Forestry Sector

Questions (1022, 1023, 1024)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1022. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of forestry licences that have been appealed since the new legislation was enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11884/21]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1023. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of forestry licence appeals that have been upheld; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11885/21]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1024. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if forestry licence appeals submitted were for afforestation, thinning, clear felling or roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11886/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1022, 1023 and 1024 together.

The Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2020 was commenced on 5th October, 2020, with secondary legislation signed on 7th October. The Act made provision for the Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC) to sit in divisions of itself, among other matters, including the introduction of a fee to bring an appeal.

This has resulted in several efficiencies, primarily the FAC’s ability to schedule more hearings each month. In March, 73 hearings are scheduled, which is 150% more than pre-Act. The FAC expects to have all appeals received prior to the new Act, scheduled for hearing by end May. They will continue to schedule hearings for post-Act appeals thereafter.

Since the Act, the FAC has received 41 valid appeals in 2020 and 29 so far this year (to date). In that time, the FAC has upheld 118 licencing decisions. The table below shows the appeals received for each licence type, (note thinning is included under clearfell but not treated separately)

Appeals received

Afforestation

Tree Felling

Forest Roads

2020 (post-enactment of the Forestry Act)

16

21

4

2021

12

16

1

Timber Supply

Questions (1025)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1025. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of timber that was imported per month since 1 July 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11887/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

While the Department hold information in relation to regulated wood and wood products subject to phytosanitary controls, the Central Statistics Office compiles data on total timber imports. The Department has passed on the specific query relating to this PQ to the CSO. The Department will provide the Deputy with the information directly once received.

Timber Supply

Questions (1026, 1027)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1026. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if imported timber is certified safe at the point of entry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11888/21]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1027. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the bio-security measures in place to ensure that imported timber is free from any disease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11889/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1026 and 1027 together.

In order to address the potential threat of introduction of a harmful organism and to protect the health of Ireland’s forest resource, there is comprehensive body of legislation in place which describes particular import requirements for a range of commodities from countries and regions where the presence of harmful forest pests and disease are known to occur.

Specifically, the Plant Health Regulation EU 2016/2031 and Official Controls Regulation EU 2017/625 which came into effect from 14th December 2019 describe import controls for a range of wood and wood products from Third Countries and from within the EU in order to prevent the entry and spread of non-indigenous quarantine harmful organisms.

Under the legislation, Ireland also has “Protected Zone” status within the EU for a range of forestry harmful organisms. This status recognises in legal terms the freedom from their presence in Ireland, despite having conditions which are suitable for their establishment should they be introduced. This status allows Ireland to implement additional and more stringent import requirements on certain commodities than would be the case were these commodities moved between other EU Member States.

Prospective importers are again reminded to engage fully with the Department for guidance on these import requirements. It's essential that all Departmental documentary, identity and plant health inspection arrangements including both mandatory and monitoring-based physical inspections of consignments on arrival in ports by Forestry Inspectorate staff to verify the relevant standards are satisfied.

Forestry Sector

Questions (1028, 1029)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1028. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the percentage of the country under afforestation as of 1 January 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11890/21]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1029. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the percentage of the country under afforestation by county as of 1 January 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11891/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1028 and 1029 together.

My Department produces the National Forest Inventory (NFI), the most recent of which, carried out in 2017, shows that 11% of the country is afforested. The table below shows the forest area sand non-forest area in each county and the percentage forest cover, which is extracted from the NFI.

County

Forest Area (ha)

Non-Forest Area (ha)

Total County Area (ha)

Forest Cover (%)

