Common Fisheries Policy

Questions (970)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

970. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to reintroduce the voisinage agreement; if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of fishermen in relation to this proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13174/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Voisinage arrangements are long-standing reciprocal arrangements which have allowed fishing boats from Northern Ireland access to fish within the 0 to 6 nautical mile zone of the territorial waters of the State and vice versa.   On the basis of the provisions of Articles 2 and 9 of the London Fisheries Convention, pre-existing reciprocal arrangements were re-affirmed at the time by means of an exchange of letters in the 1960s between the UK/Northern Ireland and Ireland. The Common Fisheries Policy (Article 5 of Regulation 1380/2013) provides for the continuation of such neighbourhood arrangements.  

On 27 October 2016, the Supreme Court issued a judgment in a case taken by a number of mussel seed fishermen in which it found that fishing by Northern Ireland boats within the 0 to 6 nautical mile zone of the territorial waters of the State under the Voisinage arrangements is not permitted by law. It is important to note that the Supreme Court upheld the High Court finding that the Voisinage arrangements are not invalid but that, as it stands, there is insufficient provision for them in domestic law.  The Supreme Court in fact noted that the arrangements were a sensible recognition at official level of practice and tradition, where fishing boats traditionally fished neighbouring waters.

The application of the judgment is to all fishing by Northern Irish fishing boats in the 0 to 6 nautical mile zone, measured from the baselines, relying on the Voisinage arrangements.  The Government approved the publication of the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill to address issues raised by the Supreme Court judgment, in so far as it relates to access for Northern Irish vessels.  If enacted and commenced, the Bill will give the Voisinage arrangements a proper legal footing.  The Bill was published in February 2017 and is available on the Oireachtas website. While the Bill proposes to restore access to Northern Ireland vessels to fish under the terms of the Voisinage arrangements, this access will be subject to the same conditions that apply to Irish sea-fishing boats. The Bill is currently being debated in the Seanad. Access continues to be provided for Irish sea-fishing boats to the Northern Ireland 0 to 6 nautical mile zone, although the UK has expressed concerns about the unequal situation which currently prevails. 

I have regular and intensive engagement with the fishing industry including the inshore fisheries sector where these issues have been discussed. Most recently, I had positive engagement with the representatives from the fisheries producer organisations and the National Inshore Fisheries Forum over the course of a detailed and considered consultation session on Thursday last, 21 March at the National Seafood Centre in Clonakilty. 

I now intend to proceed with completing the passage of this legislation as a matter of urgency.  This will include an amendment which will ensure that there is no question of preferential treatment for Northern Irish vessels while fishing in the 0-6 nautical mile zone.  Access will only be granted on the same terms as are applicable to Irish vessels. During the course of the forthcoming debate I also intend to speak to many of the key issues articulated by the industry including concerns regarding the limiting of access to Northern Irish vessels only, and the assurances received from the UK Government in terms of the legal reciprocity of the arrangement.

Fish Farming

Questions (971, 984, 1000)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Question:

971. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures that have been put in place for the proposed mussel farm in Kinsale, County Cork; his views on the proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13185/19]

View answer

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Question:

984. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a shellfish licence application for a mussel farm off Kinsale Harbour, County Cork (details supplied); if the concerns of local residents, clubs and organisations will be taken into account with regard to the scale of the mussel farm in question and its associated impact; if the objections submitted with regard to this application for reasons outlined will be considered; and when a final decision will be made on the application. [13687/19]

View answer

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Question:

1000. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a shellfish licence application by a company (details supplied) for a mussel farm off Kinsale Harbour, County Cork; if the concerns of local residents, clubs and organisations will be taken into account with regard to the scale of the mussel farm and the associated impact of the farm; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14074/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 971, 984 and 1000 together.

Applications for aquaculture licences are considered by my Department in accordance with the provisions of the 1997 Fisheries (Amendment) Act and (in the case of marine aquaculture) the 1933 Foreshore Act. The assessment process takes full account of all National and EU legislative requirements and reflects the full scientific, environmental, legal, public policy and engineering aspects of each application. The legislation also provides for a period of public consultation which has now concluded in this case.

As the licence application is currently under active consideration by my Department as part of a statutory process, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this time.

Basic Payment Scheme

Questions (972)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

972. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the options a person (details supplied) has to buy entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13190/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Basic Payment Scheme National Reserve was introduced in 2015 and provides for an allocation of payment entitlements to eligible applicants under the two mandatory priority categories of ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant to farming’.  The person named has confirmed that he does not meet the eligibility criteria for applicants under the National Reserve.

