiations over the coming days. [26499/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Following what I think were extremely useful and productive informal discussions between the Council, European Parliament and Commission in Dublin earlier this week, my attention is already firmly focused on what I hope will be the final phase of the CAP reform negotiations over the coming weeks, culminating in an overall political agreement between the three institutions at the end of June. The three institutions have been involved in so-called ‘trilogue’ negotiations since early April. These trilogues are scheduled to continue across all four CAP reform dossiers until 20 June, and it is intended that these discussions will resolve the vast majority of issues, which could be described as being of a largely technical nature. A separate and parallel informal process of discussion on the most sensitive political issues, which fed into the formal May Council and continued in a more substantial way at the informal meeting in Dublin, will also continue right through the month of June. These are the issues that will prove most difficult to resolve, and it is hoped that this parallel process will reduce the number of such issues to a manageable number of outstanding points that will be finalised, from a Council perspective, at the meeting of Agriculture Ministers in Luxembourg from 24-26 June.

It is worth noting that in the course of the informal meeting in Dublin, all three European institutions re-stated their commitment to reaching an overall political agreement by the end of the Irish Presidency. This encouraging statement of intent, which was reinforced by the constructive approach taken by the participants, makes it clear that the target of reaching an overall agreement by the end of June remains very much on schedule.

Sugar Industry

Questions (251)

John Deasy

Question:

251. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the estimate for the overall capital cost costs involved in building a manufacturing plant for the production of sugar. [26500/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I would like to give the Deputy the background to this issue. The EU Sugar Regime underwent a radical reform in 2005 following major EU decisions to restructure the industry. A temporary restructuring scheme was introduced with the aim of reducing EU sugar production. Greencore, the holder of the entire Irish sugar quota, availed of this voluntary scheme, dismantled its facilities and ceased production in 2006. Ireland secured €353 million as part of the reform package of which €220 million went to beet growers, €127 million to Greencore and €6million to machinery contractors. There is no mechanism under the present EU Regulations which would allow for the re-instatement of the sugar quota for the growing of sugar beet in Ireland for the production of sugar.

I know you will be aware that in 2011 I met with two separate groups which had conducted feasibility studies, into the possibility of establishing a new sugar/bioethanol facility in the country. I understand from figures published by the interested groups who are investigating the possibility of building a new facility, that the overall capital cost costs involved could range from €250 million to €400 million, depending on what type of facility will be constructed. At the meetings I stated that any venture to develop a combined sugar/bioethanol production facility would have to be a commercial proposition, financed in total by investors and interested parties and make sound economic sense in order to be viable. I also further suggested to both groups, the desirability of there being only one single proposition in play, as both studies had indicated a potential for only one such viable project and both groups had appeared to accept the reasonableness of this position at the time. Only recently, I re-stated that any business plan for a new venture in this area, would need to be competitive and that it would have to justify the very substantial investment to build a new facility.

I have strongly supported the current EU Commission’s proposals to completely abolish sugar quotas from 30 September 2015, as part of the ongoing CAP Reform discussions. At each meeting of the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers since October 2011, which has addressed this issue, I have intervened to fully support the Commission proposals for quota abolition. I also raised the issue with EU Agriculture Commissioner Ciolos during his visits to Ireland last year and in several other contacts with him, I have informed him of the growing momentum here for the revival of the sugar industry.

In recent discussions at the Council of Agriculture Ministers, which I am chairing under our EU Presidency responsibilities, a deep divide emerged between one group of Member States, including Ireland, which favoured abolition of quotas in 2015 and another group of Member States which wished to extend quotas to 2020 and beyond. As current President of the Council, I made a compromise proposal that garnered the support of a large majority of Member States, to extend the quota regime for a further two years until 30 September 2017 when it will finally cease. This is the formal negotiating mandate for the Agriculture Council, as we enter the final phase of the ongoing CAP Reform negotiations. The European Parliament is in favour of extending quotas to 2020. The Council is now in detailed trilogue discussions between the EU Commission and the Parliament on the general CAP Reform package, including the future of the EU sugar regime, and I am hopeful that I can bring these talks to a successful conclusion before the end of our Presidency role on 30 June next.

