Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments

Questions (47)

Michael McGrath

Question:

47. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the earliest date legally the disadvantaged areas payment can be paid on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29342/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

There is no specific regulatory payment date for the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme (DAS), unlike, for example, the Single Payment Scheme where the governing regulation provides for payments to issue in the period 1 December of the year of application to 30 June of the year following. However, in the case of DAS, it is a requirement of the governing EU legislation that all eligibility checks must have been completed before payments can be completed. Bearing this in mind and also that farmers’ applications are submitted up to mid-May, it has been generally recognised (and reflected in the Farmers' Charter), that a payment target of late September of the given year is the most realistically attainable. My Department is making every effort to ensure that payments will commence as early as possible in September of the current year.

Payments under the 2012 Scheme commenced on 26 September and, to date, payments worth in excess of €208 million have issued to 95,449 farmers. Payments continue to issue twice weekly, as individual cases are confirmed eligible.

Coillte Teoranta Harvesting Rights Sale

Questions (48)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

48. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if any strategic assessment has been undertaken within his Department to establish the likely effect that the sale of harvesting rights at Coillte forests will have on his Department's ability to achieve the aims of the sectoral plans envisaged by the forthcoming climate action and low carbon development Bill; and if he will share the findings; if not, if he will commit to such an undertaking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29215/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Further to the Government decision that a concession for the harvesting rights to Coillte’s forests be considered for sale, NewERA, Coillte, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department examined the financial and other implications of developing the potential of Coillte's forest assets. This examination included 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.

With reference to the specific aspect which the Deputy mentions, harvesting and replanting are integral parts of the management of planted forests. The use of harvested wood for the manufacture of a range of wood products and as substitute for fossil fuel has substantial climate change mitigation benefits. In order to preserve the forest estate, my Department’s long-standing policy is that replanting should take place following harvesting apart from exceptional circumstances; this helps to ensure that there is no long term change on carbon stocks. The replanting obligation was one of the issues identified in relation to the possible harvesting rights concession. For these reasons, the proposed sale of Coillte harvesting rights would be in accordance with any sectoral plan the Department may develop in the context of the climate action legislation.

The overall analysis on the proposed sale of Coillte harvesting rights has been finalised, the outcome of which is currently being considered by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and myself. A Memorandum with recommendations will be brought to Government today for consideration.

Court Judgments

Questions (49)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

49. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the implications of the judgment made in the High Court by Mr. Justice Hanna in 2009 (details supplied); the actions he proposes taking on foot of this judgment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29371/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The State's legal team is examining the judgement referred to in the question including in relation to any implications and any actions. It is anticipated that the draft Order will be perfected on the 21 June 2013, there are 21 days to appeal to the Supreme Court. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on this judgement at this time.

Fodder Crisis

Questions (50)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

50. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to tackle the ongoing fall-out from the fodder crisis; and if he will consider creating a task force to deal with fodder related issues, including cashflow problems on farms, securing enough feed for next winter and managing the damage done to land, as well as dealing with mental health issues in the farming community. [29385/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

It is important that we do as much as we can over the next few months to ensure that Irish farmers are not faced with the same issues and difficulties next Winter as experienced earlier this year in sourcing adequate fodder for their animals. Accordingly, Teagasc's Interagency Fodder Committee is currently monitoring the fodder situation while also examining and co-ordinating the next steps required to ensure that there is a strategic approach to fodder production and conservation to ensure continuity of supply.

I have also asked the Interagency Fodder Committee to report to the High Level Implementation Committee of Food Harvest 2020 which I chair, on the outlook for the rest of this year and also to detail the actions being taken to ensure adequate fodder is available for next Winter.

It is also important that farmers are maximising grass production and fodder conservation in the coming period and I have asked Teagasc to prioritise this policy in their advisory campaigns over the summer months. In this context, adjustments to the Nitrates regulations recently agreed with the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government will provide support to farmers to maximise grass growth and conservation into next Autumn.

EU Regulations

Questions (51)

John Halligan

Question:

51. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the Irish Competent Authority, required under EU timber regulation, will be established; the resources that will be made available to the competent authority to ensure that it is appropriately staffed and is given the appropriate tools in order to allow it to carry out its functions as required under the terms of the EU timber regulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29380/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The new EU Timber Regulation (EUTR – Regulation (EU) No. 995/2010) is now in effect. It is part of a package of important measures aimed at ensuring that all products containing wood placed on the market in the EU are from legally harvested timber. It applies to wood and wood products being placed for the first time on the EU market.

I have charged my officials in the International Forest Policy Section, in cooperation with the Forestry Division, with carrying out a number of functions, as Irish Competent Authority, under this new regulation. The skill-sets available will be a mixture of administrative and technical knowledge. Over the coming period, to ensure compliance with these new rules, they will undertake a number of tasks:

- firstly, to provide information and guidance to the industry through use of the web and seminars or talks;

- to gather technical data to provide a knowledge database to take informed decisions and to advise on compliance;

- to plan for enforcement though various actions such as site visits and information sampling; and

- to effectively cooperate with both the European Commission and Other Member States to combat cross border infringements.

My officials have been in close contact with key players across Europe already with a view to establishing best practice in a number of areas. Ireland has been proactively involved in Brussels during our Presidency in liaising with the Commission in establishing effective structures across the European Union. Ireland has already established strong links regarding information sharing with two key trading Member States and is committed to add to this list shortly.

Agriculture Schemes Eligibility

Questions (52)

Michael McGrath

Question:

52. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total area of land declared for the purposes of the single payment in 2012; the area declared under the disadvantage payment scheme as mountain grazing; the area declared as more severely handicapped and the area declared as less severely handicapped; the number of farmers that have their farm hub in land under each category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29375/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under the 2012 Single Payment Scheme, applicants declared a total area of 4,709,788 hectares, while the declared area under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was 3,255,321 hectares. The further breakdown of DAS areas is as follows:

Category

Hectares

Mountain Type Grazing

1,121,377

More Severely Handicapped Lowland

1,479,169

Less Severely Handicapped Lowland & Coastal Areas with Specific Handicaps

654,775

Total area

3,255,321

The additional data requested regarding the location of farm hubs, by DAS category, is currently being assembled, in so far as possible, and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy immediately it becomes available.

Aquaculture Licences Applications

Questions (53)

Robert Troy

Question:

53. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a decision will be made on the application for an aquaculture licence in Galway Bay for a large finfish farm by Bord Iascaigh Mhara; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29368/13]

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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 are 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.

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.