Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 11 to 43, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 44 to 46, inclusive, answered orally.

Beef Industry

Questions Nos. 48 to 53, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions (47)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

47. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the price of cattle nationally will be addressed (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28551/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, as Minister for Agriculture, I have no role in determining prices for any commodity nor can I intervene in the same.

The Beef Sector is an important element of the Irish economy and I am conscious of the importance that this key sector plays in rural Ireland.

I am keenly aware that the past few months have been very challenging for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There was a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices lasting from autumn 2018 to spring 2019, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

The recent announcement by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is very 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.

Further details on the aid package will be announced in due course following the appropriate stakeholder consultation.

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 exchequer-funded Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), a €20 million pilot project for 2019.

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. This includes opening new opportunities for the sale of Irish beef on international markets and, in recent years, Irish beef has gained access to the US, Japanese, Chinese and other markets. I have also provided additional resources to Bord Bia to promote beef in new and more traditional markets.

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.

Questions Nos. 48 to 53, inclusive, answered orally.

Agrifood Sector

Questions Nos. 55 to 57, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions (54)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

54. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he continues to press for new markets for the agrifood sector with emphasis on replacements for those to be lost through Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28234/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports is  a constant and central component of the strategic development of the industry, as evidenced by its placement at the heart of Food Wise 2025. It is particularly important given the need to diversify our markets and reduce our reliance on traditional destinations such as the UK.  

Against the backdrop of EU-agreed trade deals such as those completed with Canada, Japan and Mexico, my Department continues its efforts to open new markets while further deepening trade with existing markets for Irish agri-food exporters.

For example, in 2018, it facilitated the decision of the Chinese authorities to open their market to Irish beef imports by listing a number of approved Irish beef establishments. Other notable achievements during 2018 were agreements with Qatar and Kuwait, which allowed for the importation of Irish beef, sheepmeat and poultry to their markets.

In April 2019, we saw the opening of the Ukrainian market for Irish beef and pork. During my June trade mission to Japan, an agreement was reached in principle to allow access for Irish Sheepmeat. This development followed the announcement last month of the removal of the under-30 months restriction for Irish beef exports to Japan. This means that all Irish beef is now eligible for export to this very valuable market.

Trade Missions play an important role in this work.  In 2018, I led successful missions to the US, Canada, China, Indonesia and Malaysia, and an extensive trade mission itinerary is also being pursued in 2019. In March, Turkey was visited, primarily focusing on Live Trade. In May, I visited China. This was quickly followed with an extensive mission to Japan and South Korea in June. My next scheduled mission is to Algeria and Egypt in November.  

Overall, agri-food exports to countries outside the EU have increased from around €2.7 billion to €3.6 billion in the period 2014 to 2018. This represents very rapid growth of 36% in that four-year timeframe.

Questions Nos. 55 to 57, inclusive, answered orally.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Question No. 59 answered orally.

Questions (58)

Martin Heydon

Question:

58. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his priorities under the recently published Climate Action Plan 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28263/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The All-of-Government Plan to tackle climate breakdown sets out a series of step-up measures and underpinning actions and proposed targets for all sectors including the agriculture, forestry and land use sector.

The plan identifies 34 actions for the agriculture sector that will contribute to our transition to a low carbon economy and society across abatement measures, which reduce our emissions, carbon sequestration measures which is carbon removal and displacement of fossil fuels and reflects our three pillar policy approach to achieving carbon neutrality without comprising sustainable food production. Not alone are our sustainability ambitions driven by regulatory compliance but also by market demand with today's consumer seeking confirmation of our sustainability credentials.

To achieve the challenging target for the sector as set out in this plan will require immediate action through early adoption and high levels of take-up of the actions identified across our 139,00 plus family farms.

I see three important actions that can be advanced immediately.

- Deepening engagement with farmers and other stakeholders along the food supply chain to promote the necessary deployment of new technologies and improvement in farming practices;

- Improving nitrogen use efficiency such as widespread adoption of low emissions slurry spreading, introduction of clover in grassland swards and more efficient use of fertilisers; and

- Continuing our support for research and innovation such as animal breeding, improved grassland and fertiliser management and examining the potential of novel feed additives in grass based production systems.

Ongoing negotiations on the future of the next Common Agricultural Policy will ensure that our ambition in this area is aligned with European and national policy while also recognising the importance of a sustainable and viable agricultural sector to rural communities.

