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Thursday, 7 Nov 2013

Written Answers Nos. 196-206

Forestry Grants

Questions (196)

John O'Mahony

Question:

196. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their forestry grant payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47498/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

This plantation failed to meet the required standard in November 2012 and April 2013. My Department was recently notified that the outstanding remedial works have now been completed. Another site inspection will be arranged shortly and the case will then be re-examined.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Questions (197)

John O'Mahony

Question:

197. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their single farm payment; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47501/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As processing of the application of the person named has recently been finalised, payment is due to issue shortly to the nominated bank account of the person named.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Questions (198)

John O'Mahony

Question:

198. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their single farm payment; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47502/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As processing of the application of the person named has recently been finalised, payment is due to issue shortly to the nominated bank account of the person named.

Horse Racing Industry Development

Questions (199)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

199. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the future of the Irish thoroughbred industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47503/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I welcome the publication of an ‘Analysis of the Economic Impact of the Irish thoroughbred Industry, October 2013’. This detailed analysis of the thoroughbred industry, commissioned by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, is a very useful piece of research for anybody with an interest in the sector.

I am acutely aware of the importance of the thoroughbred sector to the Irish economy and its pre-eminent position on the world stage as a global leader in the bloodstock industry. Indeed only last week the Irish thoroughbred sector was a key element in the major trade mission I led from Ireland to the Gulf States.

I note that the ITBA Report estimates the industry contributed €1.1bn in economic output and supported 14,000 jobs in 2012. The Report identifies challenges facing the industry and suggests a range of actions aimed at securing the future of the industry.

The ITBA Report raises the issue of the taxation of betting and possible changes to the rate of VAT to be charged on horses. Taxation policy is solely the responsibility for the Minister for Finance who, earlier this year, introduced the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013 which is aimed at updating the system of taxation applying to the betting industry.

Following from a judgement delivered by the European Court of Justice, 14th March 2013, (Case C-108/11), it was necessary for the Minister for Finance to make changes to the rate of VAT applied to horses. These changes are contained in the Finance (No. 2) Bill 2013, will take effect from 1st May 2014. However, the supply of horses intended for use in the preparation of foodstuffs or for use in agricultural production will remain at the 4.8 per cent rate. Supplies of other horses and the hiring of horses will be chargeable at the reduced rate of 9 per cent and the reduced rate of 13.5 per cent will apply to supplies of insemination services for horses.

The ITBA Report also raises issues with regard to prize money and the importance of the establishment of overseas markets. Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), a commercial state body established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001 and representing key sectors of the thoroughbred industry, is responsible for the overall administration, promotion and development of the industry. Decisions regarding prize money fall within the remit of HRI. Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM) is a subsidiary of HRI. It is funded by HRI and by the Irish bloodstock industry, including breeders, sales companies and stallion farms. ITM provides service and support to overseas visitors interested in the Irish thoroughbred racing and breeding industry. The principal focus of ITM is to generate inward investment and to increase export sales of Irish bloodstock.

Successive Governments have recognised the importance of the horse industry for our country, and have supported it through legislation and policy initiatives. Infrastructural supports are provided to the industry through various measures operated by my Department. This commitment to investment has enabled Ireland to develop into a world centre of excellence for horse racing and breeding. The Deputy is aware of my personal commitment to this indigenous Irish industry. Since becoming Minister I have taken an active interest in the industry and I commissioned an independent review of the industry in 2012. Officials in my Department are currently preparing legislative proposals aimed at giving effect to the recommendations contained in the Indecon report on the Irish Horse Racing Industry (2012) which I plan to bring before the Cabinet for approval as soon as possible.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments

Questions (200)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

200. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a disadvantaged area scheme payment and single farm payment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47521/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

An application under the 2013 Single Payment/Disadvantaged Area Scheme was received from the person named on 15 May 2013. Following processing, an issue was identified in respect of one land parcel declared on the application by the person named but also declared on the application of another party. My Department has written to both parties regarding this matter. Upon receipt of a satisfactory reply, the application of the person named will be further processed.

Single Payment Scheme Expenditure

Questions (201)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

201. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the average decrease in single farm payments in 2013 as a result of changes to the multiannual financial framework; when the Commission published its amending letter to the draft 2014 Budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47545/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As a result of changes in the EU multi-annual financial framework it is necessary that payments in respect of the 2013 Single Payment Scheme be reduced in order to ensure that the overall EU budget ceiling is respected. The original proposal from the Commission was to apply a deduction of 4.001079% on all payments in excess of €2,000. However, following the publication of Amending Letter 2 under the 2014 EU Budgetary procedure, the percentage reduction to be applied was reduced to 2.453658% on all payments in excess of €2,000.

While agreement in principle has been reached on the reduced deduction, the matter has yet to be formally adopted by the EU Council of Ministers. It is expected that it will be adopted at the Foreign Affairs Council at its meeting of 18th November 2013.

Milk Quota Cessation

Questions (202, 203)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

202. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the efforts he has made to get a derogation from payment of the super levy on milk, in view of the fact that milk quotas are to be abolished totally in 2015, for the production years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 as long as Irish production does not exceed the quota by more than 10% in 2013-2014 and 15% in 2014-2015; the result of these efforts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47547/13]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

203. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume of milk produced during this production year to date compared to last year; his views on whether the milk quota provided to Ireland will be exceeded and the super levy apply; the likely cost of this to Irish dairy farmers; if he has taken any steps at a European level to try and get a derogation for Ireland from the super levy in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47548/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 and 203 together.