The option to lease or buy payment entitlements is available to all active farmers under the Basic Payment Scheme.  Pursuant to Article 34.4 of EU Regulation 1307/2013, a 20% clawback applies to the sale of entitlements without land.  Leases of payment entitlements, with or without land, and sales of payment entitlements with land are carried out without any clawback of entitlements.

Food Safety Standards Inspections

Questions (973)

Peter Burke

Question:

973. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a premises (details supplied) will be inspected as part of an application; if a new application process must be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13389/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Officials from my Department carried out an inspection on the premises mentioned on 4th February 2019 where there was discussion with the Operator with regard to the standards necessary for Third Country market access. 

The Food Business Operator presented outline plans with regard to certain structural improvements in the context of meeting the requirements for such access.  

However, neither the plans nor a timetable for their completion have been received by my Department to-date. My officials will now make contact with the Operator to determine the state of play with the project.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (974)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

974. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details of the provisions in relation to the commitment provided to him by the Irish Greyhound Board regarding the expansion of its code to include provisions with regard to best practice when exporting greyhounds; the expected timeline in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13458/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.  Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  

I have received assurances from Bord na gCon that it is committed to the expansion of its existing ‘Code of Practice in the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound’ to include advice on best practice when exporting greyhounds. Work on the expanded Code will be finalised when consideration of the Greyhound Industry Bill has been completed by the Oireachtas.

Bord na gCon is also a participant in the International Greyhound Welfare Forum and at a meeting of the Forum on 6th March 2019, Bord na gCon advised participants that it would engage with and accept input from members of the Forum in formulating the expanded Code.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (975)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

975. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of the €16.8 million provided to the Irish Greyhound Board in budget 2019 to be spent on the welfare of greyhounds during their racing life; the amount that will be provided to a charity (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13459/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.  Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Bord na gCon's budget for 2019 provides for a spend of €2.59m on regulation and welfare matters. The Irish Retired Greyhound Trust (IRGT) is funded by a percentage deduction in prizemoney to owners. This funding is then matched by Bord na gCon. Overall funding for IRGT in 2018 amounted to €242,000 and facilitates the rehoming of retired greyhounds in Ireland and in other countries.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (976)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

976. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is engaging at EU level to rectify issues in relation to the fact that the TRACES system used to record the exportation of dogs does not differentiate between greyhounds and other dogs and continued concerns regarding the export of greyhounds to countries with poor welfare standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13460/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

TRACES is the European Commission's online management tool for all sanitary requirements on intra-EU trade and importation of animals, semen and embryo, food, feed and plants.  Its main objective is to digitise the entire sanitary certification process, and it does not distinguish between breeds of dogs and there are no plans to change this. 

The vast majority of dogs that are moved from Ireland go to the UK.  Under EU law, dogs moved to another EU country from Ireland must be accompanied by an EU pet passport, be microchipped, and have a valid rabies vaccination. 

The welfare of greyhounds is regulated by the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 and the Animal Health and Welfare Act of 2013.  The latter applies to all animals, whether kept for commercial, domestic, sport, show or other purposes.  It contains robust measures against the ill-treatment of animals.

The Greyhound Racing Bill 2018, when enacted, will add to existing legislation, making the greyhound the most regulated of all canine breeds in Ireland. The Bill ensures that the principles of good governance and regulation are clearly and unambiguously laid down in primary legislation.  In broad terms the Bill seeks to address deficiencies in the existing legislation and the governance of Bord na gCon.  It will strengthen regulatory controls in the industry, modernise sanctions and improve integrity with a view to building a reputation for exceptional regulation in the sector. 

Bord na gCon is the State Body responsible for the governance, regulation and development of the greyhound industry in Ireland.  It is opposed to exports of greyhounds to countries that do not meet Ireland’s welfare standards which is a view that I fully endorse.

Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme

Questions (977)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

977. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter regarding the case of the person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13466/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person in question applied for a meal feeding system under the Dairy Equipment Scheme of TAMS II.   The application was successful and the grant was paid in February 2019.  

There are no other applications under TAMS on hands relating to this business ID.

Forestry Sector

Questions (978)

John McGuinness

Question:

978. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when he plans to implement the commitments given in the mid-term review of the forestry programmes 2017 and in particular, the actions outlined under section 21.1 on page 46; when he further plans to introduce the new forest management plan and certification scheme encompassing the FMP-C grant aid for certification which is perceived as an absolute necessity for the promotion of the certification process for private forestry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13497/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Department has provided significant funding under the current forestry programme to support the certification of private forests. This included the development of a suite of technical documents to assist forest owners, forestry groups and professional foresters achieve FSC certification; two certification groups were also established with funding from my Department.