I will continue to work with my colleagues across Government to ensure successful implementation of the plan. I am also confident that the agriculture sector as a whole will contribute significantly to Ireland’s transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy and society with collaboration, co-operation and collective responsibility being key in achieving this ambition and realising the potential of pro-active engagement.

Question No. 59 answered orally.

Agrifood Sector

Question No. 61 answered orally.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 49.

Questions (60)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

60. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the contingencies being operationalised and supports that will be in place to safeguard farmers and the agrifood sector here for all scenarios including a no-deal hard Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28255/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I have introduced a number of supports to assist the agri-food sector in preparing to address the challenges posed by Brexit.  These include:

- the €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme for Brexit-impacted SMEs and mid-cap businesses. The funding arrangements ensure that at least 40% of the fund is available to food businesses. Up to 14 June 2019, 585 applications have been approved.  The total number of loans progressed to sanction at bank level is 141, with a total value of €30.6m, of which 29, with a value of €8.2m, relate to food businesses; 

- a market prioritisation exercise undertaken by Bord Bia to identify priority markets across all food and drinks categories;

- tailored supports and analysis are being provided to food companies through Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer;

- an intensified series of trade missions to develop and grow new markets;

- the recently launched DBEI/DAFM “Future Growth Loan Scheme” will bring up to €300 million of long-term strategic investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agri-food & seafood sectors.  The fund is leveraged by Exchequer funding of €62 million, of which 40%, or some €25 million, has been provided by my Department.  Businesses have been able to apply for loan eligibility through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) since 17th April 2019.

I also have had ongoing discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. The Commission have already made €50m available to Irish beef farmers as a response to market pressures, and this can be matched by national funding. I expect to be rolling out a support scheme with this funding in the very near future.  I have also stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a further 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.

And, of course, our practical preparations for all potential scenarios, including a no-deal Brexit, continue to be progressed and refined through the whole-of-Government coordination structures that have been in place for some time.

Question No. 61 answered orally.
Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 49.

Agriculture Industry

Questions (63)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

63. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he can expect to achieve carbon reduction targets while maintaining agricultural output having particular regard to the fact that the agricultural sector nationally is much more carbon efficient than in most other countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28235/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

While Ireland has what is internationally recognised as one of the most carbon efficient systems of food production in the EU, there are inherent challenges in reducing emissions in the sector. However, while agriculture is contributing to emissions, it is also part of the solution. The Teagasc Sustainability Survey shows that the top performing third of farms emitted, on average, 9.6 kg CO2 equivalent per kg beef, compared with 14.9 kg for the bottom performing third of cattle farms. Reducing this variability is a real opportunity to make progress in reducing emissions from cattle production in Ireland.

Innovations unique to Ireland such as the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), the Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme, the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) and initiatives such as Origin Green, Quality Assurance schemes and Knowledge Transfer Schemes all contribute to lowering the carbon footprint of the sector.

The All-of-Government Plan to tackle climate breakdown identifies 34 actions for the agriculture, forestry and land-use sector that will contribute to our transition to a low carbon economy and society. These include abatement measures, carbon sequestration measures and measures to displace fossil fuels. This reflects our three pillar policy approach to achieving carbon neutrality without comprising sustainable food production.

To achieve the challenging target for the sector set out in this plan, will require immediate action, through early adoption and high levels of take-up of the actions identified across our 139,000 plus family farms.

I see three important actions that can be advanced immediately.

- Deepening engagement with farmers and other stakeholders along the food supply chain to promote the necessary deployment of new technologies and changes in farming practices;

- Improving nitrogen use efficiency such as widespread adoption of low emissions slurry spreading , introduction of clover in grassland swards and improving fertiliser use efficiency; and

- Continuing our support for research and innovation such as animal breeding, improved grassland and fertiliser management and examining the potential of novel feed additives in grass based production systems.

Ongoing negotiations on the future of the next Common Agricultural Policy will ensure that our ambition in this area is aligned with European and national policy while also recognising the importance of a sustainable and viable agricultural sector to rural communities.

I will continue to work with my colleagues across Government to ensure successful implementation of the plan. I am also confident that the agriculture sector as a whole will contribute significantly to Ireland’s transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy and society. Recognising the importance of the agricultural sector to our economy and the viability of rural Ireland my Department and associated agencies will strive to meet this challenge head-on to ensure the best possible outcome for all the stakeholders involved.

