Agriculture Scheme Eligibility

Questions (977)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

977. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the arrangements in place to ensure there are an adequate supply of accredited green certificate in agriculture courses available for all applicants in all regions due to the unprecedented demand for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6361/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Green Cert Programme continues to attract strong interest from the farming community, which I very much welcome, in terms of supporting generational renewal and improving education standards. Demand is also underpinned by the range of additional scheme supports and tax incentives targeted at young trained farmers who have successfully completed the Green Cert.

My Department continues to work closely with Teagasc to maximise participation in the Programme. Agreement was secured that Teagasc could appoint over 80 temporary teachers to rapidly expand the number of available places. It helped facilitate enrolment of over 9,000 adult learners on the part-time and distance education options since 2014.

As strong demand continues to exist for those options in some regions, Teagasc has agreed to bring forward a proposal for additional temporary resources for consideration by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The scheduling of courses and assignment of teaching posts to particular locations remains an operational matter for Teagasc. My Department will continue to monitor the Green Cert situation in Teagasc closely.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (978)

Dara Calleary

Question:

978. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to introduce antigen testing for employees of key manufacturing plants such as food and meat processing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6364/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Health Services Executive (HSE) currently organises SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing of the workforce in the larger food and meat processing plants (those which have 50 workers or more on site) on a four-weekly schedule.

My Department has been assisting HSE in evaluating the use of rapid antigen detections tests (RADT) for SARS-CoV-2 as a risk management tool in food businesses. This validation study has been done in tandem with the serial PCR testing organised by HSE - 4,900 people were tested by both RADT and PCR across 18 sites since the beginning of January 2021. While a detailed analysis of this data is currently being completed by HSE, the study would appear to support the use of RADT for this purpose.

Consequently, my Department is currently making arrangements to facilitate the roll-out of this testing so that any food business operators (FBOs) who wish to use RADT for risk management purposes can do so as soon as possible. This includes guidelines on the use of RADT for this purpose which my Department has agreed with the public health authorities and with the food industry, a process for the supply of RADT test-kits to FBOs and a means of providing some initial on-site training for FBOs who wish to use RADT.

Licence Applications

Questions (979)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

979. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a licence application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6372/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

An application for a tree felling licence for the person named was received in January 2019 and has been referred to my Department’s Ecology Unit. The application site is near eight designated sites, the Ballyseedy Wood SAC. Therefore, the impact of any felling operations on the sites and the surrounding area must be carefully considered before deciding on the licence application.

If the applicant wishes, and at their own expense, they may provide a Natura Impact Statement (NIS). The NIS must be prepared by a suitably qualified person. A NIS can considerably reduce the time taken to assess the application, as once received, the NIS will be examined by an ecologist within two to three months and a decision will issue once the assessment of the application is complete.

Protected Disclosures

Questions (980)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

980. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he and or his predecessors evaluated a protected disclosure made by a person (details supplied) as instructed to by the Workplace Relations Commission on 16 July 2019; and the progress made to date on same. [6395/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department’s Protected Disclosures Policy and Procedures safeguard the confidentiality of any discloser. For this reason, I do not propose to comment on whether any matter is, or is not, subject to an evaluation or investigation by this Department.

However, for the sake of completeness and accuracy, the Deputy should be aware that the Workplace Relations Commission's Adjudication referred to, was appealed and was subsequently set aside in its entirety by the Labour Court in its determination on 13th December 2019.

EU Regulations

Questions (981)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

981. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the European Commission for Health and Food Safety has accepted a formal complaint from a whistle-blower (details supplied) to investigate that some veterinarians in Irish meat plants are not qualified under an EU regulation and may compromise the food safety risk and certification of products of animal origin to consumers. [6396/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department has not received any communication from the European Commission for Health and Food Safety in relation to the material supplied by the Deputy. However, the Department would co-operate fully with the Commission should they decide to pursue this or any other matter.

Agriculture Scheme Appeals

Questions (982)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

982. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of an appeal by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6403/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I wish to inform the Deputy that the Agriculture Appeals Office operates independently of my Department.

I have been advised that the records of the Agriculture Appeals Office indicate that an appeal in relation to GLAS was received from the person named in December 2020. The Appeals Office requested the file and a statement on the grounds of appeal from my Department and all relevant documentation has been forwarded to the Appeals Office.

I am advised that the appeal has been assigned to an Appeals Officer for examination and determination and the case will be dealt with in due course.

Due to restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I am informed that the Appeals Office has suspended the holding of oral hearings until further notice. Where an appellant has requested an oral hearing, the Office will offer the option of having the hearing held remotely or have the appeal decided without an oral hearing.