Carlow

8,403

81,225

89,627

9.4

Cavan

18,032

175,510

193,542

9.3

Clare

55,106

264,668

319,773

17.2

Cork

90,020

656,549

746,569

12.1

Donegal

55,534

430,084

485,618

11.4

Dublin

6,011

86,555

92,566

6.5

Galway

60,605

551,824

612,429

9.9

Kerry

57,540

417,460

475,000

12.1

Kildare

10,396

159,140

169,536

6.1

Kilkenny

19,825

186,513

206,337

9.6

Laois

26,462

145,539

172,001

15.4

Leitrim

30,061

128,948

159,009

18.9

Limerick

27,933

240,624

268,557

10.4

Longford

9,160

99,969

109,129

8.4

Louth

2,428

80,131

82,559

2.9

Mayo

51,325

508,438

559,763

9.2

Meath

13,326

220,881

234,207

5.7

Monaghan

5,997

123,547

129,545

4.6

Offaly

29,332

170,771

200,103

14.7

Roscommon

28,311

226,489

254,800

11.1

Sligo

20,980

162,690

183,670

11.4

Tipperary

50,241

375,214

425,455

11.8

Waterford

26,949

156,864

183,813

14.7

Westmeath

15,163

168,787

183,950

8.2

Wexford

14,620

221,269

235,889

6.2

Wicklow

36,262

166,401

202,663

17.9

Nationally

770,020

6,206,092

6,976,112

11.0

Agriculture Industry

Questions (1030)

Carol Nolan

Question:

1030. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department has taken measures to establish a future of farming in Ireland dialogue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11050/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The process to develop the next ten year strategy for the agri-food sector, which will succeed the current Food Wise 2025, is currently taking place and will set out a clear direction for the sector, including at farm level, to 2030. The Committee developing the strategy, which is representative of all aspects of the sector, is tasked with developing the vision and key objectives, with associated actions, required to ensure the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the agri-food sector in the decade ahead. Its draft Strategy is expected to be published in the coming weeks.

AgClimatise, the recently published Climate and Air roadmap for the Agri-sector, contains an action to establish a 'Future of Farming in Ireland' dialogue. As we move into the implementation phase of Ag Climatise, this is something that will come on the Department's agenda. The initial implementation phase of AgClimatise will be on driving behavioral change at farm level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the sectors commitment to delivering its environmental commitments.

Tillage Sector

Questions (1031)

Carol Nolan

Question:

1031. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the implementation of the straw chopping scheme for tillage farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11052/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I secured an additional allocation of €10m in Budget 2021 for the implementation of the new Straw Incorporation Measure. This is an agri-environmental initiative that is intended to encourage tillage farmers to increase soil organic carbon levels by chopping and incorporating the straw from eligible crops back into the soil. It has been introduced as part of the suite of measures in place to ensure continued support to the tillage sector during the transition period leading up to the new Common Agricultural Policy programming period.

Officials from my Department are currently in discussions with the European Commission to finalise the details of the measure. The Department has also been consulting with stakeholders in this regard. Once agreement with the European Commission has been finalised, full details of the measure will be published.

Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme

Questions (1032)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

1032. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a TAMS payment has been made to a person (details supplied) under the young farmer capital investment scheme; if not, when it will be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11094/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

A letter of approval to commence investment work under TAMs issued to the applicant on 10th February 2021. A claim for payment has not yet been submitted by the applicant. When a payment claim is submitted for approved investments, it will be processed in due course and in accordance with the terms and conditions of the scheme.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (1033)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1033. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding Covid-19 payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11099/21]

View answer

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. 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.

On 22nd October 2020, I announced a COVID-19 Aquaculture Support Scheme under the EMFF Programme, to be administered by BIM, and designed to compensate oyster and rope mussel producers for the reduction in sales and production in 2020, compared to 2019, 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 from €1,300 to €9,000 for rope mussel producers. Details of the status of these applications are set out in the below table:

Number

Applications Received

181

Applications in receipt of support to date

135

Applications currently under assessment/processing

21

Applications deemed ineligible

25

Value of payments processed in 2020

€1,169,175.72

The terms and conditions of the Scheme provided that it was available only to those producers 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 economic data on their operations to Bord Iascaigh Mhara through an annual Aquaculture Production and Employment Survey. The Scheme required that applicants must have complied with the economic data requirements 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.

As these are mandatory eligibility conditions of the Scheme and relate to obligations in law on aquaculture producers, BIM cannot approve for funding any applications that do not meet these requirements.