Trade Agreements

Questions (64)

Willie Penrose

Question:

64. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the Mercosur deal; if the Government continues to resolutely oppose the deal particularly in the context of the market situation pertaining to beef and also in relation to fossil fuel usage relating to the transport of products which are relevant to the deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28076/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

On the evening of Friday 28 June, the European Commission announced that political agreement has been reached on a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur countries.

While as a small, open economy, Ireland is supportive of international trade deals, I am very concerned at the potential impact of elements of this particular deal on the beef sector.  

The agreement includes a significant Tariff Rate Quota for South American beef, at a time when the beef sector in Europe is facing significant uncertainty because of Brexit.  

We have made concerted efforts over the full twenty-year history of these negotiations, working closely with other Member State colleagues and engaging directly with the European Commission, in order to minimise the EU offer in terms of beef, and while evidence of these efforts appears to have been reflected in the final offer, I am, nonetheless, deeply concerned at the potential impact on the Irish beef sector and also the clear incoherence between the EU’s trade policy and its climate change objectives in the context of increasing beef imports from trade partners producing in a less environmentally sustainable manner

There may be some opportunity for other agri food sectors such as dairy and for the drinks industry, but we will need to examine the text carefully to assess the full impact. 

It is also worth noting that this agreement will not come fully into effect for some years. It will first go through a process of legal scrubbing, which could take up to two years, before being put before the European Trade Council for ratification by Qualified Majority Vote, and the European Parliament.

If the agreement passes those hurdles, it is expected that the trade elements which fall under the EU Commission's competence, will be phased in over 6 years.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Appeals

Questions (65)

James Browne

Question:

65. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the appeals process for the areas of natural constraint, ANC, scheme with reference to appeals by farmers in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28116/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under the current Rural Development Regulation (and subsequent amendments under the Omnibus Regulation), Member States  were required to change the approach to the designation of land under the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme.  Previously, my Department had been identifying eligible areas using a range of socio-economic indicators such as family farm income, population density, percentage of working population engaged in agriculture and stocking density.  From 2019, eligible areas must instead be designated using a defined list of bio-physical criteria such as slope, soil texture, soil rooting depth, soil moisture and drainage.  

Further to the completion of the redesignation process, my Department wrote to all farmers holding ANC lands advising them of the status of these lands under the 2019 ANC scheme and advised of their right to appeal this position.  The appeals process, overseen by an independently-chaired Appeals Committee, is in place for any farmer who wishes to further appeal the status of a particular townland in the 2019 ANC scheme.  Where a farmer notified my Department of their wish to make such an appeal, they have been provided with the relevant information in relation to the data underpinning the status of the townland in order that an appeal can be based on full information.  

My Department received and replied to Notifications of Appeal in respect of 759 individual townlands, of which 271 were in County Wexford.  Full appeals in respect of some 314 individual townlands have been made to the Appeals Committee, of which 71 are in County Wexford.  

The Independent Appeal Committee has commenced work and is processing the appeals received.

Agrifood Sector

Questions (66)

Brendan Smith

Question:

66. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the level of co-operation and planning that exists between his Department and its counterparts in Northern Ireland and the UK in relation to the protection of the agrifood sector on an all-island basis due to the adverse impacts of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28183/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Government believes that the best way forward in dealing with the UK's decision to leave the EU is for the UK to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement.  Ireland and the EU are consistent and clear that the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be renegotiated, as reiterated again by President Tusk after the European Council last week. 

In the meantime, the Government has agreed that we will continue to plan for all scenarios, including no deal. 

Ireland and the EU are at one with regard to our determination to do all we can to avoid the need for a border and to protect the peace process. Work is continuing with the European Commission on how to achieve, in a no deal scenario, our shared objectives of protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it, and avoiding any physical infrastructure on the island of Ireland.

The EU negotiates on behalf of the Member States, including Ireland, and, therefore, my officials do not negotiate on Brexit issues with UK counterparts.  My officials continue to talk to their Northern Ireland counterparts on day-to-day matters to ensure that the agri trade continues to operate efficiently on the island of Ireland.

