Greyhound Industry

Questions (1010)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

1010. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the average age of a greyhound entering into the greyhound care centre under the Greyhound Care Fund; the measures in place to identify greyhounds that will not make racing grade; and the protocols in place to move them out of the industry and into the welfare area as soon as possible. [8237/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Rásaíocht Con Éireann (RCÉ) 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. RCÉ is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The question raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for RCÉ and, therefore, the question has been referred to the body for direct reply.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (1011)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

1011. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the Rásaíocht Con Éireann doping strategy continues to be non-intelligence led; the improvements made to the testing equipment and to the laboratory facilities following on from the Irish Greyhound Board anti-doping and medication review carried out by a person (details supplied) in 2015; and the protocols in place regarding transparency and reporting procedures for adverse analytical findings. [8238/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Rásaíocht Con Éireann (RCÉ) 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. RCÉ is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The question raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for RCÉ and, therefore, the question has been referred to the body for direct reply.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (1012)

Paul Murphy

Question:

1012. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he plans to introduce grants for those farmers wishing to transition away from animal agriculture. [8267/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In relation to alternatives to livestock production, the production of cereals, crops and horticulture, as well as forestry, are important sectors in Irish agriculture and the Programme for Government commits to continuing to support their ongoing development.

The cereals sector in Ireland is a major contributor of high quality grain to the food and drinks industry and is a key source of feed and seed production. It is a sector with great tradition in Irish agriculture and holds significant potential for the future. My Department has introduced a number of specific support measures for the tillage sector in recent years. In 2015, a Voluntary Coupled Protein Aid Scheme was introduced providing a fund of €3 million with the aim of sustaining production of plant proteins to a level of 12,000 hectares. It is proposed to continue with the VCS for the CAP transitional period for tillage farmers. Furthermore, my Department is considering the continuation of the VCS for protein crops in the next CAP in order to promote the growing of native protein crops.

The Tillage Capital Investment Scheme (TCIS), under TAMS II, covers specific areas of investment including Minimum Disturbance Tillage Equipment, Sprayers, Fertiliser Spreaders and increasing Grain Storage and Drying capacity. Over €16m has been paid to farmers to date under the Scheme. In addition, over €7m has been paid to farmers for tillage investments under the Young Farmer’s Capital Investment Scheme as part of TAMS II.

The horticultural sector operates in an open market, increasingly international and competitive. Ongoing development of horticulture is dependent on its ability to maintain and extend its competitive advantages in this environment. In spite of these challenges the industry has seen a growth in output value of some 30% in the 10 years since 2010. This growth has been assisted by the strong investment by the sector in new technologies, including public investment. My Department operates the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector, focusing on small to medium sized enterprises. This Scheme is intended to assist in the development of the horticulture sector, including beekeeping, by grant aiding capital investments in specialised Horticultural plant and equipment. It aims to facilitate environmentally friendly practices, promote the diversification of on-farm activities, improve the quality of products and improve working conditions. For 2021, the budget for this Scheme was significantly increased to €9 million.

My Department promotes the transition to organic tillage and horticulture farming by providing the highest organic payment rates for conversion and maintenance for tillage and horticulture. In addition, under TAMS II, a dedicated capital investment scheme (Organic Capital Investment Scheme (OCIS)) is in place providing support for organic tillage farmers for a wide range of equipment and structures.

Forestry and agro-forestry offer significant opportunities for farm diversification, and my Department supports forestry through planting grants, premia and various schemes to incentivise increased planting, particularly to encourage the planting of broadleaf species.

Negotiations on the new Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) are underway and the CAP Strategic Plan will provide in excess of €12 billion in funding to farmers and rural communities in the period from 2023 to 2027. In the interim, support continues under the Rural Development Programme, with payments in excess of €1.7 billion in 2020. My Department will continue to support cereals, crops and horticulture with appropriate supports under CAP.

The agri-food sector has benefited from an approach to strategic planning through the development of 10-year stakeholder-led strategies, updated every five years. Since their inception 20 years ago, up to the current Food Wise 2025 plan, these strategies have ensured that the sector has a coherent, stakeholder-led vision and strategy to underpin the sector's continued development and all sectors are considered, including cereals, crops and horticulture. Currently, a Committee representative of the sector is developing the agri-food strategy to 2030.

