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Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 761-777

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (761)

Alan Dillon

Question:

761. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of CAP funding for Leader; if consideration is being given to increasing the budget for the Leader Programme 2023-2027; the efforts being undertaken to drive bottom-up community-led investment to create and sustain employment in rural Ireland as per the high-level ambitions of Leader 2023-2027 outlined in the draft CAP strategic plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61154/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The LEADER Programme is a key rural development tool for supporting the economic and social development of rural communities, by providing the resources necessary for communities to support their own development and create capacity at local level. The budget allocation for LEADER under the previous Rural Development Programme (RDP) for the seven-year period 2014-2020 was €250 million. An additional €70 million was made available for LEADER in 2021 and 2022 under the transitional arrangements that extended the application of the RDP. A further indicative allocation of €180 million for the LEADER Programme is proposed for the 2023-2027 period under the CAP Strategic Plan. Therefore, the total funding for the seven-year period 2021-2027, at €250 million, will be the same as for the period 2014-2020. The allocation for LEADER is part of the overall allocation of funding for the entire CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (762)

John McGuinness

Question:

762. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if appeals lodged by a person (details supplied) relative to the BPS for 2019, 2020 and 2021 will be expedited and approved; if the power line corridors highlighted on images of their farm holding submitted with the appeals will be included in their claim for benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61185/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The above named applicant submitted application for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 and payment has issued under each of these scheme years.

However, the applicant's agent requested a review of certain parcels that were claimed in these applications. This review is currently ongoing and will be completed shortly. Once completed, the applicant will be informed of the outcome and any additional payments that may be due will be processed.

Control of Horses

Questions (763)

Thomas Gould

Question:

763. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the horse project for Cork city. [61204/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) is fully committed to supporting sustainable, One Health, One Welfare initiatives in line with the Programme for Government and Working Together for Animal Welfare, Ireland's Animal Welfare Strategy 2021-2025.

In this context, DAFM supported three equine education modules with funding of almost €20,000 provided to the Urban Horse Projects in 2016, and is open to supporting further "One Health, One Welfare" projects country wide.

The Cork City Horse Project is a collaborative initiative involving Cork City and County Councils and community stakeholders including the Traveller Visibility Group, and is a continuation of the Horse Forum which dates from 2011. The Department continues to participate in the group's meetings where, in recent years, efforts have been focused on finding suitable space to locate a Horse Project within the Cork City boundaries.

The Department would very much welcome a submission from the project, through Cork City Council for assistance under our Urban Horse Projects scheme once a suitable location has been established in the City.

Live Exports

Question No. 765 answered with Question No. 764.

Questions (764, 765)

Michael McNamara

Question:

764. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department has adopted a strategy in advance of the position adopted by the European Parliament ANIT committee (Committee of Inquiry into the Protection of Animals During Transport) which in effect would stop live exports of calves under 35 days old and prevent the transport of in-calf cows domestically in their third trimester being discussed at the Farm Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61209/21]

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Michael McNamara

Question:

765. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department will conduct a full impact assessment of the effect proposals (details supplied) would have on Irish agriculture, in particular, in terms of impact on the dairying and beef sectors, the loss of critical markets for live exports and the potential for creating unanticipated animal welfare problems domestically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61210/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 764 and 765 together.

As the Deputy is probably aware, the European Parliament’s ANIT Committee has concluded its work and has voted on its report and recommendations. The recommendations of the ANIT Committee, if they were to be implemented in full, would be particularly challenging. This report will next be presented to a plenary session of the European Parliament in January, seeking endorsement by the Parliament.

The European Commission is currently reviewing European animal welfare legislation including the rules for the transport of animals. This review by the Commission will result in legislative proposals, which are expected in 2023.

It can be expected that the report of the ANIT Committee will feed into this review. The Commission has repeatedly said however that legislative proposals will be made on the basis of the best available scientific evidence, and it is vital that this will be the case.

My Department will continue to engage with this process to communicate the challenges that these recommendations will place on Irish farmers. Teagasc is currently engaged in research in relation to the welfare of animals being transported and the outcome of this scientific research will help to inform the debate in this area.

It is essential, however, that stakeholders in the Irish agriculture sector take note of these findings. Societal attitudes to animal welfare and the welfare of animals during transport is continually evolving.

It is important that stakeholders further advance their collaborative efforts to ensure the welfare of all animals transported, mitigate the risk of any sector being overly dependent on live exports and to continue to develop strategies that support the transition to a sustainable dairy-beef sector.

The export of animals is strictly regulated by my Department in accordance with existing EU law and the Irish system of controls is publicly acknowledged to have incorporated additional meaningful measures that ensure high standards of animal welfare on farm, and at every stage during transport.

I am committed to retaining the live export market as it is an integral part of the dairy and beef sectors and exports play a key role in driving competition.

Question No. 765 answered with Question No. 764.

Forestry Sector

Question No. 767 answered with Question No. 766.

Questions (766, 767, 771, 772, 782, 784)

Holly Cairns

Question:

766. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the rationale for the transfer of €7 million in capital expenditure from the forestry budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61234/21]

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Holly Cairns

Question:

767. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to ensure that the €7 million in capital expenditure intended to be moved from the forestry budget is spent on community and small-scale tree-planting initiatives for National Tree Week 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61235/21]

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Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

771. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the €7 million being returned from the forestry budget is a result of the inability of his Department to deliver afforestation licences to the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61438/21]

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Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

772. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the forestry sector will be allocated financial support to repair plantations damaged by late spring frost in recent years given the fact that €7 million in capital spending is being moved from the forestry budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61439/21]

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Matt Carthy

Question:

782. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he considered enhancing or broadening available supports for those effected by ash dieback when reallocating funds within the recent supplementary estimate; if not, if other forestry related measures were considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61468/21]

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Dara Calleary

Question:

784. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 743 of 30 November 2021, his views on assessing a case for a frost recon scheme which has been ongoing since 2019; the reason his Department has not utilised the €7 million unused forestry budget for the frost recon scheme to support forest owners whose forests have been damaged by frost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61514/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 766, 767, 771, 772, 782 and 784 together.

It is standard accounting practice that towards the end of a fiscal year spending Divisions within the Department will review their commitments for the remainder of the year and release funds that are not committed nor are unlikely to be committed.

The funds released will be disbursed for other commitments across my Department. There remains sufficient funds in the forestry allocation to pay this year's commitments across all afforestation and support schemes, including the ash dieback scheme.

The Department has no plans to expand the ash dieback scheme at present but will continue to keep it under close review.

This underspend in forestry arose because new planting in 2021 was less than anticipated and this is a matter of concern to me. It appears at this stage that the number of hectares of new afforestation, which we calculate as forestry in respect of which a first grant and premium has been paid, will be somewhere in the region of 2,000 hectares. This is despite over 4,000 hectares licensed and approved.

There are 5,000 hectares of approved forestry licences issued and ready for use. I encourage anyone with a valid afforestation licence to plant their land, thereby accessing generous annual premiums and 100% establishment grants.

Along with Minister of State Pippa Hackett, who has overall responsibility for the sector, we accept that delays in issuing afforestation licences may be a contributory factor in terms of low levels of planting and we are addressing these licensing delays through Project Woodland. As regards afforestation, outputs are not where I’d like them to be but there are signs of improvement. My Department is prioritising the assessment of afforestation licences on hand, using the same system as was applied to felling licences, which yielded good results.

Ten Ecologists are now dedicated to afforestation, with more to be recruited. In addition to recruiting new staff I am also reallocating existing Administrative, Forestry Inspectorate and Ecology resources to afforestation licensing files. I expect these changes to result in a higher level of output of afforestation licences than before.

On the matter of community and small scale tree-planting, the Deputy may be aware that we have a Neighbourhood Scheme which supports close-to-home woodland amenities for public use and enjoyment, and that we are seeking to amend the Forestry Act 2014 to increase small-scale native tree planting without the need for an afforestation licence. In terms of the frost reconstitution scheme, I understand Minister Pippa Hackett, who has direct responsibility for forestry, discussed recently with stakeholders and the matter is under consideration.

With over €100 million provided for in the forestry budget for 2022, I am satisfied that there are sufficient funds to fully support increased afforestation and all other forestry related schemes in 2022.

Question No. 767 answered with Question No. 766.

Forestry Sector

Questions (768)

John McGuinness

Question:

768. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an application before the Forest Service by persons (details supplied) submitted on 20 October 2020 is still awaiting a decision and is being delayed by the NPWS which apparently has no wildlife ranger in place to provide a report; the action he is taking to deal with the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61323/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

An application for the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme was submitted on behalf of the persons named in October, 2020. The application was referred to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

As the site is partly within a designated site, the Department is obliged to seek specific approval from NPWS. This approval is currently awaited and we have issued another reminder to the NPWS to give us their opinion as it is overdue.

Common Fisheries Policy

Questions (769)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

769. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when he plans to establish the proposed stakeholders forum to review the Common Fisheries Policy from an Irish perspective; the number of members he plans to place on the forum; the criteria that will be set in place to become a member; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61333/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

EU Regulation 1380/2013 (the basic Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) regulation), sets down that the European Commission will report to the European Parliament and the Council on the functioning of the CFP by the end of 2022.

I have made it clear, most recently during the Commissioner's recent visit, that the CFP must take stock of the disproportionate impacts imposed on the Irish fishing industry by Brexit and the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). I continue to keep the focus on the disproportionate quota reductions for Ireland under the TCA and to use any opportunity available to seek constructive solutions that would help to alleviate this unacceptable position, including keeping a strong focus on the matter within the Fisheries Council. I am fully committed to doing all possible through the CFP review to secure additional quota where possible for Irish fishers.

The Commission published a proposal on 6 July proposing an amendment to extend the derogation for access to EU Member States 12 miles zones up until the end of December 2032. It also removed the provisions relating to access for the UK, which are now covered in the TCA. I consider that this important element of the CFP should be dealt with the by the Commission as part of the full CFP review and form part of the formal review and the Commission report to Council and Parliament on the functioning of the CFP. I have written to the Commissioner to make Ireland’s concern and our position clear.

It is expected that all stakeholders will have an opportunity to engage actively in the Commission's review over the coming period, including the fishing industry, eNGOs and Member States. However, the European Commission has not yet published details of the review process or how Member States and stakeholders will engage in this process. Once we have a clear picture of the process and timelines of the review, I will finalise details of how Ireland will participate actively and effectively in the review of the CFP, including the interaction with stakeholders, to prepare Ireland's case and identify priorities. In that regard, I intend to nominate the key stakeholders to participate in a stakeholder forum.

Animal Diseases

Question No. 771 answered with Question No. 766.

Question No. 772 answered with Question No. 766.

Questions (770)

Carol Nolan

Question:

770. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the obligations placed on farmers to facilitate TB inspections in the event that a farmer has demonstrated two clear test results in one year and in which neighbouring herds have already tested clear; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61353/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The current requirement in place under EU and national legislation, and that has been in place since the 1960s, is that all herds undergo at least one annual herd screening test.

In herds where disease is suspected or confirmed, this will result in extra tests until my Department officials are satisfied that all relevant TB measures specific to that herd / area have been fulfilled.

Further risk-based TB tests are also deployed as an effective means of finding disease and thus preventing onward spread of undetected infections.

For example, in 2020 contiguous tests - those on herds that are at the time unrestricted but situated close to currently infected herds - were 4.7 times more likely to be positive than routine screening tests. Herds that have been recently derestricted must carry out additional risk-based tests in the period after they go clear, which are dependent on the risk level of their breakdown. This reflects the fact that these herds have a higher risk of breakdown that other herds.

The reasons for TB in certain herds and areas are multi-factorial and require a range of measures to address the issue, which may include contiguous programmes, gamma interferon blood testing, cleansing and disinfection, other risk-based TB tests, and isolation of reactors. Each TB outbreak is investigated by a veterinary inspector to identify the source of infection.

Earlier this year, I launched the new Bovine TB Eradication Strategy 2021-2030. TB levels in 2021 are likely to be lower than in 2020. This will be the first annual decrease in TB since levels starting rising in 2016. Herd incidence in the 12 months to 5th December 2021 was 4.31% compared to 4.37% on the corresponding date last year, and the number of reactors in the 12 months to 5th December 2021 was 20,752, compared to 22,782 on the corresponding date last year, a decrease of over 2,000 reactors. This is evidence that the new policies implemented under the TB strategy, supported by the TB Forum, are starting to have an effect.

I am acutely aware of the financial and emotional burden that is placed on a family farm as a consequence of a herd breakdown. I am committed to driving down TB rates and I believe we are in a position to make positive inroads.

Question No. 771 answered with Question No. 766.
Question No. 772 answered with Question No. 766.

Forestry Sector

Questions (773)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

773. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to ensure afforestation is complementary within the next CAP to re-engage farmers in forestry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61440/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As set out in the Climate Action Plan, the Government will continue to promote afforestation to increase planting to a rate consistent with realising our 2030 climate ambition and to contribute to achieving carbon neutrality no later than 2050. To achieve this, my Department fully recognises the need for afforestation to be complimentary to CAP.

As set out in the Programme for Government, this Government is committed to a new national Forestry Programme. This new Forestry Programme will aim to highlight to farmers that forestry can represent a valuable and complementary income stream to an active farming enterprise.

The new Forestry Programme will again be funded nationally and will be subject to State Aid approval by the European Commission.

There will be close alignment between the CAP and the new national Forestry Programme.

Significant tree planting measures are proposed under both the annual Eco-Scheme and the multi-annual Agri-Environment Climate Measure for the next CAP. In addition, agricultural land with an agricultural activity, that is afforested under the next CAP will continue to qualify for Direct Payments. This will include payment under the Basic Income Support Scheme and the Eco-Scheme.

To further encourage farmers to consider afforestation, it is proposed that forestry land it will be allocated an appropriate weighting so it will also count towards a farmer’s “Space for Nature” requirement under both Conditionality and the Eco-Scheme.

The new Forestry Programme and the new CAP will provide opportunities to further align agricultural support schemes and forestry, to better integrate planting into the farming system, and to remove any barriers to uptake.

Forestry Sector

Question No. 775 answered with Question No. 774.

Questions (774, 775, 778)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

774. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of afforestation licences issued and the number of Coillte felling licences issued since the assistant secretary of his Department informed the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 29 January 2020 that afforestation needs to be the clear focus for 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61441/21]

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Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

775. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way the Forestry Service within his Department plans to reach its own planting afforestation target given it only issued 49 afforestation planting licences in a five-week period from 1 to 29 October 2021 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61442/21]

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Matt Carthy

Question:

778. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the current weekly and monthly number of Coillte felling, private felling, road and afforestation licences issued by type; if a more ambitious target will be adopted in 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61464/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 774, 775 and 778 together.

Tackling the backlog in forestry licenses remains a key priority for my Department and I am pleased to report the significant progress has been made in the past year, particularly on felling and road licences. Since that Oireachtas Committee meeting on 29th January to 10th December, my Department has issued a total of 447 afforestation licences for an area of just over 3,700ha, as well as 1,298 Coillte felling licences, 1,207 private felling licences, and 583 forest road licences.

Along with Minister of State Pippa Hackett, who has overall responsibility for the sector, we accept that in terms of afforestation, outputs are not where I’d like them to be but there are signs of improvement.

My Department is prioritising the assessment of afforestation licences on hand, using the same system as was applied to felling licences. Ten ecologists are now dedicated to afforestation, with more to be recruited. In addition to recruiting new staff I am also reallocating existing Administrative, Forestry Inspectorate and Ecology resources to afforestation licensing files. I expect these changes to result in a higher level of output of afforestation licences than before.

Improvements in afforestation licences should help encourage more planting. However, there are 5,000 hectares of approved forestry licences issued and ready for use. I would encourage anyone with a valid afforestation licence to plant their land, thereby accessing generous annual premiums and 100% establishment grants.

As regards recent licensing output, in the last 14 weeks, we have issued on average 118 licences per week.

A monthly breakdown of licences issued YTD is in the table below.

-

Private Felling

Coillte Felling

Total Felling

Afforestation

Forest Roads

January

98

179

277

36

45

February

54

109

163

48

67

March

47

51

98

56

67

April

64

25

89

73

42

May

103

73

176

48

79

June

220

91

311

39

61

July

73

59

132

12

21

August

66

72

138

18

40

September

258

267

525

34

36

October

149

225

374

43

51

November

123

230

353

50

93

December*

50

96

146

26

27

Totals

1,305

1,477

2,782

483

629

* to 10th December - total issued 3,894

We will reach this year's target of 4,000 licences and my Department is currently working on projections across all licence categories for 2022, which will be published before year end. This will be a more ambitious target.

We will build on this year’s momentum in 2022 and will implement any and all practical process improvements which result from the review and analysis in train under Project Woodland. I remain fully committed to delivering a licensing system which meets the needs of farmers and other land owners who wish to plant trees, as well as delivering for the wider forestry sector and society as a whole

Question No. 775 answered with Question No. 774.

Forestry Sector

Questions (776)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

776. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 291 of 20 October 2021, if the afforestation scheme is classed as an environmental scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61443/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The afforestation scheme under the Forestry Programme 2014 - 2020 provides a range of multi-functional benefits which contribute to our national economic, environmental, recreational and societal objectives. The afforestation scheme provide for funding for different types of forests including productive forests, agroforestry, forestry for fibre, and native woodland establishment.

It has, of course, strong environmental credentials and is part of the Government's direct response to our national environmental priorities through its inclusion for example in the Climate Action Plan 2021. It is for this reason that we are planning for a renewed National Forestry Programme to replace the current version and which is currently under development along with a new national Strategy for Forestry to 2050.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (777)

Marian Harkin

Question:

777. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason for the non-payment of farm payments in September 2021 to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61446/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

EU Regulations governing the administration of Basic Payment/Areas of Natural Constraint Schemes require that full and comprehensive administrative checks, including in some cases remote sensing (e.g. satellite inspections), are completed before any payments issue.

The 2021 application of the person named was selected for a remote sensing eligibility inspection. This required verification of the position on the ground by means of a field visit which is now complete.

The application of the person named is currently being processed. The inspection results, along with any queries identified, will be communicated to the farmer concerned as soon as they are available. Any payments due to the applicant will issue as soon as this process is complete.

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