Agriculture Industry

Questions (67)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

67. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans and timetable to implement the recommendations of the Teagasc report Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28225/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The All-of-Government Plan to tackle climate breakdown identifies a series of actions for the agriculture, forestry and land-use sector that will contribute to our transition to a low carbon economy and society across abatement measures, carbon sequestration measures and displacement of fossil fuels. This reflects our three pillar policy approach to achieving carbon neutrality without comprising sustainable food production

These actions in this all-of-government plan are informed by the recent Teagasc Marginal Cost Abatement Curve report (MACC) - An Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030. The Teagasc MACC curve provides an identifiable suite of actions for delivery including both efficiency measures such as the Dairy EBI programme and technical measures such as changes in fertiliser type or low emissions slurry spreading as well as a series of forestry and bioeceonomy measures.

To achieve the challenging target for the sector as set out in the All-of-Government Plan will require immediate action and will require early adoption and high levels of take-up of the actions identified across our 139,00 plus family farms.

 I see three important actions that can be advanced immediately.

- Deepening engagement with farmers and other stakeholders to promote the necessary deployment of new technologies and changes in farming practices;

- Improving nitrogen use efficiency such as increasing adoption of low emissions slurry spreading, introduction of clover in grassland swards and improving fertiliser efficiency; and

- Continuing our support for research and innovation such as advancing grassland and fertiliser management techniques and examining the potential of novel feed additives in grass based production systems.

I will work to ensure that the next Common Agriculture Policy is aligned with this ambition and that climate action is mainstreamed in the development of our CAP strategic plan to ensure the delivery of this target. Furthermore that enhancements to CAP performance are complimented by market based incentives and regulation where necessary.

Ireland has an opportunity to become a global leader in actions on climate change. If we succeed in our ambition in this area we will create a progressive and sustainable society that is not only economically successful but also offers an enhanced quality of lifestyle to society as a whole.

Common Agricultural Policy

Questions (68)

Tom Neville

Question:

68. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the Common Agricultural Policy negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28265/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The new regulations for the CAP 2021-27 were launched on Friday 1 June 2018 by Commissioner Hogan. The complex proposals involve significant changes, including in relation to governance, the distribution of direct payments among farmers and the increasing environmental ambition of the CAP.  

Since their launch, intensive discussions have taken place on the proposals.  A significant number of Working Group meetings have been held under both the Austrian and Romanian Presidencies.  The proposals have also been discussed extensively at the Special Committee for Agriculture meetings and have been a standing agenda item at every Council of EU Agriculture Ministers meeting.

At the conclusion of the Romanian Presidency's term at the helm, it is clear that good progress has been made, but decisions on many key issues, such as the provisions for Direct Payments and the New Delivery Model, have still to be agreed upon at EU level. The Finnish Presidency has outlined an intensive programme of Working Party meetings to discuss specific aspects of the new CAP proposals for the duration of its Presidency, which begins now.  

Before the new proposals can be implemented, it will be necessary to reach overall agreement within the Council and then together with the European Parliament and Commission.  The new Parliament has yet to reach a position in plenary on the proposals.  The on-going negotiation on the Multi-annual Financial Framework, which includes the CAP budget, is another key issue that must be resolved.

I will continue to seek to secure the best possible outcome for the Irish agri-food sector.

Basic Payment Scheme

Questions (69)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

69. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the €60,000 basic payment scheme, BPS, ceiling for direct payments under the next CAP in order to safeguard small and medium sized farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28224/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The new legislative proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy 2021 - 2027 involve significant changes, including in relation to governance, the distribution of direct payments among farmers and the increasing environmental conditionality attaching to such payments. The new proposals must commit to a more significant environmental ambition than the current CAP schemes, including in pillar I.

The new proposals include a number of measures relating to distribution of payments, including an overall cap of €100,000, degressivity for payments above €60,000, a complementary redistributive income support, and the convergence of payments towards a minimum of 75% of the average payment per hectare nationally.

I have previously indicated that I am open to some level of capping.  Under the current regulations, Ireland has already applied the maximum level of degressivity allowable for direct payments over €150,000.     

My Department is carefully considering all aspects of these proposals to assess their potential impact on applicants. It is important that any such mechanisms are straightforward for Member States to administer so that they can be implemented without undue complexity for the farmer.

