EU Presidency Issues

Questions (29)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

29. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of agreements he and his officials have achieved over the past six months as part of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU; what he expects to achieve at the June meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council, of which he is the current chairman; the outcomes he expects for the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy and other important matters; if he expects all of these issues to be signed off on and the trilogues completed by the end of the Irish EU Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29207/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As Chairman of the AgriFish Council of Ministers during the six months Irish Presidency of the Council, I can report that significant progress has been made on the Presidency’s policy objectives.

Recent months have seen very positive developments in the negotiations on reform of the CAP and I am confident that we will achieve political agreement on this package before the end of June. The agreement by the European Council on the Multiannual Financial Framework on 8 February provided the necessary clarity to enable the CAP discussions to move forward. This was followed by the adoption by the European Parliament of its overall position on the reform proposals at its plenary session on 12 March. This was in turn followed by the agreement by the Council of Agriculture Ministers on 19 March on its so-called ‘General Approach’ to the reform package, following the tabling of compromise proposals by the Irish Presidency.

We have therefore moved from a narrower focus on the finalisation of a Council position to the point where the Council position is itself just one of three different perspectives being brought to the table in the so-called “trilogue” process. Typically, this represents the final phase of negotiations in areas where the European Parliament has a co-decision role. Indeed, this is the first time that the Parliament has had such a role in relation to a CAP reform package. As President of the Council, Ireland is representing Member States in these negotiations.

I am happy to report that progress has been very good so far. The trilogues have been held in a very positive, constructive atmosphere. All of the institutions have responded to the Presidency’s call for a collaborative endeavour, and for a spirit of compromise to inform the process. Progress has been achieved on a number of technical issues, facilitated by technical discussions which are running in parallel to the trilogue meetings. In addition, more politically sensitive points that have been encountered so far have been discussed in a preliminary or exploratory way in the trilogues and parked for further consideration later. In this regard I have agreed with the Chairman of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, Paolo de Castro, on a further parallel process aimed at making progress on the big political issues that are likely to form the basis of the final political agreement.

The final target for that political agreement is the end of June. It is clear that the European Parliament and the Commission are committed to achieving this objective. The Member States have also demonstrated their commitment, and as President of the Council of Ministers, I intend to do all I can to ensure that the deadline is met. I need to be clear however that the timeline for political agreement by end June is extremely tight and ambitious. It can only be achieved with a fair wind and an exceptional effort by all three institutions.

At the beginning of the Irish EU Presidency an ambitious and demanding work programme was set out in order to pursue a successful agreed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). After months of intensive negotiations, agreement on a new reformed CFP was finally reached between the Irish Presidency, European Commission and the European Parliament on 30 May. Coreper (Committee of Permanent Representatives) endorsed the texts of the CFP Reform basic regulation and the Common Market Organisation (CMO) on Friday 14 June last. The formal political agreement of the European Parliament is expected in the coming weeks.

This radical reform will support the rebuilding of fish stocks in our waters as Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas are set to deliver maximum sustainable yield by 2015, where possible, and by 2020 for all stocks, and the wasteful practice of discarding fish is phased out. The changes once implemented will mean real meaningful reform to the Common Fisheries Policy and will determine European fisheries policy for the next decade and beyond.

Significant progress in a number of other legislative areas was also made during Ireland’s Presidency. Political agreement was reached on the important Non-Commercial Movement of Pet Animals proposals which will enable EU citizens to travel more easily within the EU with their pets. Agreement between the institutions was also reached on the so-called Breakfast Omnibus package of proposals concerning several directives relating to certain foods including coffee and chicory extracts, cocoa and chocolate products and certain dehydrated milk products; these are all part of wider measures to allow EU consumers make more informed choices concerning the food they buy. The new Farm Accountancy Data Network Regulation was also finalised.

Following adoption by the Commission in May/early June, discussions have also commenced on what is commonly called the “5-Part Package”, a package consisting of 5 separate proposals on Animal Health Law, Protective Measures against Pests of Plants, Plant Reproductive Material Law, Official Controls Regulation and the Regulation on Food and Feed Expenditure. My officials will continue to advance these dossiers over the coming weeks.

Harbours and Piers Development

Questions (30)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

30. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will outline the stages that the small craft harbour at Killybegs fishery harbour centre, County Donegal is to be developed, including the design and strategy; and if he will give an indication of when the development is to be completed. [29384/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Killybegs Fishery Harbour Centre is one of the six designated Fishery Harbour Centres, which are owned, managed and maintained by my Department.

