Chapter 10 - Forestry Grants

This morning we are meeting officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to discuss the 2018 Appropriation Accounts for Vote 30 - Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. We will also be dealing with chapter 10 of the Comptroller and Auditor General report for 2018 in respect of forestry grants.

We are joined this morning by the following officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine: Mr. Brendan Gleeson, Secretary General; Dr. Kevin Smyth, assistant secretary; Mr. Colm Hayes, assistant secretary; Mr. Cecil Beamish, assistant secretary; Mr. Martin Crowley, principal officer; Ms Rebecca Chapman, principal officer; and Ms Patricia Heeney, accountant. We are also joined by Ms Georgina Hughes Elders, principal officer, and Mr. Donal Lynch, assistant principal, from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I wish to advise witnesses that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. If you are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and you continue to so do, you are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of your evidence. You are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and you are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, you should not criticise nor make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

Members of the committee are reminded of the provisions of Standing Order 186 to the effect that they shall refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a Minister of the Government or the merits of the objectives of such policy. While we expect witnesses to answer questions asked by the committee clearly and with candour, witnesses can and should expect to be treated fairly and with respect and consideration at all times in accordance with the witness protocol.

We will start by asking the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Seamus McCarthy, to make his opening statement.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The appropriation account for Vote 30 - Agriculture, Food and the Marine records gross expenditure of €1.55 billion in 2018. The expenditure is divided into four expenditure programmes which correspond to the four key strategic objectives set out the Department's statement of strategy for 2016 to 2019.

The share of the expenditure under each programme is indicated in the figure now on screen.

Appropriations-in-aid of the Vote in 2018 amounted to €472 million. Receipts from the EU comprised the bulk of these receipts. In addition, the Department is the accredited paying agency for EU payments amounting to just over €1.2 billion for 2018, which are accounted for separately from the Vote. Note 6.1 to the appropriation account gives an overview of all EU funding handled by the Department.

The Department provides substantial funding each year for a number of public bodies that operate under its aegis. These include Teagasc, Bord Bia, the Marine Institute, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon. The Department is also directly responsible for management of the State's six fishery harbour centres, and reports in separate financial statements on the operations of the harbours.

At the year's end, net expenditure under the Vote was €200 million less than provided for in the Estimates for 2018. With the agreement of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, €22 million in unspent capital allocations was carried over for spending in 2019. This was similar to the level of carry-over from 2017 to 2018, which related to underexpenditure under the forestry and bioenergy subhead. The remainder of the surplus on the Vote for 2018, amounting to just over €178 million, was liable for surrender to the Exchequer at the year's end. I issued a clear audit opinion in relation to the appropriation account. I did, however, draw attention of the statement of the Accounting Officer on internal financial control, which discloses non-competitive procurement by the Department of €17.75 million worth of goods and services in 2018. This included a significant level of procurement that the Accounting Officer acknowledges was not compliant with relevant public procurement rules. This is a recurrent issue for the Department.

Turning to chapter 10, on forestry grants, one of the Department's functions is the development and implementation of national and EU schemes in support of forestry and forestry support services, as members will be aware. In the period 2015 to 2018, the Department spent a total of €404 million on forestry development. Most of the expenditure is in the form of grants to landholders for tree planting and maintenance of forest plantations.

The Department's current forestry programme is focused primarily on increasing the level of forest cover and supporting private forest holders in actively managing their forests. The Department's annual targets for land to be afforested were also included in the national mitigation plan of 2017 on the basis that afforestation can assist in sequestering carbon dioxide and in meeting greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Up to the end of 2018, there has been consistent underexpenditure by the Department on the forestry programme. The shortfall in 2018 between the amount provided and the actual expenditure was €11 million, or almost 11%. The average underspend over the period 2015 to 2018 was 9%. The Department has stated that the underspend is mainly due to the lower than anticipated take-up of planting grants by landholders. The Department set a performance target of grant-assisted planting of just over 27,000 ha in the period 2015 to 2018. Over that period, around 22,500 ha was afforested - a shortfall of around 17%.

As a condition of state aid approval from the EU for the forestry programme, the Department was also required to target a rate of 30% of the area afforested annually to be planted with broadleaf trees. The Department structured the grant rates payable with the aim of encouraging this type of planting. However, the average achieved for the period 2015 to 2017 was just 20% broadleaf. This increased to 27% in 2018. The Department attributes the increase to higher grant rates introduced in February 2018 following a mid-term review of the forestry programme. That review was also a requirement under the state aid approval.

The Department carried out a cost-benefit analysis of the forestry programme in 2014, prior to the roll-out of the programme. The mid-term review did not revise or update the analysis, even though a number of values associated with the key assumptions used have changed since then. In addition to the changes in the value of the grants, there have been changes in the valuation of EU carbon dioxide emissions. The chapter recommends conducting a revised cost–benefit analysis where significant programme changes are being considered.