I am of the view that certification as a market requirement is something which falls to the sector to consider how best to advance and I would welcome any initiatives between the various elements of the sector as how they can best advance this.

Later this year the Department plans to make available a new forest management plan (FMP) template based on the COFORD Management Planning Group Summary Report. This FMP will be consistent with the current FSC Ireland standard and when completed by forest owners will move them closer to full certification.

Interdepartmental Working Groups

Questions (979)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

979. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the working groups currently established in his Department; the focus of their work; the membership composition of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13558/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the information requested is set out in the following table.

Name of Working    Group    

Focus of WG    

 Number of Members    

Grades of Members    

DAFM State bodies energy working group

Reducing energy consumption and increasing energy efficiency in the   DAFM group of Public bodies (including DAFM)

12

ASG

PO

AP

HEO

EO

Brexit Working Groups

To coordinate DAFM Brexit requirements with DAFM control divisions, other Depts/ Agencies, OPW and with relevant external bodies.

15+

PO and equivalent

AP

Inspectorate Grade 1

Inspectorate Grade 2

AI

AAI

VI

SVI

HEO

AO

EO

Agriculture Appeals Office (AAO) Working Group on Review

To assess the recommendations of the Report on the Review of the   Agriculture Appeals Act 2001.

2-3

AP and equivalents

Sheep EID Working Group

Make preparations for sheep EID.

14

PO

AP

HEO  

SSVI  

SVI    

VI      

Internal Adaptation Stakeholder Working Group

Development of Statutory Adaptation Plan.

29

PO

AP

AI

AAI

AO

SI

SI (Forestry)

Forest Inspector Grade III

SVI

VI

HEO

Dairy Controls Working Group

Enhancement of food safety controls.

4-6

AI

AAI

TAO

Seafood Climate Adaptation Working Group

Preparation of the Seafood Sectoral Adaptation Plan as required under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.

10

AP

HEO

EO

AO

Engineer Grade 1

Zoonoses Working Group - Poultry

A sub group under the umbrella of the Poultry Working Group – examine specific Zoonoses issues in the poultry sector.

10-15

SSVI

PO/SI

AP

AI

AAI

SVI

VI

Biosecurity Working Group

Development of a National Approach to Biosecurity.

8

SSVI

PO

AP

VI

Food Safety and Food Authenticity Working Group

Deliver a more harmonised and coherent system of controls in relation to food safety and food authenticity.

Approx. 50

DCVI

AI

AAI

SSVI

SVI

VI

PO

AP

HEO

DS

EO

Greyhound Industry

Questions (980)

Clare Daly

Question:

980. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 475 of 12 March 2019, the breakdown of the employment figures including the number of full-time equivalents in the greyhound industry. [13590/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.  Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The information provided in the report ‘The Economic and Financial Significance of the Irish Greyhound Industry’ as prepared by Jim Power Economics Ltd. is an estimate of the number of full time and part time jobs in the national economy supported by the Irish greyhound industry. A further breakdown of the employment figures into full equivalents is not available.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (981)

Clare Daly

Question:

981. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is satisfied with the standard of regulation in the greyhound industry here. [13591/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.  Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Bord na gCon has made significant changes to its legislative framework in recent years in order to address issues in relation to integrity and animal welfare and this legislative framework will be further bolstered when the Greyhound Industry Bill 2018 is enacted this year.

The Greyhound Industry Bill continues to pass through the Houses of the Oireachtas, with the legislation now at Committee Stage in the Dáil. The existing legislation is being amended to improve the governance of Bord na gCon, strengthen regulatory controls in the industry, modernise sanctions and improve integrity with a view to building a reputation for excellence in the sector.

This legislative framework, when passed, will greatly strengthen the existing regulatory framework through the establishment in primary legislation of a statutorily independent sanctioning regime to conduct hearings into alleged breaches of the racing code. The Bill specifically addresses doping, integrity and fair play through a comprehensive range of enabling provisions allowing the board to make regulations to deal with doping control and the conduct of racing.

The future of the Irish greyhound industry is dependent on a strong governance platform and on the industry having the highest standards of integrity and welfare founded on a strong regulatory system.  The provision of a strong legal framework will support the development of the greyhound sector in Ireland and ultimately provide a platform to improve its contribution to the economy and employment.

TAMS Payments

Questions (982)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

982. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a supplementary TAMS payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13633/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

This case is currently being worked on to progress the payment due in this case. The Department will be in direct contact with the person named when the case is finalised.

Meat Processing Plants

Question No. 984 answered with Question No. 971.

