European Parliament Elections

Questions (122)

Michael McGrath

Question:

122. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in the context of European Parliament elections, if a presiding officer at a polling station has discretion to allow a person to vote even if there is an 'L' next to their name on the electoral register but they provide evidence, such as a passport, that they are an Irish citizen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23920/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Irish citizens, who meet the age and residency requirements, can vote in all elections and referendums in the State provided they are registered in the register of electors. The letter ‘L’ placed against the name of an elector in the register indicates that the person concerned is registered as a local government elector and is entitled to vote at local elections only. Presiding Officers at polling stations do not have any discretion to give a ballot paper for the European Parliament elections to a person with the letter ‘L’ opposite their name on the register. Where a person included in the register of electors with ‘L’ opposite their name becomes an Irish Citizen, they should notify the registration authority so that their changed status can be noted for subsequent registers of electors.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

Questions (123)

Dara Calleary

Question:

123. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo may expect to have their outstanding agri-environment payment processed; if he will expedite the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23705/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved for participation in the 2011 Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from 1 September 2011 and full entitlements have issued in respect of the 2011 and 2012 Scheme years. The checking process in respect of the 2013 Scheme year has been successfully completed and 75% payment issued on the 13 January 2014. In finalising the 25% payment, some issues emerged which have now been resolved and the balancing payment will issue shortly.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

Questions (124)

Pat Breen

Question:

124. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 655 of 30 April 2014, when an agri-environment options scheme payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23723/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS 3) with effect from 1 May 2013. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. These checks have been successfully completed in respect of 2013 and 75% payment issued to the person named on 7 May 2014. Payment of the 25% balancing payments to AEOS 3 participants will issue in due course.

Single Payment Scheme Administration

Questions (125)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

125. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the single farm payment; the changes there are to this scheme; if he will consider proposals whereby the payment is front-loaded on the first 25 hectares, making it far more beneficial to smaller and medium size farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23735/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Upon the conclusion of the CAP negotiations under the Irish Presidency in June 2013, my Department initiated an extensive process of consultation with the farming community and representative farming organisations. Following examination of these submissions, decisions regarding the application of the direct payment regime which takes effect in 2015 were finalised in early 2014.

A fundamental premise of the new Basic Payment Scheme and related Schemes is that the redistribution of funds in Ireland should be managed solely through the mechanism of the Internal Convergence Model. This model provides a predictable and effective methodology for the redistribution of funds from those who currently hold high entitlements to those who hold low value entitlements making it possible to provide precise information to farmers regarding the level of support they can expect to receive for the period 2015 to 2019. As applied in Ireland, the model will include a cap on the payment per hectare of €700 by 2019 as well as a guarantee that all entitlements will reach a minimum unit value of 60% of the national average entitlement value by 2019. This model achieves the stated objectives of a gradual phased redistribution of funds in a fair and objective manner.

My Department has undertaken an extensive programme designed to make available all relevant information regarding the new Scheme to the farming community including through farmers’ meetings and the publication of a detailed booklet ‘CAP 2015: An Introduction to Direct Payments’.

Single Payment Scheme Eligibility

Questions (126)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

126. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will review the penalty process for single farm payments and disadvantaged area scheme payments as many farmers are being unfairly penalised on lands that were formerly qualified; if he will provide clarification on the exact number of farmers that have been contacted as part of this on-going land parcel eligibility review; the number of farmers in County Cork who have been contacted in this regard; the total sum being recouped from farmers in County Cork; his views on whether this review is fair on farmers and that due to these draconian penalties and in some cases no payment, many of these farmers will be forced out of business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23736/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under the Terms & Conditions of the Direct Aid Schemes, which includes the Single Payment Scheme and the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, farmers are obliged to declare only eligible land when making their applications, ensuring they exclude ineligible features such as roads, buildings, farmyards, dense scrub, etc. These claims are then recorded on my Department’s Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS). Given the importance of the LPIS database and the inspection system in underpinning direct aid payments worth in excess of €1.5 billion annually, my Department is obliged under EU Regulations to ensure their accuracy.

Following consultation with the EU Commission, as part of the normal Accounting process, my Department was requested to undertake a complete review of the LPIS database. This Review involved in excess of 900,000 individual land parcels declared by some 132,000 applicants and resulted in the necessity to adjust parcels of a significant number of applicants, where it was established that ineligible features had been included. To date, this Review has resulted in just over €10 million of SPS payments being withheld from approximately 33,000 farmers and a further €2.3 million in Disadvantaged Area payments in 2013. Issues have been identified for some 3,578 Cork farmers, the monetary value being some €2 million.