The development of the strategy is a commitment of the Programme for Government, to provide, “an ambitious blueprint for the industry for the years ahead, adding value sustainably in the agri-food sector into the future and supporting family farms and employment in rural Ireland”. The strategy is expected to be published in the first half of this year and will include actions for cereals, crops and horticulture in the period to 2030. The Strategy is also expected to look at the potential for diversification into organic production, as well as the potential for farmers to diversify further into forestry production.

Fishing Industry

Questions (1013, 1014, 1015)

Holly Cairns

Question:

1013. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the preparations and actions his Department and all relevant agencies under his remit have taken to date to ensure the smooth introduction of regulation given the recent agreement by the fisheries committee of the European Parliament on a proposal to update the control regulation for fishing activities in the EU and in particular relating to the geolocation and electronic logbook mandatory for small boats aspect of the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8354/21]

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Holly Cairns

Question:

1014. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will consult in an extensive and meaningful manner with industry well in advance of the implementation of regulations resulting from the proposal to update the control regulation for fishing activities in the EU given that recent agreement by the fisheries committee of the European Parliament on a proposal to update the control regulation for fishing activities in the EU will impact hundreds of operators in the inshore sector and the potential challenges it presents for them including possessing the digital capacity to comply with such regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8355/21]

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Holly Cairns

Question:

1015. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to support the inshore sector in meeting challenges complying with the EU fisheries committee proposal to update the control regulation for fishing activities in the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8356/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1013 to 1015, inclusive, together.

Council Regulation 1224/2009, known as the Control Regulation, establishes a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy and establishing a level playing-field across the EU on fisheries control.

In 2018, the Commission published a proposal to amend the Control Regulation. The negotiations on the revised EU Control Regulation are currently ongoing at the Council Working Party. The Portuguese Presidency has indicated its intention to bring a general approach on the proposal to the Council of Fisheries Ministers in June. The European Parliament is also discussing the Commission's proposal for a Regulation and is in the process of preparing its own recommended amendments to the text. Earlier this month, the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee published its draft report on the proposal which will be submitted for approval at the European Parliament plenary on 8 March. When both the Council and the Parliament have formally adopted their positions, trilateral negotiations will commence involving the EU Council, the European Parliament and the Commission.

My Department has been engaged fully in the negotiation process and continues to be actively involved in the ongoing discussions with the Presidency, other Member States and the Commission on the proposal. My Department has consulted with stakeholders during this process and will continue to keep them apprised of developments.

I am supportive of many of the proposed changes in the Commission proposal that strengthens the EU arrangements for control, inspection and enforcement. I am also seeking that measures introduced are proportionate, support simplification, cost efficiency and reducing administrative burden for Member States and industry. In relation to inshore vessels, we are supporting the principle of a tracking system for smaller vessels and a simplified and more flexible electronic system for the recording of catches by these vessels. We are seeking that new systems be introduced on a phased basis.

The Programme for Government sets down an ambitious programme of actions that promote a sustainable seafood industry, including supporting the completion of the new Fisheries Control Regulation to increase the effectiveness of existing control measures and agree rules that will ensure a level playing field for all EU vessels.

Agriculture Industry

Questions (1016)

Holly Cairns

Question:

1016. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the European Committee of the Regions proposal to promote the development of short supply chains and small-scale processing of agricultural products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8357/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Short supply chains and small-scale processing of agri-food products undoubtedly offer opportunities for Ireland’s agri-food sector to prosper and develop. The Programme for Government (PfG) acknowledges this in saying that while Irish agriculture must maintain a strong export focus, there is also a desire to see a greater emphasis on producing a more diverse range of food to meet our domestic needs. It also sets out the need to enhance the link between communities and food production and in this regard, commits to promoting short, efficient routes to market that connect small food producers to the consumer and providing advisory, investment and marketing support for those who wish to diversify into new products. The PfG also commits to support the small food producer, providing support for on-farm diversification enterprises and investment in local processing facilities, allowing farmers to sell their products into the local and wider domestic markets.

My Department and agencies under its responsibility, including Bord Bia and Teagasc, offers a range of supports to help implement these commitments. Examples include the Rural Innovation and Development Fund; and the LEADER Food Initiative, which is implemented through the LEADER programme under the responsibility of the Department of Rural and Community Development.