Questions (983)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

983. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of meat processing plants that have applied for CNC licences to export beef products to China; the length of time CNC applications are taking to process; the reason for the delay; the progress status of the CNC licence application made by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13667/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My officials continue to work towards opening and enhancing access to as many markets as possible. This is a key part of our response to the challenges and uncertainty posed by Brexit, and in line with the market development theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy.

The opening of the Chinese market for Irish beef in 2018 was the culmination of significant work over a number of years and I am pleased that six Irish beef plants are currently approved to export beef to China.  

Exports of Irish beef to China commenced during the summer 2018.  According to CSO trade statistics, Ireland exported approximately €2.8 million (1,400 tonnes) to China in 2018.  In addition, Ireland has had beef access to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for some time, and exported €62 million (19,000 tonnes) to that market in 2018.

My officials continue to liaise with the appropriate Chinese officials on market access and plant approvals in order to increase Ireland's ability to supply the market.   There are currently 15 Irish beef plants which have sought approval to export beef to China and my officials are working on progressing these applications,  However, the timeline for these approvals remains a matter for the Chinese authorities.

I do not have any information in relation to the company named by the Deputy. It is not a beef plant that is approved and supervised by my Department.

Question No. 984 answered with Question No. 971.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (985)

Clare Daly

Question:

985. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 475 and 481 of 12 March 2019, in which he claimed there were 5,058 full and part-time jobs in greyhound racing and that this employment creates €171 million in additional spending, if he will provide a source for and breakdown of these figures. [13693/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.  Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The source for the aforementioned figures comes from a report prepared for Bord na gCon by Jim Power Economics Limited, which was published in November 2017 and is therefore in the public domain.

Harbours and Piers

Questions (986)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

986. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for the dredging of Howth Harbour and in particular on reported plans to utilise the 225,000 cubic metres of dredged silt to infill and expand the Howth Harbour west pier on its western boundary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13701/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Howth Fishery Harbour Centre (FHC) is one of the six designated Fishery Harbour Centres which are owned, managed and maintained by my Department under Statute.

Siltation in Howth Harbour has been recognised as an issue for some time, and the requirement for a dredging project to restore adequate depth in the entrance channel and within the harbour is accepted. The Harbour was last dredged in the early 1980s.  A number of investigative and preparatory works and initiatives have been undertaken over the last few years in respect of a potential dredging project in Howth FHC.

A final site investigation report was received in October 2016 and has been assessed by my Department's Engineers. This report included vital information on the nature and amount of the material to be dredged. The Department also appointed a firm of Consulting Engineers in 2016 to advise on a number of possible developments in Howth, including a dredging project.  A final report was issued from the Consulting Engineers in late October 2017 which confirmed that, while the concentrations of contaminants in the sediment to be dredged are such that it is classified as “non-hazardous”, this classification means that dumping at sea will not be permitted, which in turn has a significant effect on the project cost.

Department Engineers subsequently met with Fingal County Council, to review possible operational and permitting requirements. Engagement with the Council is on-going in regard to exploring disposal options for the dredged material. The  Department’s view is that an option to re-use the dredged material to the west of the West Pier as part of the methodology for the project is the most effective and efficient option. It is estimated that circa 225,000 cubic metres of silt will need to be removed from the harbour in the event that a full harbour dredge is undertaken. It is also the position that if the option to re-use the material is not possible, the potential costs of the project increase significantly and the overall scope of the project would have to be re-examined.

The project itself will require Planning Permission, an Environmental Impact Statement and a Waste License which are being progressed. The permitting process is likely to take up to 24 months. A variety of factors will impact on the cost of a potential dredging project including the disposal options, overall scale of the project, and market factors.

The Department went to tender on the 3rd of October 2018 for a Consulting Engineering practice to bring the project through the planning, environmental permitting and design phase, and should a decision be made to progress the project, the consultants will also be responsible for the supervision of onsite works. The successful tender was commissioned for these works on the 19th of December 2018. 

As part of the 2019 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme, I have allocated €100,000 for the continuation of the preparatory works for a dredging project in Howth as set out above. As is the case with all developments in the six Fishery Harbour Centers, any future decision with regard to initiating a full dredging works project in Howth FHC will only be considered on the basis of available exchequer funding and competing national priorities.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Appeals

Questions (987)

Tom Neville

Question:

987. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a mater in relation to an appeal by persons (details supplied) to a decision regarding areas of natural constraints will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13732/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In late 2018, I publicised the outcome of the review of eligible lands for the 2019 Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme.  This review was required on foot of EU Regulations.  Following on from the review, I have appointed an independently chaired Appeals Committee for any farmer who wishes to appeal the status of a particular townland under the 2019 ANC scheme. 

