Deer Culls

Questions (467)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

467. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to deal with the increasing population in the deer herd here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21355/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Over the last decade, available evidence suggests that the geographic distribution of all species of deer has increased, but neither the precise distribution nor the population density of these species is currently known. Deer appear to be a localised issue in many areas. In this context, there is a significant challenge in attempting to ensure that the demands of agriculture, forestry and conservation coexist and that deer populations are managed at sustainable levels, and in a responsible and ethical manner.

In 2015 my Department, together with the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht, published Deer Management in Ireland – A Framework for Action, which recommends a series of actions on deer management and conservation in a number of areas, including addressing the impact of deer in places where they are abundant. Key elements from this report, in particular training and awareness in relation to Deer management issues in agriculture are now being carried out by the Wicklow Deer management project and within the forestry sector. This work is ongoing.

Adoption of best practice is fully supported by both Departments and the majority of deer management stakeholders. Best practice guidance, adapted to Irish conditions was published with the assistance of the Irish Deer Management Forum during 2018 and can be accessed via www.idmf.ie.

A number of initiatives have been carried out in Co. Wicklow for example with a view to defining locally-led approaches to cooperative deer management. My Department is currently supporting a project led by the Wicklow Deer Management Partnership and Wicklow Uplands Forum, aimed at improving cooperation between landowners and local hunters. This project builds on previous experience in Wicklow through projects such as the Ballinastoe Deer Management Project, the Calary Deer Steering Group and the Calary/North–East Wicklow Deer TB survey. These projects provide a good example for other local groups to follow, in areas affected by deer-related issues.

My Department also introduced a Deer Fencing and Tree Shelter Scheme to protect forests from predation by deer in 2018 as deer can cause serious damage to trees, particularly in native woodlands. Additionally, my Department has also engaged with the Society of Irish Foresters, Teagasc and Third Level Institutes in the delivery of deer management training to professional Foresters and Contractors through a series of seminars and field training events. This work is ongoing.

Agrifood Sector

Questions (468)

Brendan Smith

Question:

468. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of support for the agrifood sector from the EU as a Brexit mitigation measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21361/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, I have had ongoing discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. I have stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on the agri-food and fisheries sector. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.

I am also keenly aware that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

The announcement last week by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is really welcome in this context. I have been making the case for some time for an exceptional aid package from the EU Commission for Irish beef farmers, at EU Council of Agriculture Minister meetings, and in direct consultation with the Commission.

The announcement by the Commissioner is another example of the importance of EU solidarity when it comes to facing significant economic challenges.

Details of the proposal are being discussed with the Commission and I will make information available to farmers as soon as possible. The legal provisions used to provide the aid (Council Regulation 1308/2013) were put in place by the Irish Presidency of the EU in 2013. It is expected that this decision will be given effect through an Implementing Regulation. My officials will examine its provisions, when published, and engage with the Commission on the next steps.

Herd Number Applications

Questions (469)

John McGuinness

Question:

469. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the herd number of a person (details supplied) was ceased; and when the process to deem the herd number dormant commenced. [21365/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Herd Number in question was end-dated on 1 September 2010.  According to the Corporate Customer System, which is the centralised database containing details of all customers who interact with my Department, this action was carried out on the 29 September 2010.

An ER1 Application was subsequently received by the Regional Veterinary Office on the 15 May 2015 to reactivate this Herd-Number. This application was processed and the Herd-number was made active from 26 May 2015.

According to the Department's records, this is a Cereal Number, and therefore never had stock. The Herd-Number was Dormant from 2002 until 26 May 2015 when it was reactivated again for cereals.

No payments issued under this Herd Number from 2006 to 2016.

Felling Licences Applications

Questions (470)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

470. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a felling licence will be issued to a person (details supplied). [21380/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Officials of my Department have carried out a thorough search using the details supplied and have not found a felling licence application for the person named.  All felling licence applications are acknowledged on receipt and given a reference number.  If the Deputy would like to provide that reference number, I would be happy to make further enquiries.

If it is the case that a felling licence has not yet been applied for, the landowner will find information on how to do so on the Department's website www.agriculture.gov.ie or may email felling.forestservice@agriculture.gov.ie for further information.