Bord Bia supports include market insights; branding and marketing; access to expert sector managers; and training for moving business online. At the recent Bord Bia Small Business Seminar, the theme of which was ‘Be Extraordinary’, the latest insights and guidance were offered to help small businesses understand and meet changing consumer and market needs. Initiatives like ‘Food Academy’ and marketing assistance grants are also of help to small scale food businesses supplying local markets.

Looking forward, I am confident that the next ten-year strategy for the agri-food sector, the successor to Food Wise 2025, will build on these excellent initiatives when it is finalised later this year. In addition to growing international markets and value-added exports, there will also be a focus on developing additional market opportunities for primary producers and food businesses closer to home.

Common Agricultural Policy

Questions (1017)

Holly Cairns

Question:

1017. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the European Committee of the Regions proposal for a gradual shift from a basic CAP payment per hectare to a basic payment linked to the number of active persons and for direct payments to be funnelled as a matter of priority to small and medium sized agroecological farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8358/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The European Commission launched its proposals on the reform of the CAP in June 2018. In October 2020, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament adopted their respective positions on the Commission proposals.

Trilogue negotiations between the three institutions, which are aimed at reaching a final shared agreement on the shape of the new CAP, commenced at the end of 2020 and are expected to run for some time yet.

The Council General Approach that I have supported provides for the provision of basic payments to farmers based on a system of entitlements or on a rate per hectare, depending on the system applied by the individual Member States.

The overwhelming majority of Irish farms are family farms operated by a farmer, whether part-time or full-time, assisted by other family members. Only a minority of farms are of such a size and output that they employ additional labour. Therefore, it is unlikely that any system relating payment to the number of additional farm workers would be appropriate, bearing in mind the national farm structures.

The Council General approach provides for a number of options for redistribution, giving Member States the necessary flexibility to put in place appropriate national measures. These include further convergence of direct payments, capping and reduction of payments, and the Complementary Redistributive Support for Sustainability, which would allow extra payments on the first hectares of a holding. My officials are examining these possibilities, and this work will continue in close consultation with all stakeholders.

Beef Environmental Efficiency Scheme

Questions (1018)

Holly Cairns

Question:

1018. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on reopening the beef environmental efficiency programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8359/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The measures announced under Budget 2021 to support suckler farmers build directly on the schemes established in recent years. The core support for the beef sector under the current RDP is the €300m Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP).

In addition to this support, over the last two years, over €200 million of additional supports were made available specifically to the beef sector, including the BEAM, since 2019, the Beef Finishers Payment last year and the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme (BEEP/S) schemes. It is important to note that supports targeted at beef finishers also support suckler farmers through the weanling selling season.

The objective of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), which was piloted in 2019, was to further increase economic and environmental efficiency in the suckler herd through better quality data on herd performance supporting decision making on farm. The 2019 budget allocated a total of €20 million for BEEP. A total of 16,556 farmers participated in the pilot with payments totalling €15.4m. Building on the success of the BEEP pilot of 2019, its successor BEEP-S of 2020 included optional animal health and welfare measures and provided payments of over €40 million to over 24,000 beef farmers.

In Budget 2021, €85 million has been allocated for specific supports for sustainable beef farming. This includes over €40 million for the extension of the BDGP during the transition period before the next CAP. This scheme is a significant support for participating farmers, as well as having delivered measurable improvements in the economic and environmental performance of the suckler herd as a whole.

The remaining €45 million has been allocated for the Beef Sector Efficiency Pilot. This scheme will build on the success of the BEEP-S scheme this year, aiming to improve the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves by recording weights, and also optional animal health and welfare measures. This provides for a maximum payment per suckler cow/calf pair of €90 per head for the first 10 suckler cows, and €80 thereafter. The 2021 scheme will also contain €5 million for a new calf weighing measure to support beef farmers rearing dairy beef calves.

Details on the measures are currently being finalised and will be announced in the coming weeks.

GLAS Issues

Questions (1019)

Michael Ring

Question:

1019. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a refund of a penalty for commonage will issue following an appeal by a person (details supplied) in view of the fact that the matter has been ongoing for several months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8404/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 2 and has received payments for scheme years 2016 – 2019 and the 2020 Advance payment.

Following the outcome of an internal review, the person named is due payments in respect of the commonage action. Processing of the balancing payment due for 2017 is currently at an advanced stage and pending final administrative checks will issue shortly.

