Fallen Animal Collection Scheme

Questions (1127)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

1127. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which the 125 km rule and the restriction on the removal of category 1 offal originated; the way in which the 125 km rule came through EU regulation; the way in which the distance of 125 km was chosen; the regulatory references to the implementation of the rule; and his plans to have the 125 km rule reviewed. [18389/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Fallen Animal TSE Subsidy Scheme is an integral part of the infrastructure underpinning Ireland’s successful livestock and meat processing industries.

The Scheme ensures primarily that fallen bovine animals over 48 months, which must be BSE-tested in accordance with EU legislation, are disposed of in compliance with all animal and public health and environmental regulations. The 125km rule relates only to fallen animals over 48 months of age that are collected under this scheme.

A review of the Fallen Animal TSE Subsidy Scheme was undertaken in 2013, in consultation with stakeholders. This review took into account TSE testing requirements, Animal By-Product (ABP) regulations, budgetary considerations, the need to maintain competition and the need for an adequate collection and disposal infrastructure including the availability of adequate rendering capacity especially in the event of a serious (Class A) disease outbreak.

Following completion of the consultation process, a number of changes were introduced to the scheme in 2013 with regard to the collection of fallen animals. Those included enhanced compliance provisions and putting limits on the distance material can be transported while maintaining a competitive aspect to the market.

Under the revised terms of the scheme, the haulage distance for material to which the scheme applies from the intermediate plant (knackery) to rendering plant shall not exceed 125kms radius unless with the prior approval of my Department. The scheme also provides that, where there are not two or more rendering premises inside 125km radius from the intermediate plant, then delivery is permitted to either of the two nearest rendering premises as measured by road.

The rule relating to the distance between knackery and rendering plant only applies to animals under the Fallen Animal TSE Subsidy scheme, that is, bovine animals over 48 months. An operator is free to dispose of animals not eligible under the scheme to a licensed plant of their choice and the arrangements made are a commercial matter between them.

Forestry Sector

Questions (1128, 1129)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

1128. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason submissions made by the public in respect of forestry planning applications are not accessible to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18431/19]

View answer

Joe Carey

Question:

1129. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason the process of submitting an observation or objection to the establishment of a forestry contract plantation, as administered by his Department, is not dealt with in the same way as a planning permission submission or objection as per the Planning and Development Act 2000 with respect to broad public access to the objection submitted, an independent appeals body and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18454/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1128 and 1129 together.

The Planning and Development Acts make specific provision for submissions to be made available to the public. It must be noted that submissions made under these Acts are not generally available on the local authority website, but are held on file and made available to view in the local authority offices or copies provided for a fee.

Submissions and observations are accepted from the public on forestry licence applications. Such submissions may be made within 30 days from the date of publication of the notice of the forestry licence application. Any submissions received are forwarded to the relevant forestry inspector in my Department, where they are carefully considered as part of the assessment of the entire application. When requested, documents relating to the application are made available, such as maps, plot details and species. No provision was made in the Forestry Act, 2014 nor the Forestry Regulations, 2017, on the public availability of submissions, similar to that in the Planning and Development Acts.

With regard to the independent Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC) which is based in the Agriculture Appeals Office in Portlaoise, any submissions made on a licence application are made available to the FAC. This is done as part of the complete file, if there is an appeal against a decision on a licence.

Forestry Grants

Questions (1130)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1130. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the estimated additional cost based on 2018 participation and planting rates of implementing a proposal over a full year (details supplied). [18478/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Based on 2018 afforestation rates for GPC 1 (32ha), the additional cost of increasing the grant and premium rates to €3,150/ha and €400/ha respectively would be €116,334.

Forestry Sector

Questions (1131)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1131. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a forestry proposal as set out in a report has been examined (details supplied); and the associated full-year cost of introducing such a scheme. [18479/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department has introduced a number of measures over the last year to raise public awareness of the range of services provided by forests and measures to encourage forest owners to adopt actions to promote ecosystem services to improve water quality, biodiversity and habitat protection. These measures include:

- A promotion and educational programme with Teagasc.

- The Woodland Environmental Scheme targeted at companies who wish to engage in environmental projects as part of their corporate social responsibility policies which will provide additional funding to encourage landowners to plant native broadleaf trees and which attract an additional once off payment of €1,000 per hectare.

- A Continuous Cover Forestry scheme to encourage landowners to consider limited but regular felling rather than a clearfell harvesting system.