Fodder Crisis

Questions (252)

Brendan Smith

Question:

252. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will extend the imported fodder transport scheme for at least a further two weeks in view of the difficulties facing the farming community particularly in areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan where very unfavourable weather conditions continue to prolong and intensify the fodder crisis and farm income problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26533/13]

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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/.

Departmental Budgets

Questions (253)

Seán Fleming

Question:

253. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has received any indicative figure from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the fiscal adjustments his Department will be asked to make in 2014 and 2015; the size of those adjustments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26541/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has asked my Department to identify options for savings which will ensure that there is a sufficient range of proposals to assist the Government in making informed choices about spending priorities and allocations in the preparation of the 2014 Estimates. The scale of the adjustments for 2014 were set out in the Comprehensive Expenditure Report 2013, which was published in December 2012. The Government will also make decisions on the future ceilings, including 2015, as part of the forthcoming budgetary deliberations and in that context, my Department has been asked to identify measures that could yield savings equivalent to 5% of the Department’s gross current spending in 2013 in order to provide a range of options to inform the decision-making process.

School Enrolments

Questions (254)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

254. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the availability of a school place in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26530/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, established the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) with the statutory responsibility to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The NEWB, through it's network of Educational Welfare Officers (EWOs) works with schools and families to provide appropriate support in relation to the procedures for enrolment in schools. In this way, the NEWB works to assist parents where they are experiencing difficulties in finding school places. In considering any individual case, the NEWB will have regard to the needs of the child concerned and will liaise with other agencies as appropriate including the National Council for Special Education.

I would also note that the selection and enrolment of pupils in schools is the responsibility of the authorities of the individual school concerned. Where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year, the parent or guardian may appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 to the Secretary General of the Department of Education & Skills, or in the case of a Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) school to the VEC in the first instance.

I have requested the NEWB to make contact with the parent/guardian identified by the Deputy and offer appropriate advice and assistance in accordance with the Board's statutory remit. The Deputy may also wish to advise the parent/guardian concerned to contact the NEWB at 01 463 5513 for the Regional Office concerned or centrally at 01 873 8700.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (255)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

255. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she is intending to amend the forthcoming Children First legislation to extend the scope of the guidelines to include childminders on the list of persons to whom the Children First legislation is applicable because of the large number of children who are cared for by childminders either in the childminder's home or elsewhere. [26363/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Work on the development of Ireland’s first Early Years Strategy for children aged from birth to 6 years, is already underway in my Department. The approach I am taking in developing the Strategy has received Government approval. My intention is to create an innovative and dynamic blueprint for the future development of Ireland’s early years sector and a coherent approach to seeking to improve the lives of children from birth to 6 years.

A broad range of issues relating to regulations, standards, quality assurance, and inspection are currently being considered by the Expert Advisory Group which is advising my Department on the Strategy. As Minister I am committed to ensuring high standards in early years service provision, both in terms of care and curriculum. The role of quality provision is critical in contributing to childhood development and I an determined that this key objective will be reflected fully in the Early Years Strategy. One of the specific issues of policy which I have identified for consideration in the preparation of the new Strategy is the future role and regulation of the childminding sector, which is already an important component of early childhood care and education. At present preschool services are subject to the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No.2) Regulations 2006, as provided for under Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991.

Services providing care for children who have not yet commenced primary school are required to notify their service to the Pre-School Inspectorate of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and are subject to inspection and report by the Inspectorate on a regular basis. Services covered by the Regulations include full-time, part-time and sessional services as well as childminders taking care of more than three preschool children from different families in the childminder’s home.

The National Guidelines for Childminders, compiled by the National Childcare Co-ordinating Committee established under my Department, provide guidance to childminders in regard to the Regulations and good practice in the provision of child care services. In that context, the City and County Childcare Committees, which assist my Department in implementing its early childhood care and education programmes, encourage childminders to voluntarily notify themselves to their local Committee. As is the case with all regulatory requirements, the Child Care Regulations set the minimum standards which services are legally required to comply with. My Department will continue to adopt a pro-active approach to promoting the highest standards of care and education throughout the sector, including childminders, given their importance in this crucial phase of children’s lives.