Fishing Industry

Questions (1020)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1020. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the refusal of Covid-19 assistance for shellfish operators (details supplied) will be examined; if funding will be expedited for the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8408/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department's European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme 2014-2020 provides financial supports for the sustainable development of our seafood sector. On 22 October 2020, I announced a COVID-19 Aquaculture Support Scheme under the 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.

The terms and conditions of the Scheme provided that it was available only to those operators who were compliant with certain legal obligations that apply to all aquaculture producers, namely compliance with their aquaculture and foreshore licences and with the requirement in law to submit returns to Bord Iascaigh Mhara of the Aquaculture Production and Employment Survey. It is an offence to fail to comply with this requirement to submit the survey. The Scheme required that applicants must have complied for each of the three previous years, unless they were a recent entrant to the sector who would not have been in production for those three years.

Other supports to aquaculture producers under the EMFF Programme, including for capital investment, innovation, professional advisory services and organic certification have continued to be available throughout the Pandemic and demand from producers for these grants has remained strong.

As the Pandemic continues and its impacts on markets continue to evolve and change, I am keeping the range of supports under review, in the context of the suite of Government horizontal supports that continue to be available.

Forestry Sector

Questions (1021, 1022)

Matt Carthy

Question:

1021. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of private forestry licences within the licensing system that have been screened out, in and completed ecological assessment; and if screened in, by type and county in tabular form. [8538/21]

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Matt Carthy

Question:

1022. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of private forestry licences within the licensing system by licence type and county in tabular form. [8539/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1021 and 1022 together.

I fully recognise the impact the current forestry licensing delays are having on the sector and I am in regular and intensive consultation with all stakeholders to resolve these issues. Along with Minister of State Senator Pippa Hackett who is responsible for forestry, it is my immediate priority to deal with this backlog and to issue licences in the volume needed for this important sector to continue to contribute to our rural economy, that services both the local and export market.

You will be aware of the delays caused by changes to the licensing system, which means that a significant number of cases now need ecological input to comply with environmental requirements. We are tackling these delays by means of a systematic project plan. In 2020, we invested heavily in resources including the recruitment of additional ecologists, forestry inspectorate and administrative staff, with extra resources to be added this year. This has already resulted in an increase in the number of licences issued, and the last quarter of 2020 saw the highest number of licences issued last year. In addition, January saw the highest number of licences issued in any one month since July 2019. So far this year 494 licences have issued, which is an 18% increase on the same period last year.

I would like to reiterate my commitment to supporting the forest sector and to building on the recent progress, so that a continual improvement in delivery is achieved.

The table below shows the status of private licences on hand by type and county. Please note that this excludes Coillte licences currently on hand for processing. It describes the number of forestry licences that have been provisionally screened in and are awaiting assessment by an ecologist. Most files referred to Ecology require an Appropriate Assessment. The remaining licences are either in the early stages of processing ahead of any screening assessment, or post screening assessment and awaiting further consideration, which could involve for instance a request for further information from the applicant or has been referred to the forestry inspector for final decision.

Forestry Licences

Beef Industry

Questions (1023)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

1023. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will end the 30-month rule, the 70-day residency rule, the four-movement rule and break the cartel oligopoly in the beef sector. [8652/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

There is no rule limiting the age of cattle, period of residence on farm or the number of movements for beef production. Such specifications are entirely a commercial matter and are not conditions imposed by my Department. 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 (reduced from 70-days as part of Beef Talks agreement between stakeholders) to which you refer are all examples of this.

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.

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. https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/1a060-beef-taskforce/#irish-beef-sector-agreement

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. This work is expected to be concluded soon.

Tuberculosis Eradication Programme

Questions (1024)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

1024. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount spent on the testing for and the eradication of TB in agriculture for each of the past ten years; the number of animals that have been killed as a result of TB for each of the past ten years; the number of these animals that were subsequently found to have TB or lesions for each of the past ten years; the reason it has not been sought to completely eradicate TB; and the estimated cost on farmers of the policy of testing and eradication of TB in each year. [8653/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

While TB disease is low relative to historical levels, the number of new restrictions and reactor numbers have been gradually increasing since 2016. The pace of deterioration has accelerated in 2020.