Fishing Industry

Questions (1034)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1034. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding support for the fishing industry and coastal communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11104/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, the Union has exclusive competence for the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy. Furthermore, the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities is the exclusive competence of the Council. Any changes to these fundamental principles would require a renegotiation of the Treaty.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) provides the framework for the long term conservation and sustainability of fish stocks around our shores and is designed to ensure the long term sustainability of fishing in Ireland and throughout EU waters. The CFP specifically calls for the progressive restoration and maintenance of populations of fish stocks above biomass levels capable of producing Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). This will lead to healthy fish stocks, higher quotas for both Irish and EU fishers and to more sustainable fishing patterns.

In 2020, 45% of the stocks of interest to Ireland were fished at or below MSY - this increased from 34% in 2013. In 2009, at EU level only 5 stocks were fished at MSY. This shows that the many years of intensive, industry-led conservation measures within the framework of the CFP are paying off.

Under the CFP, EU fishing fleets are given equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds subject to allocated fish quotas. Fishing vessels, irrespective of size, must comply with the rules of the CFP, including rules on access and catch limits/quota.

The share allocation of stocks between Member States was established as a principle of the first CFP in 1983 and was based on the average catch of each Member State over a period of reference years (track record). The only exception to this relates to the Hague Preferences, on the basis of a special recognition agreement of the underdeveloped nature of the Irish fleet and the heavy control responsibility on us when Ireland joined the EU. The Hague Preferences give Ireland an increased share of traditional stocks (cod, whiting, haddock, sole and plaice) when Total Allowable Catch (TAC) levels reduce below a specified level.

As regards Bluefin Tuna, Ireland does not have a national quota for this stock but a small Bluefin Tuna by-catch quota is available to Ireland, primarily for use in our important Northern Albacore Tuna fishery and Celtic Sea Herring fishery. The UK also had also a share of the Bluefin Tuna by-catch quota and, under the EU/UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, a share of the EU’s Bluefin Tuna quota (0.25%) has been transferred to UK. We are seeking that this transfer to the UK is taken from the overall EU quota and is not taken from the by-catch quota available to Ireland.

In 2018, Ireland was successful, for the first time, in securing agreement that allowed countries without a commercial quota to set up a catch-tag-release fishery to contribute to the collection of scientific data. A Catch-Tag-Release science-based fishery for authorised recreational angling vessels has been in place in Ireland since 2019 and supports the collection of valuable data on the migratory patterns of Bluefin Tuna in Irish waters.

The EU percentage share of the international Bluefin Tuna TAC is set down and there is no likelihood that an international country will concede any share to the EU. The only way to obtain a share of the EU quota now would involve changing relative stability within the EU and would require a majority of Member States to agree under the qualified majority voting system. This means that EU Member States, with a national quota, would have to give up a share of their allocation to Ireland. Any change to relative stability - for any fish stock - would involve a loss for some other Member States and therefore poses particular challenges in a qualified majority voting context.

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement will, unfortunately, have a negative impact on our fishing industry. However, this impact would have been far greater had the Barnier Task Force agreed to UK demands or had we been in a no-deal scenario which would have seen all EU vessels barred from UK waters and subsequent displacement into Ireland's fishing zone.

While the outcome on fisheries was a difficult compromise, this Government is working to ensure that the fisheries sector, and the coastal communities that depend on it, are supported. I advised the EU Fisheries Council in January and February that we consider that the quota transfers that fall to us in Ireland are disproportionate in terms of burden sharing. I have also made it clear that the inequitable relative contribution of quota share by Ireland is contributing to a strong sense of grievance within our fishing industry, and indeed more broadly, and Ireland will continue to push for a mechanism to be found within the EU Commission and relevant Member States to find solutions. Ireland intends to continue to keep the focus on this situation and use any opportunity available to seek constructive solutions that would help to alleviate this unacceptable position.

The European Commission Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) will provide support to counter the adverse consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union in Member States, regions and sectors, in particular those that are worst affected by that withdrawal, and to mitigate the related impact on the economic, social and territorial cohesion. I have listened carefully to the representatives of the fishing industry and I am reflecting on how to ensure that the funding made available to the sector is focused to meet the challenges of the sector and of the coastal communities most impacted.