- Woodlands for Water to create new native woodlands to protect and enhance Ireland’s waters.

My colleague, Minister of State Andrew Doyle, also issued a call for promotions earlier this year to encourage initiatives which will highlight the multifunctional benefits of forestry, promote planting of more trees and encourage sustainable forest management. A total of 40 proposals were received of which 15 were approved. These will now be implemented with almost €830,000 in funding in 2019 and 2020 and are expected to raise public awareness and raise appreciation of our woodlands.

Forestry Sector

Questions (1132)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1132. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a forestry proposal as set out in a report has been examined (details supplied); and the associated full-year cost of facilitating this proposal. [18480/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Carbon Navigator is an online system that supports farmers and their advisors in reducing the carbon intensity of dairy and beef farms. In recognition of the important role forestry plays in removing carbon from the atmosphere and reducing overall emissions at farm level, my Department has funded the development of a forestry element in the next version of the Carbon Navigator.

The inclusion of forestry in the next iteration of this tool will provide users with generalised figures in relation to forestry carbon abatement potential. This in turn will help deliver a strong message from a policy perspective on the positive environmental impact that forestry and trees on the farm can provide. The work to incorporate this is currently being undertaken by Teagasc with a view to its release in the next iteration of the navigator. This is being funded directly by my Department.

Forestry Sector

Questions (1133)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1133. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the estimated full-year cost of forestry proposals (details supplied) in tabular form. [18481/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Based on 2018 afforestation levels, reverting to 2009 premium rates would cost €38,503,355.63. This is €5,793,454.88 more than if current rates were used. These additional costs are shown in the link below. Additional Costs

Forestry Sector

Questions (1134)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1134. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a forestry proposal as set out in a report has been examined (details supplied); and the estimated associated full-year cost of facilitating this proposal. [18482/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department is aware of this proposal and has raised the matter with the European Commission. There are current environmental constraints in place which do not allow for the proposal to be implemented.

It is my Department's position that there is a scientific rationale laid out in the Land types for Afforestation document for planting on land classified as GPC 1. Furthermore, the Environmental Requirements for Afforestation focused on consolidating all relevant safeguards into a single coherent document dealing exclusively with afforestation, and takes onboard more recent developments in relation to regulation, research and changes in forest practices. We will continue to explore the matter and possible options for the effective use of GPC 1 land.

Forestry Sector

Questions (1135)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1135. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has explored the following forestry proposal as set out in a report (details supplied); and the associated full-year cost of facilitating this proposal. [18483/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The current Forestry Programme 2014-2020 secured State aid approval from the European Commission in 2015. This State aid approval did not include aid for reforestation.

Recommendations outlined in the report referred to could be considered in the context of the next Forestry Programme 2021 - 2027, which would take account of relevant State Aid rules and other considerations concerning the allocation of funding.

Forestry Sector

Questions (1136)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1136. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if participants in afforestation schemes under the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 are also eligible to apply for both the basic payment scheme and GLAS for land that is planted. [18484/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Participants in the afforestation scheme are eligible to apply for the basic payment scheme, provided that the afforested land meets the following requirements:

- The land to be afforested was declared on a 2008 SPS application form;

- The applicant who declared that land on a 2008 SPS application form was paid under the 2008 Single Payment Scheme;

- The land to be afforested was eligible to draw down an SPS payment in 2008.

- The afforested land meets all the requirements of the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme 2014 -2020.

If the applicant is a new entrant to farming, the minimum area to be retained in an agricultural activity will be fixed by the Department on a case by case basis. Applicants who wish to benefit from the Basic Payment on afforested land must be the person or persons in joint management or in receipt of an afforestation premium. This applies to members of the same family. The afforested land must meet all the requirements of the Afforestation Scheme. Eligible forestry parcels that are declared on BPS applications to activate entitlements will also be subject to cross-compliance requirements.

As GLAS is not a whole farm scheme, afforestation can be carried out on land which is not subject to agri-environment actions under the Scheme.

Woodland Improvement Scheme

Questions Nos. 1138 to 1140, inclusive, answered with Question No. 1123.

Questions (1137)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1137. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the annual amount allocated and expended on the woodland improvement scheme in each year since it was established. [18486/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Woodland Improvement Scheme provides financial support to forest holders towards the cost of woodland improvement works associated with thinning of broadleaf forests and broadleaf mixtures that meet the required eligibility criteria. The scheme facilitates the enhancement of the environment associated with thinning. Thinning stimulates investment through improvement, protection and development of broadleaf woodlands for a range of functions, including: healthy tree growth, landscape improvement, biodiversity enhancement, soil protection and water protection.