I am aware of the many potential benefits of a small craft facility at this location, including the spin-off for the local economy, and I have allocated funding of €20,000 under the 2013 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme to advance this project.

I have asked my Department officials to set out a design and strategy to build the Small Craft Harbour in stages to meet demand while remaining cognisant of the current funding constraints and to deliver the first phase at the earliest opportunity.

Single Payment Scheme Eligibility

Questions (31, 54)

Niall Collins

Question:

31. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if compliance with the stocking prescriptions in the Twelve Bens-Maam Turk area of Connemara is a condition of cross compliance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29356/13]

View answer

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

54. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if compliance with the stocking prescriptions in commonage framework plans is a condition of cross compliance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29355/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 54 together.

In order to be eligible under the Single Payment Scheme and other area based schemes, an applicant must ensure that all agricultural land is maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition (GAEC). Cross-compliance involves two key elements:

- A requirement for farmers to comply with 19 Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) set down in EU legislation on the public health, animal and plant health, animal welfare, and the environment;

- A requirement to maintain the land in good agricultural and environmental condition.

EU regulations governing the area based schemes set minimum standards for GAEC, which must be complied with, by means of the undertaking of appropriate agricultural practices. These standards set requirements relating to the protection of soil from erosion; maintenance of soil organic matter levels; maintenance of soil structure; minimum level of maintenance and avoidance of deterioration of habitats and the protection and management of water. Farmers can keep agricultural land in GAEC by conducting an agricultural activity on it, such as grazing, harvesting forage crops, or by topping. Where a farmer chooses to keep his land in GAEC by grazing, a sufficient stocking rate must be met to ensure compliance with the required standards.

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 and, indeed, over-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, or where there is under-grazing, or over-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. My Department will set out proposals as to how these matters might be progressed in the near future.

Allotments Provision

Questions (32, 66)

Derek Keating

Question:

32. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to support urban agriculture such as the promotion and funding to allotments; if he considers it necessary to introduce registration of those who make available property to be developed into allotments in urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29208/13]

View answer

Derek Keating

Question:

66. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to develop an urban programme in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Department of Education and Skills to develop allotments, the registration of allotments, the standards that allotments should adhere to when a contract is provided; his views on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29209/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 66 together.

As Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, I have no function with regard to allotments.

The Acquisition of Land (Allotments) Act 1926, which falls under the remit of the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government, enables local authorities to let allotments in urban areas to an individual for the specific purpose of cultivating vegetables mainly for consumption by that individual “or his family”, if the authority is satisfied that such a demand exists.

Bord Bia, the state body under my aegis charged with the promotion of horticulture, promotes gardening and amenity horticulture through the Bloom festival in the Phoenix Park which took place over the June Bank Holiday weekend.

This highly popular consumer event educates on the many aspects of gardening. Bloom 2013 attracted a record 110,000 visitors including a significant number from urban areas. One of its main attractions was the showcasing of 28 show gardens from the very best of Irish landscape gardeners and designers, ranging from large, medium, small gardens and concept gardens in an assortment of design styles and budget points. For the first time this year, Bloom hosted a number of specific small gardens (“post card gardens”) which were designed, prepared and constructed by community gardeners and gardening clubs to demonstrate their abilities and to inspire other non-professional gardeners to experience the joys and benefits of gardening.

In addition, a comprehensive range of information and advice on a range of gardening topics was dispensed from the numerous talks by leading experts on the Garden Expert Stage over the five days of the show. Also present at Bloom were a number of organisations who provided instruction and advice on preparing a garden and “growing your own” vegetables and fruit.

The “Best in Season” fresh fruit and vegetables produce market displayed and retailed top quality locally grown fruit, vegetables and potatoes. Bloom allows visitors to engage with local Irish producers and pick up some tips on how to cook and use the best tasting fresh produce available throughout the Irish fruit, vegetable and potato season.

Bloom is now an important date in the calendar of many gardeners and horticulture enthusiasts.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

Questions (33)

Seán Fleming

Question:

33. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of agri-environment option scheme 1 and 2 payments that are still outstanding broken down on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29363/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under the EU Regulations governing the scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check of all applications, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue.

Successive EU audits have made it absolutely clear that compliance with the Regulations must be strictly adhered to and that all administrative checks must be passed and eligibility conditions met before payment issues. As a result, my Department is obliged to ensure that individual payments will not issue until all aspects of a farmer’s application are in order, all outstanding documentation provided and all queries resolved. Outstanding payments under AEOS I and II arise because of outstanding queries on applications forms, digitising issues, the submission of inaccurate capital investment claim forms, non return of soil sample declarations and the failure of the farmer to return documentation in relation to the Conservation of Genetic Resources.