Last week I announced the establishment of a Seafood Sector Taskforce, under the chairmanship of Aidan Cotter, barrister and former CEO of Bord Bia, and involving a broad range of seafood industry representatives and other stakeholders, to make recommendations to me on measures to mitigate the impacts of the reductions in quota share on the Irish Fishing Industry and on the coastal communities that depend on fisheries. I will be asking the Task Force to focus immediately on possible arrangements for a temporary fleet tie-up scheme to counter the impacts of the reduction in quotas which will impact our fishing industry from the beginning of April. The final report, to be delivered in 4 months, will address their recommendations for re-balancing and any other recommended initiatives to support our seafood sector and coastal communities. The Taskforce will also consider and recommend constructive actions that would help to alleviate the inequitable relative contribution of quota share by Ireland in the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

My Department’s forthcoming Seafood Development Programme 2021-27 under the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund will also play an important role over the next seven years in assisting our seafood sector adjust to the impacts of the TCA.

The CFP is reviewed every 10 years and the next review is scheduled to be completed by 31 December 2022 when the European Commission will report to the European Parliament and the Council on the functioning of the CFP. The EU Commission has advised that it intends to commence the Common Fisheries Policy review process following clarity on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. The review is expected to be detailed and comprehensive. At EU level, it is expected that all stakeholders will have an opportunity to engage actively in the review work including the fishing industry, eNGOs and Member States.

I will consider how Ireland will prepare for and participate actively and effectively in the upcoming review of the CFP, including the interaction with stakeholders, to prepare Ireland's case and identify priorities. I have previously stated that I am committed to doing all possible through the review of the CFP to secure additional quota where possible for Irish fishers. The Programme for Government sets down an ambitious programme of actions that promote a sustainable seafood industry and we are committed to working to continue to build on the progress that has been made to secure a sustainable future for our fishing industry and the coastal communities which depend upon it.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme

Questions (1035)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1035. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a decision has been made on an appeal for an ANC payment for 2018, 2019 and 2020 by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11115/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

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

I have been informed that the records of the Agriculture Appeals Office indicate that an appeal was received from the person named in November 2020. The Appeals Office requested the file and a statement on the grounds of appeal from my Department in December 2020.

I am advised that once the file and statement have been received by the Appeals Office the appeal will be assigned to an Appeals Officer for examination and I have been assured that the appeal will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Fishing Industry

Questions (1036)

Michael Collins

Question:

1036. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide a copy of the policy position paper on fisheries prior to entering the fisheries element of the Brexit negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11135/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

From the outset of the EU/UK negotiations on a future relationship, Ireland and our EU partners were very clear on our level of ambition on fisheries and on the fact that progress on an overall trade deal was linked to progress on fisheries. We were seeking to protect the interests of the Irish fleet in terms of both quota share and access to UK waters. This was reflected in the EU negotiation mandate and the draft EU legal text. This Government, and the previous Government, fully supported the EU negotiating mandate to maintain quota shares and current access going forward.

In the period after I took office, I together with Fisheries Ministers from the most impacted Member States, held meetings with both Michel Barnier and the Fisheries Commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevicius by video link. At these meetings I made it clear to both Mr Barnier and the Commissioner that we were placing our full reliance on them to deliver a deal that protected the Irish fishing industry and the coastal communities dependant on fishing.

As you are fully aware, fisheries was one of the most difficult areas of the negotiations. The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement sets out new arrangements for the joint management of more than 100 shared fish stocks in EU and UK waters. Under the Agreement, EU fishing vessels will continue to have the current level of access to UK waters at least until 2026, with quota transfers from the EU to the UK across the different stocks over that time.

Fisheries was an extremely important priority for Ireland and the EU as a whole in the negotiations with the UK. The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement will unfortunately have an impact on the Irish fishing industry. However, this impact would have been far greater had the Barnier Task Force agreed to UK demands, or had we been in a no deal scenario which would have seen all EU vessels barred from UK waters, and the subsequent displacement into Ireland's fishing zone.