The total (non adjusted) volume of milk produced in the first six months (April 2013 to September 2013) of the current milk quota year was 3,795 million litres, which represents 68% of the national quota allocation for the 2013/2014 milk quota year. The corresponding figures for the same period last year was 3,664 million litres, representing 66% of the national quota for that year. Based on monthly quota estimates, this means that Ireland is 0.42% over quota at end September 2013 compared to a position of being 2.14% under quota at the same point last year.

Given the very favourable milk production conditions that prevailed throughout the summer and early autumn there is a strong likelihood that Ireland will exceed its quota and consequently incur a super levy fine for this milk quota year unless milk producers take corrective action for the second half of the year. I do acknowledge the frustrations of farmers wishing to expand in response to both the favourable weather conditions and the strong milk prices but I do want to remind farmers that it remains critically important that they continue to manage their enterprises within quota until the expiry of the milk quota regime on the 31st of March 2015. The decision has been taken at EU level that quotas will continue until this point and producers should plan their production accordingly. I would urge farmers to immediately take stock of their milk supply situation and discuss any potential over production with their Teagasc dairy advisor. I would also remind suppliers who are in, or approaching an over quota position, that they should only sell their milk through their usual purchaser in compliance with the Milk Quota Regulations and to sell through any other channels is an offence. Likewise milk purchasers have a clear obligation to only accept milk for purchase when they are absolutely certain of the provenance of that milk.

I and my officials have been extremely active in seeking to secure a soft landing for suppliers in the lead-up to milk quota abolition in 2015 and the 2008 CAP Health Check agreement granted Member States increased quota between 2007 and 2014 - 9.3% in Ireland’s case. However for a small number of countries, including Ireland, those quota increases may be insufficient to accommodate increases in milk production which have been driven by supply and demand dynamics and the prospect of a quota free production environment after 2015. I have discussed this matter extensively with other EU Agriculture Ministers and with the European Commission, and officials from my Department have raised this issue at EU level and with other Member States. However, attempts to consider measures beyond those agreed in 2008 have been resisted and neither of the interim reports on the 2008 CAP Health Check Agreement, in 2010 and 2012, proposed any further changes to the quota regime.

The decision to abolish quotas from April 2015 was confirmed in the new CAP reform package as agreed under the Irish Presidency in June and efforts now must be on planning for the expansion opportunity which this provides for Ireland and as set out in the Food Harvest 2020 Strategy. In the meantime, it is clear that quotas will remain in place until their planned abolition in April 2015 and any expansion in supply before then needs to be synchronised with their abolition.

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

Questions (204, 205)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

204. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if farmers who own commonage but do not actively farm the commonage, but farm their enclosed land will be eligible for the single farm payment on either or both of their commonage and enclosed land under the new Common Agricultural Policy 2014-2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47549/13]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

205. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if it is sufficient for a farmer with commonage land to ensure that this land is maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition in order to be eligible for the single farm payment; if under the new Common Agricultural Policy 2014-2020, farmers with commonage will be required to maintain stock on the commonage; if so, the reason for this provision; if he opposed it in the negotiations of the CAP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47550/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 205 together.

Under the new Direct Payments regime which will come into effect in 2015, commonage land continues to be eligible for payment. However, there is a requirement that the farmer must be ‘active’ which, in the case of marginal type land such as mountain commonage, involves carrying out a ‘minimum activity’ which is to be defined by each Member State. The European Commission is empowered to adopt delegated acts setting out the framework within which MS shall define the minimum activity. Discussions on delegated acts are continuing and I am not in a position to comment further on the nature of such ‘minimum activity’ until these acts are finalised.

It should also be noted that Member States have the option of excluding land where ‘grasses and other herbaceous forage’ is not predominant. If such land is considered eligible, Member States have the option to apply a reduction co-efficient to such land whereby the declared number of hectares would convert into a reduced number of eligible hectares. I intend to finalise Ireland’s position on these and other Direct Payment issues before the end of the year.

Live Exports

Questions (206)

Denis Naughten

Question:

206. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps being taken to ensure that EU common market rules apply to the live export of cattle to Britain; the reason there have been difficulties experienced by UK farmers in slaughtering British fattened, Irish born cattle; the specific measures he is taking to have this problem addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47557/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The live export trade, whether to other EU member states or to third countries, serves a dual purpose in stimulating price competition for domestic cattle and satisfying a real demand in overseas markets. My Department and the Agencies under its aegis are committed to facilitating this trade to ensure that producers secure the highest possible sustainable price returns for Irish beef and live exports.

Bord Bia, through its international network of overseas offices, actively supports the development of the live export trade through the provision of market information, developing market access and promotional activity. Ireland’s trade with Britain – the highest-priced market in Europe – remains dominated by the beef trade accounting for some 50% of our export volume and at around 250,000 tonnes is equivalent to 750,000 cattle with a high level of penetration in the multiple retail sector.

However, the potential to grow the live trade to Britain is constrained by the labelling system operated by these retail chains in relation to cattle born in this country and exported live for finishing and processing in the UK. As the Irish-born / UK-finished proposition is seen as difficult to communicate to consumers and likely to create unnecessary labelling complications, the retailers’ long-standing policy is to market British and Irish beef separately. This means that beef must be sourced from animals originating in one country; i.e. born, reared and slaughtered in the same country.

While Bord Bia has repeatedly raised this issue in its discussions with British retailers over the years, there are no indications that this policy dating from 1996 is likely to be soon reversed. Nevertheless, Bord Bia in its ongoing interactions with British customers will continue to pursue all opportunities, including through any change in labelling policies, to maximise the full potential of the beef and livestock trade with our largest trading partner.

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