Funding for this Scheme is included in the overall provision for Forestry Support Schemes. These schemes include Forest Road Works, Reconstitution Scheme, NeighbourWood and Native Woodland Conservation.

The table below shows the total provision for support schemes and the actual expenditure for WIS in each of the years. The expenditure for 2019 is to 31st March, 2019.

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Support Schemes Allocation

€4,700,000

€6,000,000

€9,380,000

€10,550,000

€11,516,000

€9,400,000

WIS Expenditure

€76,118

€497,093

€614,993

€632,271

€458,371

€200,544

Questions Nos. 1138 to 1140, inclusive, answered with Question No. 1123.

Sea Lice Controls

Questions (1141)

Clare Daly

Question:

1141. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the urgent action he has or is taking to counteract out of control sea lice levels at organic salmon farms on the west coast in order to protect wild salmon and trout during smolt runs in view of a document issued by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18504/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The control protocols for the management of sea lice are operated by the Marine Institute on behalf of the State. These protocols are more advanced than those operated in other jurisdictions for the following reasons:

- the inspection regime is totally independent of the industry;

- data obtained from these inspections is published and made widely available;

- treatment trigger levels are set at a low level.

The sea lice monitoring and control programme in Ireland has been acknowledged by the EU Commission as representing best practice.

The document referred to by the Deputy raised a series of specific queries in respect of the control of sea lice at specific aquaculture sites. These queries were formulated by both the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Upon receipt of the document, my Department referred the queries to the Marine Institute for assessment and comment. As part of their detailed and site specific response, the Marine Institute concluded that the measures taken by the salmon farms at each site have been effective in the control of sea lice infestation on farmed Atlantic salmon in the Spring period.

The detailed response of the Marine Institute has been forwarded to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment by my Department.

Forestry Management

Question No. 1143 answered with Question No. 1126.

Questions (1142)

Joe Carey

Question:

1142. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to deal with the threat posed by the spruce bark beetle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18526/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Forestry Inspectorate of my Department is responsible for implementing the forestry aspects of the EU Plant Health Directive, Council Directive 2000/29/EC on protective measures against the introduction into the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the Community. The Forestry Inspectorate implements import provisions and inspections relating to timber, wood packaging material (pallets, crates etc), forest plants, Christmas trees and other forest products and surveys of the national forest estate for quarantine forest pests and diseases.

In recognition of Ireland’s pest free status from six harmful bark beetles including Ips typographuss (the eight toothed spruce bark beetle), Ireland has protected zone status recognised by the Directive for these harmful pests and imposes stricter import requirements than would apply outside protected zones within the EU. Specifically coniferous wood with bark cannot be imported into Ireland from EU countries where these beetles are known to occur unless:

1. It is accompanied by an Official Statement to say the wood originates from an area known to be free from the pest OR

2. The wood is free of bark OR

3. The wood has been kiln dried to <20% M/C and is marked “KD”.

Three of the protected zone bark beetles are already known to occur in Great Britain, (and are absent from Ireland). Ips typographus has been found recently in Kent in the south of England. The importation of roundwood with bark from Great Britain to Ireland is permitted but only if it originates from the officially recognised Pest Free Area (PFA) in south west Scotland and is accompanied by an Official Statement to attest to its origin. This Pest Free Area is routinely surveyed by the Authorities in Great Britain for the presence/absence of the regulated harmful bark beetles in order to maintain this PFA status.

My Department is maintaining close contact with authorities in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland and will continue to keep the outbreak under close review.

Question No. 1143 answered with Question No. 1126.

Hen Harriers Threat Response Plan

Questions (1144)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

1144. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the application process for new and existing participants in the hen harrier scheme (details supplied); the 2019 allocation in view of the announcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18576/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Hen Harrier Programme is operationally independent of my Department and is run by the Hen Harrier Project team.

As was announced earlier this month, the Hen Harrier project team can now offer a contract to every eligible farmer who has expressed an interest in joining the Hen Harrier Programme.

At present there are 628 participants under contract and a further 1,059 farmers will be sent a contract pack over the next month. The cost for 2019 is dependent on the habitat scores reported for these participants; this will not be known until the end of the habitat assessment season in September.

I have allocated €25 million to this project for the lifetime of the current RDP and this planned increase in participants will fully commit the funds available.