The first step in initiating an appeal is to submit an Appeals Notification form (which is available on my Department's website) by 8 April 2019.  On receipt of the Appeals Notification form, my Department is providing full information to appellants in relation to the data underpinning the status of the townland in question in order that the appeal can be based on full information. 

I can confirm that an Appeals Notification form has been received from the persons named.  My Department will now issue them with the relevant data underpinning the eligibility status of the townland in question.  This information can then be used to submit a full appeal, should they wish to do so. 

Departmental Data

Questions (988)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

988. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of complaints submitted to his Department in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; the number of appeals made with respect to the outcome of such complaints; the number referred to the Office of the Ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13773/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department is committed to providing a user-friendly, high quality service to all clients. Where it is considered that my Department falls short of this, my Department’s Customer Service Complaints Procedure can be used to seek a resolution.

The number of complaints received by my Department's Quality Service Unit (QSU) is set out in the following table:

Year

Complaints Received

2017

43

2018

30

2019 to date (01/01/2019 – 19/03/2019)

4

It is important to note that this Complaints Procedure reflects complaints about customer service, it does not cover requests for reviews or appeals against decisions taken in the operation of a scheme or service.  Such requests have separate appeals processes.  

My Department does not maintain records in respect of the number of customer service complaints received by the Ombudsman that may be a continuation of complaints previously dealt with through the QSU. Consequently, the Department is not in a position to provide that specific category of data requested by the Deputy. However, the total number of Ombudsman cases involving my Department in the years in question is as follows:

Year 

Number of Ombudsman cases 

2017

43

2018

45

2019 to date (01/01/2019 – 19/03/2019)

10

Customers are free to contact the Ombudsman where they are not happy with either the customer service they have received and/or where they are dissatisfied with the decisions taken in the operation of a scheme. For that reason many of the above cases actually relate to decisions on schemes rather than complaints concerning customer service.

Fodder Crisis

Questions (989)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

989. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the proactive measures being taken to prevent a repeat of the fodder shortage that occurred in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13795/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As the Deputy is aware, 2018 presented the agriculture community with some very challenging conditions in terms of a prolonged wet Spring period followed almost immediately by a period of exceptionally dry, hot weather.    

My priority throughout 2018 was to support measures to assist in the conservation of as much fodder for this Winter/Spring as possible from within our own resources and to supplement this with necessary imports as required. I established an Inter Agency Fodder Group under the direction of Teagasc and comprising representatives of the various stakeholders to address issues around fodder conservation and best practice etc. In addition I introduced a number of targeted measures including:

- a €2.75 million Fodder Production Incentive for Tillage Farmers to encourage growers to actively engage in the fodder market and there has been positive engagement with this measure.

- a €4.25 million Fodder Import Support Measure for Autumn 2018. The measure sought to reduce the cost to farmers of imported forage. The measure operated through the Co-operatives/registered importers and covered additional forage imported into the country. I am advised that there remains significant reserves of imported fodder in storage at present through these co-ops.

I have also asked Teagasc to monitor the situation carefully in 2019. The most recent national fodder survey conducted by Teagasc on my behalf, in January, indicates that the fodder deficit has receded further. The most recent statistics show that 73% of farmers have sufficient fodder to meet their livestock’s requirements. Additionally the survey shows a steady decrease in the percentage of farms reporting deficits of over 10% since the last survey in October of last year (22% in October versus 15% in January).

Whilst we did see a return to normal growing conditions in the autumn/early winter and provided farmers with an excellent opportunity to replenish fodder stocks, coupled with what has been a mild winter, it is important to stress that there still remains a need for farmers to remain vigilant and avoid complacency. I have urged Teagasc and the other Stakeholders to continue their individual efforts in support of those farmers worst affected and in need of help. 

I can assure the Deputy that I, together with my officials, will continue to closely monitor the fodder situation.  

Departmental Properties

Questions (990)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

990. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the relocation of laboratories under the aegis of his Department; and the projected timeframe for completion of the relocation. [13798/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department commissioned a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of options that were proposed by a Working Group in 2016 for the future development of the Regional Veterinary Laboratories (RVLs). The team conducting the CBA included internationally-recognised, independent experts in economic analysis and animal disease surveillance.  My Department has been presented with the CBA report and senior officials are currently considering the recommendations. Due consideration is also being given to feedback we received following consultation on two separate occasions with our stakeholders,  following publication of the 2016 Working Group report and during the CBA process. 

A proposal on how best to redevelop the RVLs over the next few years will be informed by both of those consultative processes and by the findings of the CBA. The focus of my Department is now on securing and improving the service to the sector at best value to the tax payer and on securing the necessary capital funding for investment.