Departmental Appointments

Questions (1037)

Michael Collins

Question:

1037. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details of the hiring process and qualifying qualifications, renumeration package and other relevant information of his policy and political adviser on fisheries; if the adviser also covers other areas under his portfolio; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11136/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Ministerial advisers are appointed by the Government in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Management Act 1997.

My Special Advisers cover political press and organisational matters and were appointed under Statutory Instrument 731 of 2020. They are on the Special Adviser (Principal Officer PPC) pay scale - €89,072 - €103,136 p/a.

Details of the qualifications of Special Advisers at my Department will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Brexit Issues

Questions (1038)

Michael Collins

Question:

1038. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of meetings and discussions, including dates and length of meetings and conversations, he had with his European counterparts from his appointment as Minister up until the time of the final outcome of the Brexit fisheries deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11137/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Since my appointment as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and prior to the conclusion of the EU-Trade and Cooperation Agreement on Christmas Eve last, I had frequent engagement with my European counterparts.

Meeting

Date

Agriculture and Fisheries December Council, bilaterals with France, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark

15 & 16.12.2020

Group of 8 Fisheries Ministers Meeting with Mr Barnier, Fisheries Commissioner and DG Mare

27.11.2020

Agriculture and Fisheries Council, bilaterals with France, Denmark and the Netherlands

19 & 20. 10.2020

Agriculture and Fisheries Council

21.09.2020

I attended Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 21st September 2020 - no fish items were discussed at this Council.

On 19th & 20th October 2020, I attended Fisheries Council, where the Baltic TACs were discussed. I also attended three bilateral meetings in relation to the EU-UK Future Relationship with Fisheries Ministers from France, Denmark and the Netherlands.

On 16th November 2020, I attended an informal video conference with my fellow European Fisheries Ministers, but no fisheries items were raised.

On 27th November 2020, I, along with my Ministerial colleagues in the Group of 8, met with Mr Barnier, Fisheries Commissioner and DG Mare, where we were given an update on the state of play in the EU-UK fisheries negotiations. At this meeting, I urged Mr Barnier to stay firm on the link between the overall economic partnership and the conclusion of a fishing agreement and not to agree to any short-term arrangement on fisheries which would serve to break this link. I stressed that Ireland’s fishing industry needs a strong and stable EU/UK Fisheries agreement, and is in a particularly vulnerable position sharing our main fish stocks and our waters on three sides with the UK. I also emphasised that any outcome in the future relationship negotiations that results in a loss of quota share for the EU would be damaging to Ireland’s fishing industry.

On 15 & 16th December, I attended December Council where provisional TAC and quotas were negotiated and agreed for 2021 and the EU-UK Future Relationship was discussed. I also attended a number of bilaterals with France, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark over the course of December Council at which these matters were further discussed.

These engagements were part of a whole-of-Government efforts involving, in particular, An Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs in the months leading up to the Brexit deal on Christmas Eve.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (1039)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

1039. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a 2020 basic payment in respect of a commonage parcel will issue to a farmer (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11140/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named submitted a Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application in 2020.

Their BPS application contained a commonage parcel in the townland of Dunloe Upper. As a result of the standard administrative checks carried out by my Department, it was found that the specific commonage parcel was overclaimed.

In that context, a full review of all evidence submitted to support the various applicants claims on the specific commonage parcel in question was required. That review is now being finalised and the Department will be contacting each of the applicants shortly advising them of the outcome of the review. It is envisaged payment will issue to those with a right to claim the commonage parcel in the coming weeks.

In December 2020, payment was made to the named person on the non-commonage portion of his claim.

Forestry Sector

Questions (1040, 1041)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

1040. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the 2019 McKinnon report will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11144/21]

View answer

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

1041. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will appoint an independent project manager to oversee the implementation of the McKinnon report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11146/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1040 and 1041 together.

In July 2019, former Minister of State Andrew Doyle commissioned Mr. James Mackinnon CBE (former Chief Planner with the Scottish Government) to review the forestry licensing process. During the review, Mr. Mackinnon met with various industry stakeholders, administrative and technical personnel of my Department, other State agencies, landowners and interest groups.