Beef Industry

Questions (471, 472, 473, 474)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

471. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total kill of steer and heifers for 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21466/19]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

472. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total kill of steer and heifers under 30 months of age for 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21467/19]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

473. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of steer and heifers that failed to qualify for the inspect bonus on the basis of not having spent 70 days on the last farm; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21468/19]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

474. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of steer and heifers that failed to qualify for the inspect bonus on the basis of having three movements and four residencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21469/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 471 to 474, inclusive, together.

In 2018, 666,068 steers and 487,062 heifers were slaughtered of which 173,177 steers and 68,188 heifers were over 30 months according to my Department's AIM system.

A Quality Payment System (QPS) related to the beef grid was agreed between Meat Industry Ireland (MII) and the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) in 2009. The payment is based on the classification of the carcass in which a price differential is set between certain classification grades.

My understanding is that any additional bonus payments and the conditions attached to qualification for such payments are determined by processors and their retail customers. There are a number of conditions which pertain to such payments, and these may include age limits and restrictions on the number of movements allowed, which are referred to as an additional "in spec" bonus.  These are commercial arrangements and my Department has no role in their establishment, nor in recording or analysis of the payments which are made.

However, as an output from the Beef Round table, I asked ICBF to provide an analysis of the proportion of the throughput which met such criteria.

This analysis found that, in 2018:

- 74% of steers and 86% of heifers were slaughtered under 30 months;

- 92% of steers and 93% of heifers spent at least 70 days on their last farm;

- 93% of steers and 95% of heifers had less than 4 movements before slaughter.

Beef Industry

Questions (475, 476)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

475. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the percentage of steer and heifers under 30 months of age that were graded between 0=2+ and U+4=, that is, the cattle on the mechanical grading system that qualified for the inspect bonus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21470/19]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

476. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the percentage breakdown of the number of cattle in each of the years 2012 to 2018, killed that were categorised as Ps, Os, Us and Es; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21471/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 475 and 476 together.

The following tables are taken from the 2018 Annual report of the Beef Carcass Classification and Price Reporting Section of the Department of Agriculture which is available to view online at the following address: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmingsectors/beef/annualreports/.

Table 2.1.2 Steer Conformation (%) 2012 to 2018

-

E

U

R

O

P

Numbers

2012

0.2

10.5

41.7

40.7

6.8

455,316

2013

0.2

11.0

36.0

42.4

10.3

514,713

2014

-

9.1

36.0

43.2

11.5

583,679

2015

0.2

11.5

36.9

41.5

9.8

616,594

2016

-

10.4

35.5

43.3

10.4

613,464

2017

-

9.1

32.8

45.2

12.8

667,941

2018

-

9.1

29.9

46.2

14.8

649,830

Table 2.2.2 Heifer Conformation (%) 2012 to 2018

-

E

U

R

O

P

Numbers

2012

0.2

12.4

55.4

28.6

3.6

344,146

2013

0.2

13.0

52.4

30.2

4.2

367,169

2014

0.2

14.7

53.7

27.9

3.3

407,853

2015

0.2

16.5

52.2

27.5

3.6

396,500

2016

0.2

15.6

49

31.1

4.1

411,744

2017

0.1

14.0

46.8

34.5

4.5

447,745

2018

0.2

14.3

44

36.3

5.1

471,357

Table  2.4.2 Young Bull Conformation (%) 2012 to 2018

-

E

U

R

O

P

Numbers

2012

1.7

39.6

31.3

24.3

3.1

203,669

2013

1.8

36.6

28.6

28.7

4.3

179,322

2014

1.8

40.6

28.8

25.7

2.9

183,860

2015

2.6

44.3

27.0

23.1

2.9

154,930

2016

2.1

40.6

28.6

24.8

3.7

189,472

2017

1.9

36.8

27.5

28.6

5.1

194,083

2018

2

38.3

27.6

27.1

4.8

200,581

Regarding carcass classification data based on age at slaughter, it is not possible to extract the stats requested by the Deputy using currents reports from DAFM AIM and Carcass Classification databases.  It is not possible to provide the percentage of steers and heifers under 30 months of age that were graded between 0=2+ and U+4= under current systems.

Ash Dieback Threat

Questions (477)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

477. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of efforts to combat ash dieback; if an assessment of the economic cost of the disease has been undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21486/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In March 2013, the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine introduced a Reconstitution Scheme (Chalara Ash Dieback) to restore forests planted under the afforestation scheme which had suffered from or which were associated with plants affected by Chalara or Ash Dieback disease caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. In addition to the Reconstitution scheme, the Woodland Improvement Scheme (Element 1 Thinning and Tending) was made available to owners of older ash plantations which would not qualify for the reconstitution scheme.