The Deputy will be aware that I published the Draft Heads and General Scheme for the Children First Bill 2012 on 25 April 2012 and immediately referred the Heads of Bill to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for consideration and advice. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children published their report in July 2012. As part of the Joint Committee's consultation process a number of submissions were received. Overall there was a welcome that the legislation would increase the focus on child protection. The contributions in the main came from organisations already implementing Children First. Submissions were not all in agreement and many points emerging needed to be considered and reconciled. This involves consideration of policy and operational issues, including those pertaining to childminders, as well as the best legal approach to achieving Children First objectives. In this regard, officials within my Department have consulted with a number of organisations and individuals and I recently met with a number of key stakeholders to discuss the complex issues that have arisen. I have also taken the opportunity to consult with a number of experts in relation to the development of the policy in this area. These discussions will inform the preparation of enhanced policy proposals that is currently underway.

The obligations of mandatory reporting are onerous and the inclusion of specific professionals and post holders is being considered very carefully at this time including persons working in the child care sector generally. I should emphasise that under the existing Children First National Guidelines, there is very clear advice available to all employees, volunteers and parents on how to raise any concerns they have about a child's safety and welfare. It is my intention to submit further proposals to Government as soon as possible with a view to the drafting of the Children First Bill as a priority.

Foreign Adoptions

Questions (256)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

256. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will outline her Department's engagements, if any, with families who have adopted children born in Mexico and who have subsequently been unable to have these adoptions recognised or registered here; and if she will report on the extent to which her Department is working with families affected to come to a resolution of their difficulties. [26365/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The responsibility for the registration of intercountry adoptions is a matter for the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI), an independent quasi judicial entity established under the Adoption Act 2010. It is a matter for the AAI to ensure that all adoptions are made in accordance with the provisions of the Adoption Act 2010. Accordingly, as Minister, it is not open to me to intervene in individual cases. The Authority has advised me that they have examined this matter comprehensively and taken legal advice in this regard. The Adoption Authority has determined that it does not have the statutory power to recognise certain adoptions of children born in Mexico or to register the adoption on the Register of Intercountry Adoptions. The matter is now the subject of legal proceedings in the High Court.

Children in Care

Questions (257)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

257. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will provide in tabular form, by the name of institution and its location, the various institutions in which children detained under a special care order granted by the High Court have been placed in facilities outside the State since January 2013 up until the present date. [26366/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department has sought the information requested by the Deputy from the HSE and I will provide the Deputy with the information as soon as it becomes available.

Child Care Reports

Questions (258)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

258. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if inspection reports of creches will be added to her website; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26413/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations 2006, the inspection of preschools is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE). As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, driving the early childhood care and education quality agenda is one of my key objectives. I believe we can achieve this objective by taking a number of steps in conjunction with the Department of Education and Skills, including the adaptation of the existing preschool inspection system to provide a more comprehensive and broader-based inspection regime for preschools, moving to a greater focus on outcomes for children. In support of this, a Joint Pilot Inspection of Early Years Services was carried out by Inspectors from the HSE and the Department of Education and Skills between September 2011 and May 2012. This pilot will inform the proactive approach being taken by my Department. I believe that it is important that inspection reports be made available publicly, and I have been consulting with the HSE with a view to ensuring that this happens as soon as possible. I would hope that HSE preschool inspection reports will be available on-line before September this year at the latest.

Departmental Budgets

Questions (259)

Seán Fleming

Question:

259. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has received any indicative figure from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the fiscal adjustments her Department will be asked to make in 2014 and 2015; the size of those adjustments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26543/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

In the context of the forthcoming Budget, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has asked my Department to identify savings which will feed into the expenditure decisions by Government for the Estimates 2014 and the setting of future Ministerial ceilings. The identification of savings options should ensure that a sufficient range of proposals are made by all Departments to help the Government make well-informed choices about spending priorities and allocations. The scale of the adjustments for 2014 were set out in Part 1 of the Expenditure Report 2013, which was published in December 2012. Government will be making decisions on the future ceilings as part of the forthcoming budgetary deliberations and it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.