His report, ‘Review of Approval Processes for Afforestation in Ireland’ , which was published in November 2019, made various recommendations or “Ways forward” aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the licensing approval process, as well as dealing with broader issues relating to encouraging woodland creation. In response to these recommendations, a draft Implementation Plan was set up, in co-operation with the Forestry Programme Implementation Group, DAFM personnel, the COFORD promotion group, and other stakeholders.

Work on the implementation of the actions included in the draft plan started straight away and has been ongoing since. Significant progress has been made on a variety of the recommendations included in the Mackinnon report and I would in particular like to highlight the following developments:

- Additional resources have been recruited in my Department, including 21 ecologists, to deal with the new Appropriate Assessment work. Further resources will be recruited shortly and requirements are constantly reviewed.

- The Forestry Miscellaneous Provisions Act came into force in October 2020. Such has been the effect of this legislation that we now expect the Forestry Appeals Committee to be in a position to clear all cases that are currently before it by the end of June this year.

- Guidance and templates on the new licence application process have been provided to registered foresters with a view to improving the quality of applications received by my officials.

- A Forestry Licence Viewer was launched towards the end of 2020 giving all members of the public full visibility on forestry licence applications.

- The ‘Creation of Woodlands on Public Lands’ Scheme was published in autumn 2020.

Work on finalising the Mackinnon Implementation plan was recently carried out by Jo O’Hara, former head of Scottish Forestry. Ms. O’Hara interviewed a variety of stakeholders as part of her review and has completed her report with recommendations and findings on the implementation of the Mackinnon Report. Minister Hackett, who has responsibility for forestry, has accepted Ms O'Hara's recommendations and we jointly announced on 25th February 2021 the establishment of Project Woodland which will adopt the project management structure set out in Ms. O’Hara’s report. The report is available on my Department’s website at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/e43d8-forestry-policy-group-chaired-by-mos-hackett/

This project management structure will consist of a Project Board, Project Manager and 4 individual workstreams working with the principles of clear accountability and reporting. The workstreams will work concurrently, focusing on different areas. The first one will concentrate on the backlog, the second on a vision for forestry, the third on devising a fit for purpose organisational structure, and the fourth on streamlining the licensing process for the future. Project Woodland will be held to account by a Project Board which will report to my colleague Minister Hackett. The Project Board will be chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and will have another 3 members from outside the Department, including Ms O'Hara, with specific expertise in relevant areas. The Project Manager will be responsible for co-ordinating the work carried out in the 4 workstreams and will report to the Project Board.

Each workstream will be supported by a working group made up of stakeholders and will be chaired by an experienced external person. I believe that this new structure will help us draw on the expertise and input of all stakeholders in the forestry sector as we develop a new vision for forestry. It will provide opportunities for stakeholders on all sides to offer feedback and contribute to working groups.

Forestry Sector

Questions (1042)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

1042. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will sanction a task force to table a revitalisation programme for ash die back plantations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11148/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The effects of Ash Dieback have been devastating on ash plantations throughout the country and I am well aware of its impact on landowners.

When the disease first presented, it was thought that eradication was an option. My Department introduced an exchequer-funded reconstitution in 2013 to restore affected forests and paid out some €7 million to forest owners.

While that scheme was a reasonable response at the time, it became evident that given the progression and reach of the disease and based on the scientific knowledge available, a review of the scheme was needed. The original aims of the scheme i.e. eradication of the disease from Ireland, were no longer achievable, as the disease is now considered endemic here. Given that the scientific outlook had changed, a new approach was clearly needed.

A review process was undertaken to decide on the best approach going forward. This included stakeholder and public consultation and detailed field consideration of damage level evaluation, together with an examination of a broader range of silvicultural and management options available to forest owners. Advice from Teagasc and international experts was also received. Current support schemes were examined to ensure their continued relevance and that they represent value for money and to ensure that the forest owner is provided with a broader range of silvicultural and management measures. On foot of the review, a new Ash Dieback scheme known as the Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme was launched in June 2020.