We are in the midst of intensive and challenging negotiations on these complex proposals. We still have some way to go before agreement - including agreement with the European Parliament as well as finalisation of the Multi-annual Financial Framework - is reached.  I will continue to work with the Commission and other Member States to shape these proposals into an effective new CAP.

Fishing Industry

Questions (70)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

70. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the implications of the agreement reached between Ireland and the United Kingdom in 2013 regarding the setting of the boundaries of the exclusive economic zone; if the agreement of 2013 has possible implications for the present difficulties between Ireland and Scotland regarding fishing rights around Rockall; if Irish access to the fishing grounds around Rockall will be guaranteed post-Brexit regardless of the outcome to the ongoing negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28117/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that the position is as follows.

The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is the body of water that stretches from 12 nautical miles offshore out to a distance of 200 miles. The seabed beneath the EEZ is the continental shelf.

Largely due to efforts made by Ireland throughout the 1970s, international law is now clear that uninhabitable rocks such as Rockall have no entitlement to a continental shelf or an EEZ and so, sovereignty over such a rock is irrelevant for the purposes of establishing boundaries between continental shelves and EEZs of neighbouring States.  Sovereignty, and whether such a rock has a 12-mile territorial sea, are separate issues that do not arise in establishing boundaries between continental shelves and EEZs.

The 2013 Agreement built on the 1988 Agreement between Ireland and the UK that had already established continental shelf boundaries and provides that those boundaries, slightly adjusted to ensure that no waters were lost to the high seas, shall also be the EEZ boundaries.  This created a single maritime boundary between 12 and 200 miles in the water and on the seabed beneath.  

As you are aware, Ireland has never made any claims to Rockall nor have we recognised British claims to sovereignty over it.  Nothing in either Agreement altered that position or represented a departure from our long held view, nor does either Agreement have any implications for the present difficulties between Ireland and Scotland over fishing rights around Rockall.

As regards the situation following Brexit, the Irish and EU position, as set out in the March 2018 European Council Guidelines for negotiations on the future relationship, is that existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained.   

The main purpose of the 2013 Agreement was to resolve jurisdictional uncertainty.  It addressed the situation of fishing vessels seeking to avoid inspection in Irish EEZ areas that overlapped with the UK-claimed areas.  The issue of Rockall did not arise in the 2013 Agreement as it was not relevant.  Importantly, however, it also provides the legal certainty necessary for raising finance to develop renewable energy projects in the areas concerned and it resolved confusion over responsibility for dealing with marine pollution incidents in those areas.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (71)

Bríd Smith

Question:

71. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will commission an independent investigation into the greyhound industry on foot of evidence of practices of widespread abuse and cruelty in the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28215/19]

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.  

My Department takes any allegations of breaches of animal welfare rules very seriously and will thoroughly investigate and take the necessary enforcement actions to deal with such offences.  My Department has a strong and consistent record regarding the enforcement of animal welfare rules, including the review of 100 years of animal welfare legislation, leading to the enactment of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013. A total of 73 successful prosecutions have been taken under the Act since it was brought in, with a further 30 prosecution files currently being processed for welfare abuses.

In addition, this year my Department has provided the largest ever allocation of funding to animal welfare organisations of €2,751,000.  A total of 108 organisations are benefitting under these arrangements. An Animal Welfare Lo-call Helpline is in place along with a dedicated email address which facilitates the reporting by members of the public of any suspicion of animal cruelty taking place.  All calls received are treated in confidence and are followed up by authorised officers of this Department.

It is worth noting that the Greyhound Sector has undergone a series of reforms in recent times and the Greyhound Racing Act 2019 was signed by the President on the 28th May 2019. The drafting of this legislation strengthens the legal basis for the industry, with a view to fortifying the integrity of the greyhound racing sector and improving provision for greyhound traceability. To this end, I welcome the fact that Bord na gCon will continue to invest significant resources into regulation and greyhound welfare and have announced further actions to improve welfare provision and enforcement.

In addition, in recent days, Bord na gCon has also announced a series of measures that will be implemented:

- The introduction of a greyhound injury support scheme to provide financial assistance to aid injured greyhounds to continue with a healthy life.

- Extending and increasing support for foster care of greyhounds to identify new foster homes within Ireland for greyhounds.

- Revision, in conjunction with the International Greyhound Welfare Forum, of the Code of Practice on the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound to address retirement and transportation of greyhounds.