In April 2018, DAFM initiated a review of the policy response to Ash Dieback disease. This process included a stakeholder and public consultation period and detailed field consideration of damage level evaluation together with a broader range of silvicultural and management options available to forest owners. The review was undertaken with the assistance of Teagasc and international experts. Current support schemes were reviewed to ensure the continued relevance of DAFM’s response and value for money for both the taxpayer and the individual owners, and to ensure that the forest owner is provided with a broader range of silvicultural and management options. Consideration is currently being given to the financial aspects associated with the introduction of a scheme which offers a wider range of options to the forest owner, with a view to finalising this in the near future.

Since 2013, over 1,600 hectares of ash have been removed at a cost to the Exchequer of over €4.4 million.

Beef Environmental Efficiency Scheme

Questions (478)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

478. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the operation of the beef environmental efficiency pilot scheme; if there has been broad national interest in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21487/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In January of this year, I launched the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), with a funding provision of €20 m in 2019. BEEP targets the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves - measuring the live weight of the calf pre-weaning as a percentage of the cow's live weight. BEEP had been announced in Budget 2019 as part of the €78 m Brexit package for the agri-food industry. As well as clear environmental and climate benefits, BEEP will provide additional farm income at a time of market volatility and uncertainty relating to Brexit.

Some 18,883 farmers from all across the country had registered their interest in participating in the Pilot by the closing date of February 22 and they will qualify for payment provided they comply with the requirements to weigh each cow and calf and provide the requisite data to ICBF in accordance with the Terms and Conditions. The €20 million funding available will allow for payment of up to a maximum of €40 per calf.

ICBF has been registering privately owned scales and accepting weight records from participating beef farmers since the 8th of March. Over 2,000 individuals have registered privately owned scales to date and over 40,000 weights have already been recorded.  Last week, I welcomed the start of the roll-out of rental scales to over 70 ICOS-affiliated livestock marts and co-ops across the country.  This will see some 400 sets of scales being made available to rent from these locations allowing those farmers that do not have access to privately owned scales to record eligible cow and calf weights to meet their requirements under the Pilot.

The roll-out of rental scales is in conjunction with the earlier release of smartphone applications for both Android and Apple devices to facilitate the quick and accurate submission of weight records.

Weights may be submitted online, by smartphone application or on a paper form available from ICBF.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (479)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

479. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will review the valuation of pedigree bulls (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21508/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The purpose of the On Farm Market Valuation Scheme (OFMV) is to provide that herdowners who suffer a TB breakdown are compensated for the market value of their animal.  Under the terms of the scheme, "Market value will be the equivalent price which might reasonably have being obtained for the animal at the time of determination of compensation from a purchaser in the open market if the animal was not affected by TB or Brucellosis or was not being removed as part of a depopulation under the disease eradication programme."

The scheme therefore is not based on replacement value but on market value.  This is determined by a valuation carried out by an independent valuer at which they consider the animal's breed, genetics, visual assessment and overall physical presentation with regard to locomotion, body condition and age. The value is then calculated taking all of this information into account as well as information collected from the market place by my Department and any relevant compensation ceilings as per the terms of the scheme.

The OFMV aims to ensure, through the principles of independent assessment, taking into account up to date market data from across the country, that herdowners receive an accurate market value for their TB reactors at the time of breakdown. In line with these principles, depreciation levels applied to purebred registered Bulls valued under the OFMV scheme are currently being reviewed on the basis of information from the market.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (480)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

480. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount spent in fees to companies (details supplied) by his Department in each of the years 2011 to 2018. [21573/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table.

The Deputy should be aware that the majority of this expenditure relates to system development work undertaken on critical Department IT systems (AIM, CAP Pillar II schemes, Fisheries) as well as the annual certification of the Department's EAGF and EAFRD accounts.