This Scheme aims to encourage the active management of ash plantations in the context of the control and spread of ash dieback disease. It categorises plantations into three groups based on the plantation age and tree size. Different support options are available, depending on the category into which the ash plantation may fall. It also aims to promote the vigorous growth of ash through thinning to realise as much of the potential value of the crop as possible.

Since its launch in June, over 268 applications have been submitted. We have begun to issue approvals, and this will continue as applications are assessed. There are no plans to review the Scheme at this time.

My Department is also actively supporting a number of research projects into the control and management of Ash Dieback disease, in particular projects with a key long-term focus of developing an ash tree breeding programme to identify trees that show strong tolerance to the disease and the genetic basis for tolerance. Progress on this will help to determine the future of ash planting in Ireland and I look forward to engaging with all stakeholders when we have more information.

Fishing Industry

Questions (1043)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

1043. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the share of fishing quota allocated to the Norwegian fishing fleet from the Irish EEZ; the breakdown by State of the quota of cod recently allocated to EU member states from Norwegian waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11173/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The 1980 Agreement covers the North Sea, Skagerrak and the North East Atlantic, and allows for the setting of total allowable catches for joint stocks, transfers of fishing possibilities, joint technical measures and issues relating to control and enforcement.

The main issue of concern for Ireland in the annual consultations relates to transfers of the Blue Whiting stock in Western Waters. The Blue Whiting Stock is not allocated by EEZ but, as with other stocks, is set out according to ICES Management Areas. The transfer of Blue Whiting to Norway is a long-standing feature of the EU/Norway agreement, as it is used within the agreement as a “currency” in the negotiations to pay for Arcto-Norwegian cod in the Barents Sea which the EU receives from Norway under an agreement reached as part of Norway's accession to the EEA. In recent years, the transfer of Blue Whiting from the EU to Norway was 99,000 tonnes. With the UK's departure, the equivalent would be 73,000 tonnes. However, Ireland is working to keep the transfer of Blue Whiting as low as possible.

The EU-Norway consultations normally take place in November, in advance of December Fisheries Council, but had to be delayed last year as the EU-UK future relationship negotiations were ongoing at the time.

As a consequence of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, the UK is now an independent Coastal State. Therefore, in addition to the bilateral EU-Norway consultations, trilateral consultations between the EU, Norway and the UK are also taking place to cover stocks shared by the three parties.

The majority of stocks and fisheries which had been covered bilaterally under EU-Norway, now come under trilateral EU-Norway-UK joint management. Therefore, the EU-Norway consultations will focus on access to waters, exchange of fishing opportunities (including the fishing opportunties for Arctic-Norwegian Cod in Norwegian waters) and setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for a limited number of stocks in the Skagerrak.

These consultations are still ongoing therefore, the Agreed Record for the 2021 fishing arrangements or exchange of fishing opportunities (including Arctic Cod) have not yet been finalised.

However, the Agreed Record of EU-Norway fisheries arrangements for 2020 is available on the European Commission's website from the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/sites/fisheries/files/docs/body/2020-norway-fisheries-consultations-north-sea_en.pdf

Norway does not have access to fish in Ireland's EEZ south of 56o 30’.

The allocation of Arctic-Norwegian cod in Norwegian waters of ICES areas 1 and 2 in 2020 was as follows:-

Member State

Quota (tonnes)

Germany

2,600

Greece

322

Spain

2,900

Ireland

322

France

2,387

Portugal

2,900

United Kingdom

10,087

Union

21,518

Beef Industry

Questions (1044, 1045)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1044. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department has been in contact with the Beef Taskforce in relation to convening a meeting to discuss issues in the sector (details supplied); the status of the matter given the concerns of farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11191/21]

View answer

Carol Nolan

Question:

1045. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will reconvene a meeting of the beef task force to address ongoing issues affecting the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11192/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1044 and 1045 together.

The Beef Taskforce, which meets at least quarterly as per the terms of reference of the group, is scheduled to meet again next week.