My Department is engaged with all stakeholders through the TB Forum to ensure all aspects of the recently launched new Bovine TB Eradication Strategy 2021-2030 are addressed to move toward the eradication of the disease. This new TB Strategy and further information is available on www.bovinetb.ie

The table below shows (i) the testing costs, (ii) the estimated overall costs and (iii) the number of animals that have been removed as reactors under the TB Programme from 2010 to 2020. On average 30% of skin test reactors will have visible lesions at post-mortem inspection. This does not mean that most of animals slaughtered do not have TB, it means that the disease has not progressed to the point where lesions are visible at post mortem.

Table

Agriculture Industry

Questions (1025)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

1025. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the sale of cattle dosing products will not be taken off the agricultural merchants; and if he has estimated the economic damage to agricultural merchants of this proposed step in terms of jobs and turnover. [8654/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

All stakeholders, including Licenced Merchants, who are currently permitted to sell veterinary medicinal products (VMPs) under national legislation, such as cattle dosing products, will continue to be able to sell such VMPs following the new veterinary medicines Regulation coming into effect in January 2022. The Regulation does not stop this route of sale. However, from January 2022 antiparasitic VMPs will require a veterinary prescription before they can be sold.

Several stakeholders, including Licenced Merchants, have raised concerns about the potential impact of this change in regulation. To address this, my Department has established an Antiparasitic Resistance Stakeholder Group which is chaired by the Chief Veterinary Officer. This group has an extensive work programme and its considerations are being guided by two principal objectives

- Protecting the efficacy of antiparasitics which are critical to the Irish pasture-based production model.

- Establishing a regulatory system that is pragmatic, retains a substantive role for existing stakeholders and delivers value for money for farmers

My Department as part of the Antiparasitic Stakeholder Group has committed to conducting a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) on the EU Regulation which is underway. This process essentially addresses the same issues that an economic impact assessment would. The RIA will focus on areas where Ireland has national discretion with regards transposing the Regulation and specifically where intended policy decisions may impact stakeholders. The Assessment cannot be finalised until the relevant policy options have been examined which will be informed by stakeholder consultations.

Beef Industry

Questions (1026, 1048)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

1026. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the proposed food ombudsman office will be established and operational; the number of staff the food ombudsman office will have; the enforcement ability this office will have; and if this office will tackle the cartel that exists in the beef sector. [8655/21]

View answer

Claire Kerrane

Question:

1048. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the powers the proposed food ombudsman will have and specifically in the case of beef production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8875/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1026 and 1048 together.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to:

Ensure fairness, equity, and transparency in the food chain by establishing a new authority called the National Food Ombudsman (NFO) to enforce the Unfair Trading Practices Directive. This new authority will enforce EU-wide rules on prohibited unfair trading practices in the food supply chain and will have powers to enforce this Directive, penalising those who breach regulations. The NFO will have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland.

My Department is taking a two step approach to the establishment of the NFO. Firstly a statutory instrument will be drafted to transpose the UTP Directive by the deadline of 1st May 2021. This will provide for an Enforcement Authority which will have the powers as currently provided for in the Directive. The legislative and operational requirements for establishing a new Office of a Food Ombudsman or equivalent that might provide for functions other than those provided for in the UTP Directive are being examined. Primary legislation will be required both to establish this new authority, and to provide for any further powers which may be given to that office. My Department is giving this matter priority.

The UTP Directive does not address issues of price determination or negotiation. While the new authority will have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland, it is important to be aware, however, that this authority will not have a role in determining price. It is intended that there will be a national consultation process on the functions of the NFO prior to the primary legislation being enacted.

In addition, the Beef Taskforce work on price transparency, and the completion of the three market transparency studies commissioned by my Department, will be an important step towards improving visibility of the complex supply chain which is integral in fostering trust and enhancing supply chain relationships. These studies will act as an important starting point for driving increased transparency. It is more important than ever that we all work together given the unique set of challenges currently faced by the sector. Continued strong and constructive engagement in the Beef Taskforce is key to meeting these challenges.

Carbon Tax Yield

Questions (1027)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

1027. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which the carbon tax being charged on agriculture is being spent (details supplied); and if he will ensure that farmers have an alternative in order to reduce exposure to carbon taxes,as otherwise the tax is purely punitive. [8656/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Taxation policy is primarily the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Finance.