GLAS Payments

Questions (1145)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

1145. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 174 of 20 September 2018, when an outstanding GLAS underpayment will issue to a person (details supplied); the reason it has not issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18580/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 2 and has received payments for scheme years 2016, 2017 and the 2018 Advance.

Following a review of GLAS payments, this applicant was identified as one of a small number of participants due an additional payment. My officials are currently working on this issue and expect the outstanding payment to issue shortly.

Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme

Questions (1146)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1146. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18630/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named submitted an application under TAMS II that was rejected as it did not meet the Nitrates requirements. A request for a review of this decision was received from the applicant on 18 April 2019.

The case will now be reviewed by the Department and the applicant will be advised in writing of the outcome. Should the applicant remain dissatisfied with the outcome of this review, it remains open to them to submit an appeal to the Agriculture Appeals Office.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (1147)

Michael Collins

Question:

1147. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for the compulsory introduction of seaweed to the diet of cows in a bid to comply with the ordered reduction in air pollution figures based on recent studies (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18676/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department, together with Teagasc, is closely monitoring the interesting research work done in Australia and Canada on the use of seaweed as a dietary supplement to reduce methane with a view to deciding if new research to validate the findings under Irish conditions is warranted. While the Australian and Canadian research does indeed look promising, a number of questions remain to be answered before it is prudent to embark on research here. These include:

- The longevity and sustainability of these reductions in the longer term (feeding trials for similarly promising substances in the past have shown that the emissions reducing effect fades over time as the microbes in the rumen adjust to the new additive).

- The impact on animal performance/animal health and effect on the livestock products (milk & meat) - is there a risk of residues in produce that may adversely impact human health?

- The quantities of seaweed required, and the collection, drying and processing could be quite expensive. Moreover, the red algae in question is not found in Ireland so may need to be imported or a suitable indigenous alternative identified.

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department operates three research funding programmes that function through competitive calls, the most recent of which closed on April 18th 2019. These support the performance of ‘public good’ type research, undertaken collaboratively by public research performing organisations with the required research capabilities. Through these programmes, and through various joint initiatives with other state bodies and European agencies, DAFM has strongly supported climate change research relevant to the Irish agri-food sector, having committed €19 million to 25 projects that include climate change elements in the period 2013-2017 alone.

My Department will continue to closely monitor the situation ensuring that any Irish research that might be undertaken in the future to reduce the carbon footprint of the Irish agriculture is customised to addressing the particulars of the Irish livestock production system.

Beef Environmental Efficiency Scheme Pilot

Questions (1148)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

1148. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to introduce a €200 per cow suckler scheme in order to assist farmers to cope with the high costs and low prices in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18678/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department provided €20 million in Budget 2019 for a new pilot scheme for suckler farmers, specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production. The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) will target the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves - measuring the liveweight of the calf at weaning as a percentage of the cow's liveweight.

This is in addition to supports already available to the sector. According to National Farm Survey data, suckler farmers currently receive support equivalent to approximately €500 per suckler cow on average. The following outlines the supports for the suckler sector which are currently in place:

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is currently the main support specifically targeted for the suckler sector, which provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) period. This scheme is an agri-environmental measure to improve the environmental sustainability of the national suckler herd by increasing genetic merit within the herd.

My Department has rolled out a range of schemes as part of the €4 billion Rural Development Programme (RDP), 2014 - 2020. In addition to the BDGP, other supports which are available for suckler and sheep farmers under Pillar II of the CAP include GLAS, ANCs and Knowledge Transfer Groups. Suckler farmers also benefit from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening payments under CAP Pillar I.

I acknowledge that the past few months have been difficult, most especially beef farmers, following a difficult year in 2018, and with a prolonged and exceptional period of market disturbance low prices since last autumn. Among other factors, the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit has had a negative effect.

One of the unique strengths of the agri-food sector has been the shared vision for the sustainable development of the sector in Food Wise 2025. It is crucial that we all continue to work together. I have highlighted the need for stakeholders to recognise their inter-dependency, and to increase the strength of all links in the supply chain, including the development of Beef Producer Organisations.

I am deeply committed to fully supporting and developing Ireland’s beef sector. I am strongly of the view that the existing range of supports available to beef farmers under the RDP, together with ensuring access to as many markets as possible, both for live animals and beef exports, are appropriate for the continued development of the sector. In that context, there is no capacity to introduce a €200 per cow suckler payment under the current RDP.