Fishing Industry

Questions (983)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

983. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there will be a derogation for scallop fishermen who are fishing off the southern coast of the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6421/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The rules for landings of Live Bivalve Molluscs (LBM) into Great Britain (GB) are set down by the UK authorities. While exempt from IUU requirements, the SPS allowance to directly-land fishery products does not include Live Bivalve Molluscs, e.g. wild-caught scallops.

From January until April, Irish vessels may land such products to NEAFC-designated UK ports subject to NEAFC requirements and controls. However, from 1st April 2020, direct landings by Irish vessels of such product to GB ports may not occur. After 1st April, Irish vessels may land such products to e.g. Northern Ireland ports subject to NEAFC controls, or to any EU port.

Such products may be exported to GB as consignments from an Irish approved food establishment accompanied by the appropriate UK Health Certificate. The United Kingdom position from 1st April 2021 replicates the EU position regarding Live Bivalve Molluscs landings by a Third Country vessel into the EU.

Agriculture Scheme Appeals

Questions (984)

John McGuinness

Question:

984. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason for the delay of almost 20 years in acknowledging the error by his Department in not including two reference years relative to area aid in the case of a person (details supplied); the number of meetings held during this period with the representatives of an association regarding the issue; if the submissions from Teagasc and other documents have been considered; if he will arrange a meeting between him, his officials, the farmer and the association to resolve matters given the ongoing negative impact being experienced by the family; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6444/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Officials in my Department have reviewed the case of the person named.

This review has taken into account all records available to us, including representations from elected officials and farmer representative bodies and no error has been found regarding the allocation of entitlements based on the reference years and, therefore, no delay has taken place with regard to this case.

The person named submitted an area aid application form in 2001but not in 2000 or 2002. Therefore, in 2005, 5.45 payment entitlements were allocated to him on this basis. When the Single Payment Scheme concluded on the 31st December 2014 and was replaced by the Basic Payment Scheme, 5.81 payment entitlements were established for the person named according to the rules of the scheme.

The person named has the right to appeal this decision to the Agriculture Appeals Office as previously notified to him.

Horse Racing Ireland

Questions (985)

Carol Nolan

Question:

985. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the manner in which the appointments to the Horse Racing Ireland board from 1 January 2020 to date were nominated; the basis for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6466/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is a commercial state body established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001, and is responsible for the overall administration, promotion and development of the horse racing industry.

Section 4 of the Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) Act 2016 ) sets out the size and structure of the board which consists of a Chairman and thirteen ordinary members. Each ordinary member’s term of office is four years with a provision that a member of HRI shall not serve in any capacity for more than two consecutive terms (8 years).

The Act provides that three shall be chosen by the Minister for their specific skills and at least one shall be representative of the horseracing industry in Northern Ireland.

The remaining ten ordinary members are appointed by the Minister following nomination from certain industry bodies.

The Act provides that a member, whose term of office has expired, has not been reappointed or may not be reappointed due to having served two consecutive terms, shall continue in office until the vacancy is filled by appointment of another person.

For the Deputy's information, details of appointments/re-appointments to the board of HRI from 1st January 2020 to a current date are in tabular form below.

HRI

Greyhound Industry

Questions (986)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

986. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to a fundraiser by an organisation (details supplied) in respect of the retired coursing greyhounds in view of the fact it does not have a homing section: the amount raised; and if other organisations received moneys from the collection. [6518/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Irish Coursing Club is a private club with an Executive Committee that manages the affairs of the club.

The Irish Coursing Club receives no funding from Government and my Department has no remit with regard to its financial operations.

Forestry Sector

Questions (987)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

987. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he address a matter (details supplied) regarding forestry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6542/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

A 20% cap per application was placed by the Department on planting on unenclosed land in 2010 in addition to grant and premium reductions. This was informed by EU Commission observations on Irish forestry policy at the time and was implemented due to environmental, economic and value-for-money reasons. There were many concerns at the time around the failure of plantations on unenclosed land to develop and produce a viable or commercial crop. This was the silvicultural and value for money rationale behind the introduction of the 20% rule.

The Department re-examined this issue in 2016. In order to address the key concerns regarding planting unenclosed land, (productivity and environment) the Department developed two documents in consultation with stakeholders. These were:

(1) Land Types for Afforestation: a vegetation classification system that aims to make classing land more objective.

(2) Environmental Requirements for Afforestation: an environmental Framework that when applied will determine whether the land has an environmental issue or not.

Both documents are now in use and inform DAFM forestry policy.

In April 2016, a Public Consultation process took place around both the new Environmental Requirements document and the case for the removal of the 20% rule. There was no agreement amongst stakeholders to removing the 20% rule and it was maintained.