I am conscious of the importance of these payments to farmer’s incomes and my Department is making every effort to assist farmers in regularising their applications and claims for payment. Additional resources have been assigned to dealing with queries and payments will continue to issue as quickly as possible as outstanding issues are resolved.

The tables set out the details requested by the Deputy.

AEOS I Outstanding Payments

County

2011

Total

Carlow

 

3

Cavan

 

7

Clare

 

5

Cork

 

23

Donegal

 

10

Dublin

 

1

Galway

 

18

Kerry

 

10

Kildare

 

5

Kilkenny

 

6

Laois

 

1

Leitrim

 

2

Limerick

 

12

Longford

 

2

Louth

 

1

Mayo

 

3

Meath

 

6

Monaghan

5

Offaly

 

5

Roscommon

6

Sligo

 

4

Tipperary

 

11

Waterford

3

Westmeath

7

Wexford

 

5

Wicklow

 

7

-

Grand Total

168

County

2012

Total

Carlow

 

6

Cavan

 

21

Clare

 

11

Cork

 

52

Donegal

 

29

Dublin

 

2

Galway

 

74

Kerry

 

22

Kildare

 

7

Kilkenny

 

21

Laois

 

12

Leitrim

 

17

Limerick

 

25

Longford

 

7

Louth

 

3

Mayo

 

37

Meath

 

10

Monaghan

14

Offaly

 

11

Roscommon

22

Sligo

 

11

Tipperary

 

28

Waterford

10

Westmeath

15

Wexford

 

17

Wicklow

 

12

-

Grand Total

496

AEOS II Outstanding Payments

County

2011

Total

Carlow

 

3

Cavan

 

10

Clare

 

12

Cork

 

42

Donegal

 

33

Dublin

 

2

Galway

 

64

Kerry

 

20

Kildare

 

3

Kilkenny

 

13

Laois

 

7

Leitrim

 

7

Limerick

 

15

Longford

 

8

Louth

 

3

Mayo

 

54

Meath

 

10

Monaghan

6

Offaly

 

4

Roscommon

25

Sligo

 

13

Tipperary

 

19

Waterford

7

Westmeath

2

Wexford

 

9

Wicklow

 

8

-

Grand Total

399

County

2012

Total

Carlow

 

9

Cavan

 

50

Clare

 

68

Cork

 

125

Donegal

 

179

Dublin

 

4

Galway

 

235

Kerry

 

90

Kildare

 

13

Kilkenny

 

36

Laois

 

21

Leitrim

 

53

Limerick

 

70

Longford

 

33

Louth

 

10

Mayo

 

191

Meath

 

31

Monaghan

34

Offaly

 

29

Roscommon

104

Sligo

 

60

Tipperary

 

105

Waterford

26

Westmeath

36

Wexford

 

40

Wicklow

 

19

-

Grand Total

1671

Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme Expenditure

Questions (34)

Barry Cowen

Question:

34. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of EU funding under the TAMS scheme that remains unspent to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29366/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

EU Commission approval for the introduction of a number of targeted agricultural modernisation schemes (“TAMS”) which were designed to support productive investment in the agricultural sector was received in March 2010, with total funding of €110 million as provided for in Ireland’s Rural Development Programme for 2007-2013. This funding has enabled investment to take place in a number of specific sectors such as animal welfare, bioenergy, dairy equipment, rainwater harvesting and sheep fencing/handling.

Total cumulative expenditure to end-May 2013 was €19.57 million. As TAMS applicants generally have two years from the date of issue of Department approval to complete the investment works concerned, actual expenditure lags very significantly behind the financial commitments made in the form of approved projects by my Department under each Scheme at any particular time. The EU recoupment rate is either 85% or 50%, depending on the year of expenditure.

I am aware that some farmers have found it difficult to complete the investment works concerned within the two year period referred to above, and I have therefore recently confirmed that farmers with outstanding approvals under the Dairy Equipment, Rainwater Harvesting and Sheep Fencing/Handling Schemes may apply in writing to my Department for an extension of the time-limit concerned.

Credit Availability

Questions (35)

Denis Naughten

Question:

35. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps being taken to address the issue of credit for farmers and agricultural merchants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29220/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

During the recent fodder crisis, concerns regarding access to credit and flexibility around loan repayments have been significant issues for many farmers. My Department has been in regular contact with the banks, co-ops and feed merchants to urge flexibility and co-operation during this time. 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.