- Financially incentivise the rehoming of greyhounds in Ireland through the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust (which assisted in the rehoming of 1,021 greyhounds last year).

- Intensify the inspection regime of greyhound establishments (491 inspections were undertaken in 2018).

- Preparation of a statutory instrument to make it a legal requirement that euthanasia of a greyhound must be carried out by a veterinary practitioner. (This is already the standard expected under the IGB Code of Practice for the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound).

- Provision of the Code of Practice to all registered greyhound owners

- Progress the traceability provisions of the Greyhound Act 2019

- Establish a confidential Freephone line to enable reports of welfare breaches to be reported to the IGB for investigation by relevant agencies.

Minister Doyle will be meeting with the Board of Bord na gCon this week to discuss these and any other measures that may be required to bring about comprehensive changes in the sector. For these reasons, an action plan for the industry will be carefully considered and announced by my Department in due course.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (72)

Bríd Smith

Question:

72. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if all funding to the greyhound industry will be suspended in view of a television documentary (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28214/19]

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.  

Under Section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001 (No.20 of 2001), the horse and greyhound racing industries receive €84m in financial support from the State through the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund (the Fund). Monies are paid out of the fund in the ratio of 80% to Horse Racing Ireland and 20% to Bord na gCon as specified in Section 12 (6) of the Act.  State funding provided through the Fund is pivotal to the survival of the horse and greyhound racing industries.  

According to the 2017 Power Report, the greyhound industry provides and supports considerable employment both directly and indirectly across the Irish economy. It is estimated that in 2016, the industry supported 5,058 full-time and part-time jobs in the economy. In addition, there are 7,313 active greyhound owners. The total number of people deriving economic benefit from the sector is estimated at 12,371.  It is an industry that is ingrained in the social and cultural networks of rural Ireland.

It is worth noting that the Greyhound Sector has undergone a series of reforms in recent times and the Greyhound Racing Act 2019 was signed by the President on the 28th May 2019. This legislation strengthens the legal basis for the industry, with a view to fortifying the integrity of the greyhound racing sector and improving provision for greyhound traceability. To this end, I welcome the fact that Bord na gCon will continue to invest significant resources into regulation and greyhound welfare. Following the RTE Investigates Programme, the Board of Bord Na gCon has just announced that further resources will be devoted to the areas of traceabilty, fostering and re-homing of greyhounds and an increase in the levels of inspection of greyhound establishments.  

I am very concerned that steps must immediately be taken to address the issues raised in the programme referred to by the Deputy. However, the suspension of funds could have immediate consequences for employment in the sector and could have unintended consequences for the welfare of dogs bred for racing and coursing.

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

Questions (73)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

73. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number and description of projects under the marine biodiversity initiatives with a delayed start in 2017 with an associated underspend of €0.5 million; the commencement and completion dates of each project; the cost of each project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28199/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department's European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Operational Programme is the vehicle for financial supports to the seafood sector for the period 2014 to 2020.  The Programme delivers a wide range of supports including marine biodiversity initiatives through a suite of schemes.  

The Programme is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union and provides €239.3 million in funding - an investment of €91.7 million provided by the Government of Ireland and €147.6 million provided by the European Union.  

The Marine Biodiversity scheme, to which my Department has allocated €9.4 million up to the end of 2020, aims to promote good fisheries and aquaculture management and to protect biodiversity in marine habitats in support of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and compliance with the Habitats and Birds Directives (Natura 2000) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

The scheme is currently in its fourth Operation. The first Operation was implemented in 2016 when eight projects were completed at a cost of €278,000. Projects focussed on the compliance of fisheries and aquaculture in and close to Natura sites and included:

- Assessing fishing impacts on vulnerable habitats;

- Monitoring of fishing footprint and catch composition of vessels <12m close to Natura sites;

- Appropriate Assessments of aquaculture activities in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protected Areas (SPAs);

- Investigations of bird use and aquaculture practices in Natura sites;

- Measuring the effectiveness of mitigation measures of managed activities (aquaculture) carried out in Natura sites.

The second Operation was implemented in 2017 with 12 projects, which were completed in 2018 at a cost of approximately €3.2 million.

Projects in the second operation widened their scope to include species and habitat restoration, MSFD and biodiversity support and Informatics to support the ecosystem approach to fisheries.