To attain state aid approval for the current Forestry programme, an outline of the schemes and associated rules had to be approved by the EU Commission. The 20% rule and its proposed review were included in the current Forestry Programme. The Commission indicated subsequently that they were not in agreement with the possible invcrease in planting on unenclosed land. It is a condition of Ireland's state aid approval that the inappropriate planting of sensitive habitats such as certain peatlands and wetlands must be avoided.

The issue of land eligibility has been flagged in the MacKinnon report and Ms Jo O'Hara has been commissioned to advise on the implementation of this report. This report is expected shortly.

Food Safety Standards

Questions (988, 989, 990)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

988. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding the 30-month rule; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6543/21]

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Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

989. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding the 60-day rule; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6546/21]

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Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

990. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding farm movements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6548/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 988 to 990, inclusive, together.

There is no rule limiting the age of cattle or the number of movements for beef production. However, in-spec bonus payments are made in respect of cattle which meet certain market specifications demanded by retail customers. The 30-month age, four movement specification and 60-day residency to which you refer are all examples of this.

Such specifications are entirely a commercial matter and are not conditions imposed by my Department. It should be noted however that certain third countries have imposed a 30 month age limit in respect of beef imports, and this will be specified in the veterinary health certificate which will accompany beef exports to those countries.

As regards the question on numbers of movements, birth registrations are not classified on the Department's AIM system as a movement. For example, when an animal moves from its herd of origin to another farm, it enters its second residency, but has only made one movement.

In September 2019, consensus was reached between stakeholders on the Irish Beef Sector Agreement. Two elements of this relate to the specifications cited:

- the introduction of a new bonus of 8c/kg for steers and heifers aged between 30 to 36 months, which meet all non-age related existing in-spec criteria, and which up to now have not received any bonus;

- an independent review of market and customer requirements, specifically in relation to the four in-spec bonus criteria currently in operation in the Irish beef sector.

The details of this agreement are publicly available on my Department’s website.

Grant Thornton was successful in tendering for the transparency studies including the review of market and customer requirements, specifically in relation to the in-spec bonus criteria currently in operation in the Irish beef sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused some initial delays to progress on these studies. Grant Thorntons was unable to have the necessary engagement with retail customers, both domestically and in key export markets for Irish beef, as retailers were understandably preoccupied with ensuring the continuation of their supply chains. However, this work is expected to be concluded soon.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme

Questions (991)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

991. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a 2019 and 2020 area of natural constraints payment will issue to a farmer (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6584/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

An application for participation in the 2019 Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme was received from the person named on 11th May 2019. As indicated, the Department had recorded two herd numbers for the person named on the Department's systems. This issue has now been addressed and the person named has now one active herd number allocated to him on the Department's systems.

With regard to the 2019 ANC scheme, participants to the scheme must meet minimum stocking requirements in order to be eligible for payment under the scheme. While the person named did maintain a number of bovine animals during 2019, as a result of moving a number of animals off his holding over the course of 2019, he did not meet the minimum stocking requirements and therefore was not eligible for payment under the scheme in 2019.

A member of staff of my Department was in contact with the person named in May 2020 and advised him of the position with regard to his status under the 2019 ANC scheme.

An application for participation in the 2020 ANC scheme was received from the person named on 7th April 2020. As in 2019, participants in the 2020 scheme must meet minimum stocking requirements in order to be eligible for payment under the scheme.

I wish to confirm that the person named has met the minimum stocking requirements under the 2020 ANC scheme and payment will issue in the coming days.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (992)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

992. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason his Department has not submitted a notification to the European Commission under the State aid Temporary Framework for support measures related to the Covid-19 pandemic specifically for the fisheries sector. [6588/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The European Commission has adopted a Temporary State Aid Framework to enable Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, in accordance with Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaties. This recognises that the entire EU economy is experiencing a serious disturbance. The Temporary Framework is in place until 31st December 2021 and complements the possibilities for Member States to design other support measures in line with existing EU state aid rules.

Any aid scheme under the Temporary Framework requires a State Aid Notification to the Commission, unlike conventional deminimis aid. For the fisheries and aquaculture sector, the Temporary Framework allows aid of up to €270,000 to individual beneficiaries. While a broad scope of aid is allowed, the categories referred to in Article 1 of the Fisheries Deminimis Regulation are not allowed.

It is important to understand that the Temporary Framework is just a simplified mechanism for obtaining State Aid approval. No European Union funds are made available under the Temporary Framework. Any aid would have to be provided by the Government of Ireland.

To date, it has not been necessary to notify the European Commission of any proposal to use the Temporary Framework for the seafood sector. This is because the European Union amended the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Regulation in 2020 to assist Member States in supporting seafood producers impacted by the Pandemic through their EMFF Operational Programmes. In 2020, Ireland used the amended EMFF provisions to implement the Covid-19 support schemes sought by representatives of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, namely a Covid-19 Temporary Fleet Tie-up Scheme for fishers and a Covid-19 Aquaculture Support Scheme for oyster and rope mussel producers. Unlike aid under the Temporary Framework, these two Covid-19 schemes were co-funded by the European Union.