The Minister for Finance announced in Budget 2021 that the carbon tax will be increased by €7.50 a tonne in 2021. All of the resulting revenues raised will be allocated in line with the Programme for Government commitment to use increases in the carbon tax.

DAFM received €23m from Carbon Tax proceeds for Budget 2021, which is a significant increase on the allocation for 2020. This funding will be utilised for agri-environment actions supporting the agri-sector in achieving its environmental commitments.

Common Agricultural Policy

Questions (1028)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

1028. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will ensure that CAP payments are focused on productive farmers rather than non-active landowners. [8657/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

To be classified as a productive farmer for the Basic Payment scheme, you must manage land and be involved in an agricultural activity. This includes:

- milking, breeding animals and keeping animals for farming purposes or,

- managing land that can be used for grazing or growing.

My Department implements a comprehensive system of administrative checks and other controls to ensure that those who receive CAP payments are productive farmers. This whole area is governed by EU regulations and Ireland's control systems are subject to regular EU audits.

The draft regulations for the next CAP programming period also include similar provisions, referred to as the ‘genuine farmer’ definition. The process of agreeing these regulations to provide the framework for the next CAP programming period is ongoing at EU level. Discussions on this definition along with other key issues are also on-going at national level and these are feeding into the overall negotiations at EU level, The views of stakeholders in relation to such definitions have been sought as part of this process.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme

Questions (1029)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

1029. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will ensure that the revised REPS scheme reflects the value today of the initial scheme that existed in 1994; and if he will include reseeding for beef farms in this scheme. [8658/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Negotiations regarding the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the associated draft regulations are still ongoing. While progress has been made, there are decisions on a number of key issues still to be made, particularly in relation to the proposed CAP Strategic Plan. The proposed new Green Architecture which encompasses enhanced conditionality, eco-schemes and agri-environment climate measures needs to be considered in this regard.

The Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) was the national agri-environment climate measure under the Rural Development Programme to the end of 2020. To ensure that environmental benefits achieved to date are maintained and that farmers continue to receive support, GLAS 1 and 2 participants with contracts due to expire at end 2020 were offered the option of extending their contracts for a further year. The vast majority opted to do so.

As regards the successor scheme to GLAS, it is proposed that a new agri-environment climate scheme will be included in Ireland’s new CAP Strategic Plan.

Funding has also been made available for an agri-environment pilot project. It is proposed to do this as a results-based project in order to align it with the principles of the next CAP. Results-based agri-environment payment schemes reward farmers for committed environmental effort by linking payments to the quality of environmental outcomes delivered. This differs to the standard ‘prescription-based’ model used in GLAS.

By linking payments to defined indicators the results-based model creates a financial incentive linked with outcomes for participating farmers. The model also makes it worthwhile for participants to gain an understanding of the conditions required for the delivery of optimum biodiversity and environmental benefits. To inform the development of the project, a public consultation was recently launched and will remain open until 26th February. Final decisions on the structure and content of the pliot will be made after the public consultation process. A summary overview document and the online consulation survey are available at gov.ie - Public Consultation on Proposed Agri-Environment Results Based Pilot Project (www.gov.ie).

I am committed to protecting farmer incomes while also enhancing environmental measures.

Beef Industry

Questions (1030)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

1030. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will ensure that any financial aid to the beef sector does not have the outcome of reducing the price to the farmer (details supplied). [8659/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, prices for beef and other commodities is a commercial matter which neither I, as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, nor my Department have any role in determining.

I am acutely aware of the issues presented to the beef sector and also those to the agri-food sector in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, particularly given its reliance on external trade and the food service and hospitality markets.

My officials and I have ongoing contact with all the key stakeholders across both the beef and dairy sectors. More than ever in the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am aware of this need for ongoing contact as the situation has evolved. My Department and I are working to ensure that business and services to farmers can continue, keeping food and other processing facilities operational, ensuring that payments and commercial activities that are necessary to protect farm incomes can continue.

Recently, I secure €85 million in Budget 2021 for specific supports for sustainable beef farming. This includes over €40 million for the extension of the BDGP during the transition period before the next CAP. This scheme is a significant support for participating farmers, as well as having delivered measurable improvements in the economic and environmental performance of the suckler herd as a whole. An optional extension will be offered to all those who have met the requirements of the scheme, and who commit to maintaining those requirements.