The third operation was implemented in 2018 and four projects are ongoing until the end of the programme and include species restoration (native oyster) and habitat and species monitoring to support Natura and MSFD.

Activities and projects which commenced under Operation 2 will continue in a second phase under Operation 4 with further projects currently implemented for MSFD support and deepwater biodiversity.

Further details all marine biodiversity projects can be found on the following website at: https://emff.marine.ie/marine-biodiversity

In 2017, there was an underspend in EMFF Marine Biodiversity projects of €478,091 in relation to actual spent vs. 2017 estimates. The following reasons were provided to my Department by the Marine Institute:

- Procurement lag for a number of projects.

- One project was withdrawn;

- Funds from other agencies which led a reduced drawdown.

- Some project costs were lower than originally anticipated.

Despite this underspend, the Marine Biodiversity Scheme has been very successful and is a very important scheme to understand Ireland's Marine biodiversity and the impact of the seafood sectors on it.  I expect that the full allocation of €9.4 million will be spent at the end of 2020.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (74)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

74. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which he can address the issues raised in a programme (details supplied) regarding the treatment of greyhounds here; and his views on whether the time has come to take robust action on exports of greyhounds and to examine a complete ban on live hare coursing. [28122/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department takes any allegations of breaches of animal welfare rules very seriously and will thoroughly investigate and take the necessary enforcement actions to deal with such offences.  

In particular, my Department is engaging in a review of the licensing conditions in knackeries, with regard to practices seen on RTÉ. All allegations will be examined to determine the appropriate actions.  

Bord na gCon, in addition to its focus on the core business of greyhound racing, places a strong emphasis on regulation of the industry and the welfare of greyhounds. It is evident that the successful growth and sustainability of the industry is heavily dependent on public confidence in the integrity of racing.

It is worth noting that the Greyhound Sector has undergone a series of reforms in recent times and the Greyhound Racing Act 2019 was signed by the President on the 28th May 2019. The drafting of this legislation strengthens the legal basis for the industry, with a view to fortifying the integrity of the greyhound racing sector and improving provision for greyhound traceability.

Bord na gCon only encourages and promotes the export of greyhounds to countries that have established a positive animal welfare code and practices. My Department understands that Bord na gCon is currently updating its Code of Practice in the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound to include provisions on best practice when exporting greyhounds, including advice to the exporter on the need to research the proposed export destination in relation to its animal welfare standards and legislation.

In recent days, Bord na gCon has also announced a series of measures that will be implemented:

- The introduction of a greyhound injury support scheme to provide financial assistance to aid injured greyhounds to continue with a healthy life.

- Extending and increasing support for foster care of greyhounds to identify new foster homes within Ireland for greyhounds.

- Revision, in conjunction with the International Greyhound Welfare Forum, of the Code of Practice on the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound to address retirement and transportation of greyhounds.

- Financially incentivise the rehoming of greyhounds in Ireland through the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust (which assisted in the rehoming of 1,021 greyhounds last year).

- Intensify the inspection regime of greyhound establishments (491 inspections were undertaken in 2018).

- Preparation of a statutory instrument to make it a legal requirement that euthanasia of a greyhound must be carried out by a veterinary practitioner. (This is already the standard expected under the IGB Code of Practice for the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound).

- Provision of the Code of Practice to all registered greyhound owners

- Progress the traceability provisions of the Greyhound Act 2019

- Establish a confidential Freephone line to enable reports of welfare breaches to be reported to the IGB for investigation by relevant agencies.

Minister Doyle will be meeting with the Board of Bord na gCon this week to discuss these and any other measures that may be required to bring about comprehensive changes in the sector. For these reasons, an action plan for the industry will be carefully considered and announced by my Department in due course.  

My Department is not in a position to know whether dogs, including greyhounds, that are moved from Ireland to another EU Member State are subsequently exported to a further country. The export of dogs from other member states is a matter for the authorities in those member states.

In relation to coursing, under the provisions of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, the regulation of coursing is chiefly a matter for the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) subject to the general control and direction of Bord na gCon. Hares can only be collected for coursing by clubs affiliated to the ICC in accordance with the terms of two licences granted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

A Monitoring Committee on Coursing is in place, comprising officials from my Department, the ICC and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), to monitor developments in coursing.  I believe that it is critically important that those involved in coursing operate in accordance with the regulatory framework and that the welfare of both hares and greyhounds is kept in mind at all times. The allegations of an illegal coursing meeting set out in the recent RTE Investigates Programme are currently examined by Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Beef Imports

Questions (75)

Willie Penrose

Question:

75. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the detail of beef imports for the first quarter of 2019; the number of tonnes imported; the countries from which such imports took place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28077/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

According to Central Statistics Office (CSO) data, imports of beef into Ireland for the first quarter of 2019 are relatively small, with 7,310 tonnes or €30.4m seen during this period. These figures are a reduction on the 11,714 tonnes, or €33.7m, registered during the same period in 2018. This equates to a 33% decline in volume.

In Q1 2019, the main country that we imported beef from was Great Britain, with 5,541 tonnes. This means that Great Britain makes up 75% off all our imported beef for the period in question, followed by Northern Ireland with 992 tonnes, or 13.5%, of the total.

Overall, EU member states made up 99% of all our beef imports, with 7,235 tonnes or €30m imported in the first quarter of 2019.  Imports from third countries during this period were very small with 2 tonnes being imported from Brazil, and 1 tonne from Switzerland.

Sheep Welfare Scheme Data

Questions (76)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

76. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers deemed ineligible for the sheep welfare scheme in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019 due to the fact they did not lodge their sheep census in time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28081/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I introduced the Sheep Welfare Scheme in December 2016 in order to provide support for sheep farmers in improving welfare standards in the national sheep flock.  Participating farmers are paid €10 per eligible ewe, and to date some €36m has issued to farmers under the Scheme in respect of the first 2 years of the Scheme.

Given that payments under the Scheme are based on animal numbers, participants are required each year to submit their Sheep Census to my Department.  This requirement is set out in the terms and conditions of the Scheme.  The numbers of farmers in each year who submitted late Census forms are as follows:

2017 - 476

2018 - 381

2019 - 579 

Participants in the scheme who do not submit their Sheep Census return by the due date are notified in writing by my Department and are provided with an opportunity to lodge an appeal outlining the circumstances relating to the late submission.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (77)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

77. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will report on his discussion with a person (details supplied) while in Cork recently; and if beef prices were discussed. [20554/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I can confirm that an informal discussion occurred on the date indicated, between myself and the IFA President, in which various issues relating to the Beef sector, including market conditions, were raised.  

As the Deputy will be aware, as Minister for Agriculture, I have no role in determining prices for any commodity nor can I intervene in the same.   

The Beef Sector is an important element of the Irish economy and I am conscious of the importance that this key sector plays in rural Ireland.

I am keenly aware that the past few months have been very challenging for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There was a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices lasting from autumn 2018 to spring 2019, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance. 

The recent announcement by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is very 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.

Further details on the aid package will be announced in due course following the appropriate stakeholder consultation.

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 exchequer funded Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), a €20 million pilot project for 2019.

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.

Fallen Animal Collection Scheme

Questions (78)

Willie Penrose

Question:

78. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the limitation of 125 km in respect of distance restriction applied here to the transport of category 1 animal waste is not related to any European legislation; if European animal by-product legislation does not contain distance limitation in relation to the transport of category 1 by-products and that such limitations as imposed here arises from policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28080/19]

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.

Agrifood Sector

Questions (79)

Brendan Smith

Question:

79. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the discussions being held with his counterparts in Northern Ireland and the UK in relation to the need to minimise disruption to the agrifood sector both North and South in the context of Brexit in view of the interdependence of the sector on an all-island basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28182/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Government believes strongly that the best way forward in dealing with the UK's decision to leave the EU is for the UK to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement.  Ireland and the EU are consistent and clear that the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be renegotiated, as reiterated again by President Tusk after the European Council last week. 

In the meantime, the Government has agreed that we will continue to plan for all scenarios, including the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. 

Ireland and the EU are at one with regard to our determination to do all we can to avoid the need for a border and to protect the peace process. Discussions are continuing with the European Commission on how to achieve, in a no-deal scenario, our shared objectives of protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it, and avoiding any physical infrastructure on the island of Ireland.

The EU negotiates on behalf of the Member States, including Ireland, and, therefore, my officials do not negotiate on Brexit issues with UK counterparts. My officials continue to talk to their Northern Ireland counterparts on day-to-day matters to ensure that the agri trade continues to operate efficiently on the island of Ireland.