Departmental Reviews

Questions (993)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

993. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress his Department has made in implementing the recommendations of the Independent Aquaculture Licensing Review Group from 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6589/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Independent Aquaculture Licensing Review Group carried out a detailed examination of the existing aquaculture licensing process, undertook comprehensive stakeholder consultation and examined comparative national and international consent systems to determine best practice for managing a complex licensing process in a transparent, environmentally appropriate and legally robust manner.

One of the main drivers for the Review was the backlog of aquaculture licence applications which arose as a result of a negative judgment against Ireland for breaches of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. A key recommendation of the Report was that my Department put in place a strategy to eliminate the backlog of licence applications. This has been the primary focus of my Department since the publication of the Report and has resulted in over 600 licence determinations being made in the period to the end of 2019. The backlog in shellfish licensing has now been eliminated as an issue affecting the industry.

Significant progress has also been made in relation to the backlog in finfish licensing and my Department is currently awaiting the submission of Environmental Impact Statements, a statutory requirement, from operators. My officials expect a number of these Statements to be submitted in 2021 and further progress can then be made in respect of these applications.

In addition, my Department has secured funding from the European Maritime Fisheries Fund to undertake the development of GIS modelling, to include, the spatial mapping of aquaculture sites. This key technical infrastructure is required to underpin the development of an on-line aquaculture licensing facility, as recommended by the Review Group.

The implementation of the Licensing Review Group Report forms an important part of the current Programme for Government and my Department is currently preparing an Implementation Programme in respect of the remaining recommendations of the Report with a view to their implementation, both as they apply directly to my Department and to the Agencies of my Department, having regard to the legislative, environmental, technical and public interest issues that arise.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (994)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

994. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will amend the Covid-19 aquaculture support scheme to include those recent entrants to the industry with sales on their books from 2020 and who have been seriously financially affected by the global pandemic; and if he will engage with an association (details supplied) and other representative bodies in relation to the way the scheme can be improved and reintroduced in 2021. [6590/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, Government has made available financial and other supports for employees and businesses negatively impacted by the Pandemic. Both the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and Employment Wage Subsidy Schemes have supported the incomes of employees and the self-employed in our seafood sector and I am aware that many aquaculture enterprises have availed of these Government payments during periods of market disruption. Government has also made available low-cost loans to seafood businesses for working capital and other purposes.

My Department's €240 million European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme 2014-2020 provides public funding for the sustainable development of our aquaculture sector, including supports for capital investment, innovation and professional advisory services. Take-up of these grants has remained strong throughout the Pandemic.

On 22 October 2020, I announced a COVID-19 Aquaculture Support Scheme under my Department's EMFF Programme, designed to compensate oyster and rope mussel producers for lost sales arising from the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Scheme closed in November, with 181 aquaculture enterprises applying. Payments ranged from €6,800 to €16,300 for oyster producers and, for rope mussel producers, €1,300 to €9,000. In line with the EMFF Regulation, the Scheme was designed to compensate producers for the reduction in sales in 2020 compared to previous years, caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic, and therefore was only available to producers with at least some level of production in previous years that could serve to establish which payment band they would qualify for.

As the Pandemic continues, and its impacts on markets continue to evolve and change, I am keeping the situation under review, in the context of the range of Government horizontal supports that continue to be available. My Department and its agencies maintain regular contacts with the IFA on this and other matters concerning the aquaculture sector.

Departmental Staff

Questions (995)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

995. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of staff by grade from his Department that have been deployed to Dublin Port, Rosslare Port and Dublin Airport to deal with Brexit related issues; and if his staff are present at these locations on a 24-7 basis. [6606/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine engages staff in portal locations to carry out a variety of duties, including inspections and the facilitation of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls. My Department has been engaged in strategic workforce planning to deliver on the increased requirements to meet these responsibilities since the UK voted to leave the European Union in June 2016.

As of 8th February 2021, there are 251 staff resources in place and available to undertake DAFM activities in the locations specified. This includes staff across administrative, professional and technical grades who range from those specifically recruited for Brexit, to experienced DAFM staff who have been redeployed to ports, as well as a small cohort of contracted veterinary practitioners.

Staff at Dublin Port provide 24/7 cover in areas required, while other portal locations use shift patterns appropriate to local requirements. As the situation evolves post-Brexit, scope remains for further assessment of resource provision in line with evolving requirements. My officials continue to monitor the situation and will make any necessary adjustments, in line with operational needs.