My Department is examining all appropriate measures to support the different agrifood sectors, including the suckler sector in preparation for the next iteration of the CAP. I will continue to argue for as strong a CAP budget as possible, post-2020. In particular, I am committed to ensuring that suckler farmers continue to receive strong support in the next CAP. My view is that such payments should support and encourage suckler farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve the profitability, and the economic and environmental efficiency, of their farming system. The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot is a positive step in that direction.

Brexit Supports

Questions (1149)

Carol Nolan

Question:

1149. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will consider extending the closing deadline for application to the Brexit loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18698/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The €300 million "Brexit Loan Scheme" was developed in cooperation with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to provide working capital support to enable eligible Irish businesses to implement the necessary changes to address the challenges posed by Brexit. The Scheme opened for applications on 28th March 2018 and it will remain open until 31st March 2020.

At 26th April, there were 600 eligibility applications received, of which 497 are approved and 16 are ineligible. The total number of loans progressed to sanction at bank level is 117 to a value of €25.1m, 23 of which relate to food businesses to a value of €7.4m.

The operation of the Scheme, including the closing date, will be kept under review.

European Council Meetings

Questions (1150)

Carol Nolan

Question:

1150. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the issues discussed at the recent EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting; the outcome of the discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18699/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

At the most recent EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council which took place in Luxembourg on 15 April 2019, my Ministerial colleagues and I exchanged views on three key items:-

- the CAP post-2020 reform package with a particular emphasis on the new ‘green architecture’. The discussion was based on two questions set by the Romanian Presidency and focussed on enhanced conditionality and related standards, eco-schemes and the increased environmental ambition of the CAP. I emphasised in particular the need to maintain the CAP budget in order to support our environmental ambitions, and to ensure that all of these elements work together in a harmonised way.

- the final report of the Task Force Rural Africa “An Africa-Europe agenda for rural transformation”. The discussion focussed on the six key recommendations set out in the report as part of the preparations for the forthcoming agriculture ministerial conference, which takes place in Rome on the 21 June 2019. I welcomed the Report, as well as the proposed Action Plan to put its recommendations into effect.

- the current situation of the agricultural markets. The Commission informed Council about the current situation in the sugar, fruit, dairy, meat and olive oil sectors. I again voiced my ongoing concerns in relation to the impact of Brexit on the beef sector in particular, and said that the deployment of exceptional measures is warranted given the sustained reduction in market returns that has been suffered by farm families. Other Ministers also raised concerns around the uncertainties linked to the possible effects of Brexit, while also highlighting issues that were of national importance to them.

Ministers were also informed of the following items under Any Other Business:-

- the Netherlands delegation, as chair of the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership, informed the Council about its request to the European Commission to present an ambitious EU action plan to tackle deforestation and forest degradation.

- the Council noted information from the Slovak delegation on a joint declaration of the Ministers of Agriculture of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia on the renewable energy directive post 2020.

- the Presidency informed the Council about the high-level Conference on ‘Agricultural Research and Innovation – a basis for the development of European agriculture, rural areas and bio-economy’, which took place in Bucharest on 5 April.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (1151)

Carol Nolan

Question:

1151. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has had recent discussions with the European Commissioner for Trade regarding difficulties that will arise for the agrifood sector in the scenario of a no-deal Brexit; the measures that will be implemented to protect trade with the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18700/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

While I have not met with the European Commissioner for Trade specifically in a Brexit context, I have been in communication with her on broader international trade issues of relevance to Ireland.

Chief among these is the position adopted by the European Union in Free Trade Agreement negotiations with third countries. Given the threat posed by Brexit to Ireland's beef sector in particular, it is vitally important that we secure the most benign and advantageous trading environment possible. In this regard I continue to be active in particular in relation to EU negotiations with Mercosur, in order to ensure that the potential impact of Brexit is taken into account in avoiding any further concessions in relation to beef tariff rate quotas.

On Brexit more specifically, I have held a series of meetings with European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, during which we have discussed the potential impact that a no-deal Brexit could have on Ireland's agri-food sector, as well as the Commission’s readiness to deploy support measures to help mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and businesses in the sector. My officials remain in regular contact with Commission counterparts in this regard.

In terms of the negotiating mandate for the EU's future relationship with the UK, I will continue to press Ireland's key asks, namely, continued free access to the UK market (without tariffs, and with minimal additional customs and administrative procedures), minimisation of the risk from UK trade agreements with third countries, and maintenance of existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources.