In relation to peat extraction, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has no involvement in its regulation. This is a planning process under the remit of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and an Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) license process, under the remit of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
Following the publication of the review of the use of Peat Moss in the Horticultural Industry report, I am aware that Minister of State Malcolm Noonan proposed the establishment of a working group to include representatives from relevant Government Departments and State Agencies, Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations and industry stakeholders under an independent chairperson to examine the issues identified during the review. In this respect, the working group are addressing the key issues raised in the report itself, including future use of peat by the horticulture sector. The independent working group sent an interim report to Minister Noonan at the end of May for his consideration. Minister Noonan and his officials are currently examining the report.
In addition to these developments, the Department is actively looking at alternatives to peat and has funded two research projects to date. It has also recently sought further research be conducted here to explore alternatives to peat based growing media for horticultural production in this area in its latest Research Call for 2021. These must be available, affordable and sustainable and meet quality as well as environmental requirements.
The Department also provides a support to the horticulture industry through the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Horticulture Sector. Financial support is available to assist growers and businesses through grant aid for capital investments in specialised plant and equipment including renewable energy, as well as technology adoption specific to commercial horticulture production. A 50% budget increase to €9 million has been secured for 2021 reflecting the importance of the sector. This Scheme is 100% funded by the Irish Government.
In addition, the Department administers the EU Producer Organisation Scheme for Fruit and Vegetables which allows growers jointly market their production in order to strengthen the position of producers in the marketplace.