In addition to updates on the ongoing work of the Taskforce, there is a standing agenda item for all Task Force meetings on the market situation which provides a platform for stakeholders to discuss the current issues in the market.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (1046)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

1046. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if those farmers who at the inception of the young farmer scheme were farming in their own right for over five years and therefore not eligible and who are now over 40 years of age and without a green certificate will have a chance of entry into a new scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11224/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to seek to resolve, under the next CAP, the issue of support for the category of farmers known as 'Forgotten Farmers' and I intend to keep that commitment.

‘Forgotten Farmer’ is a term used to describe a group of farmers who had set up their agricultural holdings prior to 2008, were under 40 in 2015 and held low value payment entitlements, but were ineligible as young farmers under the National Reserve. As the purpose of the National Reserve is to provide support to farmers in the early years following the establishment of an agricultural holding, the 'Forgotten Farmer' group did not meet the eligibility requirements. The group sought to be considered under the National Reserve as a group suffering from specific disadvantage. As outlined previously, there is no basis in EU Regulations under which this group can meet the eligibility requirements for the Young Farmers Scheme payment.

The Young Farmers Scheme and the separate and distinct ‘Young Farmer’ priority category of the National Reserve were introduced under Pillar I of the reformed CAP in 2015 to provide support to young farmers in the initial period following the commencement of their agricultural activities.

In line with the EU Regulations governing the operation of the Young Farmers Scheme, the payment is limited to a maximum period of five years. Payment is based on the number of payment entitlements activated in the scheme year, subject to a maximum of 50. Since the introduction of the Young Farmers Scheme in 2015, support has been granted to young famers who have commenced their agricultural activities since 2010. There is no provision within the EU Regulations governing the Young Farmers scheme to provide for support to young farmers who commenced their agricultural activity prior to 2010.

Separately, from 2015 the ‘Young Farmer’ priority category of the National Reserve has also provided support to young farmers who have commenced their agricultural activity since 2010. The National Reserve provides an allocation of payment entitlements on eligible ‘naked’ land or increases the value of entitlements that are below the national average to bring them up to the national average. In 2015, the National Reserve also provided support on a once-off basis to a group of farmers called Old Young Farmers. This was a category of young farmers who had commenced their agricultural activity in 2008 and 2009 but had suffered the disadvantage of not having had access to Installation Aid available at the time of their initial set up.

EU Regulations governing the National Reserve provide that the two categories of young farmer and new entrant to farming must receive priority access to the Reserve. Since 2018, under the Omnibus Regulation, Member States may use the proceeds of a linear cut to fund specific disadvantage categories under the National Reserve but only if a linear cut is required to fund the two priority categories of young farmer and new entrant to farming in that particular year. Since 2018, the National Reserve has been funded without the requirement for a linear cut to the value of all payment entitlements and this is also the case for 2021. Decisions in relation to the National Reserve, including the basis of funding the Reserve, are made in consultation with the Direct Payments Advisory Committee which comprises members of the main farming organisations and farm advisory services.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (1047)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1047. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will outline the criteria and eligibility terms for schemes (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11244/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department offers an attractive suite of options for landowners to plant forestry as part of the Afforestation Grant and Premium scheme, to suit most land types and scenarios. The main Afforestation Scheme offers generous establishment grants and up to 15 years premiums payable to the landowner. A range of support schemes is also available for more specialised situations. More information may be found on the forestry pages of my Department’s website on gov.ie.

The eligibility requirements are quite open, a person must own or have a long-term lease on the land to be planted and must be over 18 years of age, with a current tax clearance certificate at annual payment stage. Forestry offers a viable opportunity for income diversification on farms and I would encourage any interested landowner to examine all options carefully and see which suit them. They should also speak to their advisor directly who can advise on best to approach it.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (1048)

Brian Leddin

Question:

1048. Deputy Brian Leddin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the provision in place to track dogs that fail to produce a qualifying time and are therefore not presented for racing on the traceability system operated by Rásaíocht Con Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11254/21]

View answer

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 (1049)

Brian Leddin

Question:

1049. Deputy Brian Leddin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if only racing greyhounds with at least one race record in Ireland will be tracked by the new traceability system operated by Rásaíocht Con Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11255/21]

View answer

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.