A comprehensive review and appeals process has been implemented to ensure that the cases of individual farmers affected by the LPIS Review are fully scrutinised. In the first instance, a farmer, who finds himself or herself in this position, can seek a review of the original decision by Department officials. If they are not happy with the outcome of the review, they can submit an appeal to the independently-chaired LPIS Appeals Committee. Thereafter, they are entitled to pursue their case with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Beef Industry

Questions (127)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

127. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he has taken to date to deal with the crisis in the beef trade at present, particularly the bull beef trade; his views on the impact this will have on Food Harvest 2020 targets; the engagement he has had with beef processors to push for a fair price for beef farmers in view of this crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23739/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I wish to inform the Deputy that since the onset of the recent crisis in the beef sector particularly in relation to the bull trade, I have met separately with representatives of both the farm organisations (IFA, ICMSA, ICSA) and meat factories (MII) in February and March this year to see what assistance I could give to resolving their difficulties.

Following these initial meetings, I decided to bring all stakeholders in the sector to roundtable discussions chaired by myself. The purpose of these roundtable discussions with key stakeholders in the beef sector, which includes representatives from IFA, ICMSA, ICSA, MII, Teagasc and Bord Bia, is to reflect on recent developments in the sector and set out a series of actions that will aid viability across the supply chain in light of current market conditions.

So far this year there have been two Beef Roundtable Discussions, on 17 April and 3 June. I believe that all sides agree that these discussions are a worthwhile exercise and the constructive engagement of participants confirms my belief that ongoing dialogue and collaboration, supported by the Government, is essential to improving the interdependent relationship between and producers and processors. The positive outcome of the roundtable discussions is reflected in the various measures announced so far. These include:

- the Beef Roundtable discussions will reconvene quarterly to exchange intelligence on market developments and forecasts particularly in relation to supply, demand, prices, product specifications, retail changes etc;

- a commitment to launching a ‘Beef Pricewatch’ online tool to make price information more accessible and free of charge to farmers,

- Mr. Michael Dowling, Chairman of the Beef 2020 Activation Group was asked to look at the role that specifications play in the young bull production and prices and to review implementation of the Group’s report. His report made a number of recommendations on which I have asked the roundtable participants to reflect and consider.

- My Department will prioritise its targeted on-farm capital investments for suckler farmers through the new Rural Development Programme;

- Bord Bia has allocated €0.5m to expand and target promotion of Irish beef through its campaigns in the UK and in certain continental markets;

- Teagasc will intensify its efforts to enable farmers to maximise on-farm efficiencies through lowering input costs and increasing output value to deliver a better margin for suckler farmers and finishers. This assistance will include advice on adapting productions systems to meet market specifications; &

- I have undertaken discussions with my Northern counterpart, Ms Michelle O’Neill, on issues relevant to the sector including cross-border trade.

The second Roundtable discussions were open and lively and all sides (farmers, meat processors and officials) committed themselves to continuing the process. For the next Roundtable discussions my Department will follow up on improving the Beef Pricewatch information available to farmers as well as examining the role Producer Organisations could play in establishing a better price for beef farmers.

The Deputy will also be aware that one of my priorities since taking office has been the continued development of the beef sector. The Government’s commitment to primary production in the sector is evidenced by an investment package worth up to €40m to beef farmers in 2014 allied with a number of progressive schemes to be implemented over the lifetime of the new RPD. Taken together with the leadership provided by my roundtable initiative, beef farmers have the necessary supports to enhance the profitability and sustainability of their livestock enterprises.

In my view the work following on from the Beef Roundtable discussions taken together with the investment outlined above and further support for beef farmers from the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) will mean that the targets set for the sector in Food Harvest 2020 will be achieved.

Single Payment Scheme Appeals

Questions (128)

Noel Coonan

Question:

128. Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a single farm payment appeal will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23752/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

A review of the lands declared by the person named under the Single Payment Scheme in 2012 and 2013 revealed that a number of land parcels declared contained ineligible features. In order to clarify the position regarding the area of any ineligible features my Department arranged for a ground verification check to be undertaken. This verification check has been completed and the results are now being finalised. The person named will be shortly notified of the outcome, in writing. In the event that the person named is dissatisfied with the outcome of this verification check, the decision can be appealed to the independent chaired LPIS Appeals Committee.

Dairy Equipment Scheme Appeals

Questions (129)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

129. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding dairy scheme assistance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23765/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person concerned is an applicant under the TAMS Dairy Equipment Scheme and lodged an application for grant-aid with my Department on 18 December 2013. An appeal against the decision to reject the application concerned was submitted to my Department on behalf of the applicant on 26 May 2014. This appeal is currently under consideration.