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Agriculture Scheme Payments

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 12 February 2014

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Questions (171)

Seamus Kirk

Question:

171. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will consider increasing the beef genomic scheme payment rate per cow as the current €80 proposal announced as part of the Common Agricultural Policy reform programme is considered inadequate in terms of the impact needed to stabilise suckler cow numbers nationally and provide reasonable support for the extremely low incomes of suckler farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7066/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

While suckler cow numbers have remained relatively stable since payments were decoupled from production in January 2005, my Department monitors the composition and strength of the national herd on an ongoing basis. The most recent results published by the CSO show a stability in the herd in 2013 relative to 2012, although more recent figures signal a decline in the number of calve born to beef breeds, as high cattle prices have encouraged beef producers to restock their herds.

Year

Beef Cow Herd - ‘000 head

2011

1,123.3

2012

1,148.6

2013

1,150.3

Recognising the importance of maintaining confidence in a sector that has benefited from historically high price levels in recent years, I recently announced the operational details of an investment package worth up to €40m to beef farmers in 2014. This package includes:

- €23m for the Beef Genomics Scheme;

- €10m for the Beef Data Programme;

- €5m for the Beef Technology Adoption Programme; &

- €2m in residual payments under the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme.

The Government’s investment is a strong vote of confidence in the suckler beef sector. It exemplifies the smart, green growth initiatives envisioned in the Food Harvest 2020 strategy. It is important to note that this investment in the beef sector is aimed not just at sustaining a critical mass in the suckler cow herd, which is the seed bed of our high quality beef industry, but also at improving efficiency, profitability and viability at farm level.

I have recently announced details in relation to the financial allocations for the new Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (RDP) as well as outlines of the proposed measures for inclusion. The development of a new RDP for the period 2014-2020 will be a key support in enhancing the competitiveness of the agri-food sector, achieving more sustainable management of natural resources and ensuring a more balanced development of rural areas.

My Department has also published a consultation document outlining proposed measures for inclusion in the new RDP, including a new beef data and genomics measure worth up to €52 million per year. Under the new RDP, beef sucker farmers will be eligible for participation under a range of measures including:

- a substantial new agri-environment/climate scheme (GLAS), which will build on the progress made under REPS and AEOS. This will provide for a maximum payment of €5,000 for up to 50,000 farmers, and a further payment of up to €2,000 for a limited number of farmers who take on particularly challenging actions;

- continued strong support for disadvantaged areas (now Areas of Natural Constraint), to the tune of about €195 million per year;

- incentives for on-farm capital investment, including support for the expansion of the dairy sector following the abolition of milk quotas in 2015;

- knowledge transfer and innovation measures, aimed at underpinning farm viability, sustainability and growth through the adoption of best practice and innovative solutions;

- a new beef data and genomics measure worth up to €52 million per year aimed at improving the genetic quality of the beef herd;

- a separate strand of the support for on-farm capital investment will be ring-fenced for young farmers at a higher rate of aid intensity of 60%; and

- other supports aimed at collaborative farming, artisan producers, organic farming etc.

I am confident that this range of measures will, when taken together with other Pillar I direct payments, assist suckler farmers to improve their on farm viability.

The proposed measure outlines are now available on my Department's website and will form the basis for a public consultation. Written submissions are now being sought by the deadline of 19th February 2014. This consultation process will be a key step in designing a draft RDP and the allocation of funding for the proposed measures under the RDP for submission to the EU Commission for their approval.

Finally, having regard to the payment per animal in the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme proposed in the draft Rural Development Programme, the Deputy will appreciate that the very substantial investment proposed is nonetheless subject to financial limits, and that any increase in the rate paid per animal would necessarily reduce the number of animals and/or farmers eligible for payment under the scheme. I do not believe that limiting participation in this way would represent optimal use of the funding available.

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