The remaining €45 million has been allocated for the Beef Sector Efficiency Pilot. This scheme will build on the success of the BEEP-S scheme this year, aiming to improve the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves by recording weights, and also optional animal health and welfare measures. This provides for a maximum payment per suckler cow/calf pair of €90 per head for the first 10 suckler cows, and €80 thereafter. The 2021 scheme will also contain €5 million for a new calf weighing measure to support beef farmers rearing dairy beef calves.

I have put in place a €6m fund over the next three years in order to develop and promote an Irish suckler beef proposition abroad. This is an exciting initiative that I hope will further support the sector.

Beef Industry

Questions (1031)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

1031. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the supports that will be put in place to ensure there is targeted help for suckler farmers. [8660/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The measures announced under Budget 2021 to support suckler farmers build directly on the schemes established in recent years. The core support for the beef sector under the current RDP is the €300m Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP).

In addition to this support, over the last two years, over €200 million of additional supports were made available specifically to the beef sector, including the BEAM, since 2019, the Beef Finishers Payment last year and the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme (BEEP/S) schemes. It is important to note that supports targeted at beef finishers also support suckler farmers through the weanling selling season.

The objective of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), which was piloted in 2019, was to further increase economic and environmental efficiency in the suckler herd through better quality data on herd performance supporting decision making on farm. The 2019 budget allocated a total of €20 million for BEEP. A total of 16,556 farmers participated in the pilot with payments totalling €15.4m. Building on the success of the BEEP pilot of 2019, its successor BEEP-S of 2020 included optional animal health and welfare measures and provided payments of over €40 million to over 24,000 beef farmers.

In Budget 2021, €85 million has been allocated for specific supports for sustainable beef farming. This includes over €40 million for the extension of the BDGP during the transition period before the next CAP. This scheme is a significant support for participating farmers, as well as having delivered measurable improvements in the economic and environmental performance of the suckler herd as a whole.

The remaining €45 million has been allocated for the Beef Sector Efficiency Pilot. This scheme will build on the success of the BEEP-S scheme this year, aiming to improve the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves by recording weights, and also optional animal health and welfare measures. This provides for a maximum payment per suckler cow/calf pair of €90 per head for the first 10 suckler cows, and €80 thereafter. The 2021 scheme will also contain €5 million for a new calf weighing measure to support beef farmers rearing dairy beef calves.

Sheep Welfare Scheme

Questions (1032)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

1032. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if matters will be addressed in relation to the sheep welfare scheme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8745/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Sheep Welfare Scheme was launched in December 2016, for an original period of four years. The scheme reflected the commitment of the Government to the sheep sector in Ireland and was introduced as part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme. The Scheme has now been extended for a further year in 2021. As in previous years, existing participants are automatically rolled over into Year 5 of the Scheme without the need to submit a new application.

On 20th January, the opening of the 2021 Sheep Welfare Scheme was publicised and new entrants were advised to make their applications by 1st February. Where potential new applicants had signalled to my Department their intention to apply by that deadline, but had not yet returned a completed form by 1st February, such applications have been accepted.

My Department does have a number of queries on hand where new entrant applicants have not contacted the Department by 1st February. Such queries are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, having due regard to any difficulties imposed by public health restrictions.

Brexit Issues

Questions (1033)

John McGuinness

Question:

1033. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to provide funding and other supports to the horse industry relative to the cost of vets and transport arising from Brexit as stock is moved to or through the UK adding up to 75% costs on transactions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8750/21]

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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.

Under Section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001, my Department provides funding to HRI on an annual basis.

Under this provision for 2021, my Department has allocated €76.8 million to HRI to assist the horse racing and wider thoroughbred industry. This allocation represents an increase of €9.6m or 14% on the allocation provided to HRI of €67.2 million in 2020.

The objective of this increase is in part to assist the industry in dealing with the twin challenges of COVID-19 and Brexit.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (1034)

Denis Naughten

Question:

1034. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason the Government requested that point-to-point racing be discontinued under current regulations relating to Covid-19; if he will outline the specific risk profile associated with the sport compared to horse racing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8758/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Government requested that Point to Point racing be discontinued under current regulations relating to COVID-19. HRI has informed this Department that this request is being complied with.

The pre-eminence of the protection of public health in the current pandemic situation is at the fore of such considerations.

The situation will continue to be actively monitored.