2011

Name of Company

Fees €

Deloitte and Touche

908,209

2012

Name of Company

Fees €

Deloitte and Touche

866,630

2013

Name of Company

Fees €

Deloitte and Touche

665,324

2014

Name of Company

Fees €

Deloitte and Touche

477,966

2015

Name of Company

Fees €

Deloitte and Touche*

3,060,950

2016

Name of Company

Fees €

Deloitte and Touche*

6,532,040

2017

Name of Company

Fees €

Deloitte and Touche

4,887,143

Ernst & Young

184,500

2018

Name of Company

Fees €

Deloitte and Touche

3,774,270

Ernst & Young

217,633

* Note:

The expenditure detailed for Deloitte & Touche/Deloitte in 2015 and 2016 includes monies paid out on the basis of contracts originally awarded to Systems Dynamics Limited in 2014, and paid to Deloitte Technology Solutions from 1 August 2015 when Systems Dynamics Limited was acquired by Deloitte.

Afforestation Programme

Questions (481)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

481. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a forestry application (details supplied) in County Clare; when it is likely to be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21612/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

An application for the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme was commenced by the applicant's registered forester in August 2018.  Certain mandatory documentation must be received by my Department before an application can be accepted as complete.  This documentation was not finalised by the registered forester until February 2019.  On examination, it was found that the application did not include provision for broadleaves and some conifer plots were small in area.  Consequently, a revised species map was requested to address these matters, which was provided by the registered forester on 3rd May 2019.

The application has now  been referred to the Department's Forestry District Inspector, who will examine it in detail and make recommendations, taking account of its potential impact on, among other things, the environment and local landscape.  Once those recommendations are available, they will form the decision on the application, which will be notified to the applicant and the registered forester.

Afforestation Programme

Questions (482)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

482. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a forestry application (details supplied) in County Clare; when it is likely to be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21614/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

An application for the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme was received in September 2018.  The application has been referred to An Taisce and Clare County Council, as part of the public consultation process.  As archaeological considerations were identified, the application was also referred to the Forestry Archaeological services of my Department.

The applicant was asked to provide further information in March 2019 and while a response was provided, it was insufficient. A further request was made on 9th May, which included a request for information following-up on the Archaeologist’s report.

Once this information is received, a Forestry District Inspector will review the application and will make recommendations.  These recommendations will form the decision on the application which will be notified to the applicant and their registered forester.

Hardship Grant Scheme Applications

Questions (483)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

483. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a hardship payment for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21624/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Hardship Grant Scheme is aimed at assisting eligible herdowners who retain and feed animals during prolonged periods of restriction as a result of a TB breakdown.  Eligibility for the scheme is subject to certain criteria and is designed to alleviate the additional feed costs incurred.  It operates between 1st November and 30th April. The primary condition for eligibility is that the relevant holding remains restricted following a full herd reactor re-test in the same restriction period.  This means that the holding must be in continuous period of restriction of at least 60 days in length and hardship is only payable from the retest. Herds restricted at any time from the 1st November to 30th April, that have had a full reactor re-test during this period, qualify subject to the 60 day requirement.

The herd in question was restricted on 23 February 2019.  The reactors were slaughtered on 8 March 2019 and the first reactor retest took place on the 17th May 2019. As the herd did not complete a full reactor retest within the eligibility period for the Hardship grant, i.e. before the 30th April, the herd is not eligible for a hardship grant.

Beef Industry

Questions (484)

Seán Fleming

Question:

484. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding assistance to beef farmers in respect of funding in view of the difficult trading situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21647/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, I have had ongoing discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. I have stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on the agri-food and fisheries sector. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.

I am also keenly aware that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

The announcement last week by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is really welcome in this context.  I have been making the case for some time for an exceptional aid package from the EU Commission for Irish beef farmers, at EU Council of Agriculture Minister meetings, and in direct consultation with the Commission.

The announcement by the Commissioner is another example of the importance of EU solidarity when it comes to facing significant economic challenges.

Details of the proposal are being discussed with the Commission and I will make information available to farmers as soon as possible. The legal provisions used to provide the aid (Council Regulation 1308/2013) were put in place by the Irish Presidency of the EU in 2013. It is expected that this decision will be given effect through an Implementing Regulation. My officials will examine its provisions, when published, and engage with the Commission on the next steps.

Agriculture Scheme Payments

Questions (485)

Seán Fleming

Question:

485. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding increasing the payment under the suckler cow scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21648/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

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 Rural Development Programme (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.

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 RDP period. Building on this is the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), a €20 million pilot project for 2019. There is no scope for the introduction of a €200 suckler payment under the current RDP.

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 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.

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, and through the next Agri Food strategy to 2030. My view is that such measures 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.