Very unexpectedly, a vote has just been called in the Dáil Chamber on the Industrial Development (Amendment) Bill, from the Seanad. Members must attend. I propose that we suspend and resume immediately after the vote. There is somebody conspiring to keep us here longer than we expected. We did not envisage this.

Sitting suspended at 10.35 a.m. and resumed at 10.50 a.m.

We are back in public session and dealing with the Vote and appropriation accounts of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the chapter in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report in respect of forestry grants. We have had the opening statement from the Comptroller and Auditor General and I now ask Mr. Gleeson to make his opening statement.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I thank the Chairman for giving me the opportunity to address the committee. I would like to refer to the Department’s appropriation account for 2018, and chapter 10 of the report on the accounts of the public service 2018 on forestry grants.

I will begin with the appropriation account. The Department’s gross Estimate for 2018 was €1.586 billion. This included a carry-over of capital savings of €23.8 million from 2017. In all, this represented an overall increase of €97 million over the corresponding figure for 2017. The gross outturn was €1.546 billion, an increase of €158 million over 2017. The Department received a technical Supplementary Estimate to further address emerging priorities. This provided extra funding which was almost entirely offset by additional appropriations-in-aid and also facilitated the transfer of funds within the Vote. I will refer to this in my later remarks.

The Department also receives appropriations-in-aid which are unusually prominent in 2018 in the overall financial outcome. These principally comprise EU receipts in respect of rural development, seafood development and animal disease programmes. In 2018, these receipts amounted to €471.8 million, some €160 million more than the estimate of €312 million. The difference was substantially because of the timing of two large payments from the EU in respect of its co-funding of rural development programme schemes. One of these, amounting to approximately €82 million, was expected in December 2017 but was not received until January 2018. A second receipt, expected in January 2019, was received in December 2018.

Turning back to expenditure, the Department’s Vote is divided into four programmes, each representing a key policy priority. Programme A relates to the food safety, animal health and welfare and plant health programmes that underpin our agrifood sector. These include disease eradication programmes such as those relating to tuberculosis, TB, or transmissable spongiform encephalopathies, TSEs, testing for residues in food products, on-farm controls, plant protection controls and other such headings. Programme expenditure under this heading, excluding staff and administration costs, amounted to just under €87 million in 2018. There was a minimal saving of €200,000 compared with the budgeted amount. I will comment on staff costs here because such costs constitute almost half of the expenditure on this programme and this programme accounts for more than half of the Department’s total payroll. This reflects the very strong investment in the skills, expertise and commitment of our staff who are the foundation of our food safety regime upon which our agrifood sector is so dependent.

Programme B covers our major farm support schemes other than the basic payment scheme, which is entirely EU funded. By and large, these schemes are intended to encourage sustainable agricultural practices and most of them, other than the forestry programme, receive co-funding from the EU under the rural development programme. The final allocation for these schemes in 2018, following a Supplementary Estimate, came to just over €849 million. This included an additional €23 million to agri-environmental schemes and €7 million for fodder schemes operated within the "other schemes" subhead provided through the Supplementary Estimate.

As members will recall, a range of severe weather conditions impacted severely on grass growth and feed supply and increased input costs for many livestock producers. To help alleviate this situation, the standard 75% advance payment on certain EU co-funded schemes was increased to 85% and special national funded schemes were put in place to help boost the supply of fodder. In 2018, almost 50,000 people participated in our GLAS scheme, more than 24,000 participated in the beef data and genomics scheme, and the sheep welfare and knowledge transfer schemes were launched. Other co-funded schemes included the areas of natural constraint scheme, the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme, TAMS, farm investment scheme and the organics scheme. The forestry programme alone among these schemes is 100% nationally funded.

The eventual outturn for this programme was €823 million. This was more than €97 million greater than the previous year and reflects the mature stage we have reached in the rural development programme which has helped to allow us make a large portion of scheme year payments within the same the calendar year.

On the capital side, the TAMS investment scheme saw a much improved drawdown, with €66.8 million expended, which is double the 2017 figure and reflected good levels of investment in on farm facilities, despite the difficult year for many producers. Unfortunately, expenditure on the forestry programme was lower than hoped in 2018 and this remains a continuing but critically important challenge. I will comment further in my remarks on the specific chapter on forestry grants in the report on the accounts of the public service 2018. The capital carry-over into 2019 from 2018 was largely drawn from the forestry savings in 2018.

Programme C, policy and strategy, includes expenditure on research and training on a number of food support schemes, as well as grants to some of our State agencies. It also included a number additional measures designed to help build resilience in the sector confronted by Brexit. The largest of these was the Brexit response loan scheme where a €25 million contribution was made to a scheme jointly established by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, in conjunction with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland.

The Supplementary Estimate was also availed of to transfer relatively small savings which emerged in various parts of the Vote to respond to a specific request from the World Food Programme for the earliest possible release of the first element of funding under our 2019-21 strategic partnership agreement. This resulted in payments of €19 million to the World Food Programme in 2018. Overall, the programme C outturn of €370 million was €5 million less than the voted allocation.

Programme D relates to the seafood sector. Expenditure under the programme part of this heading in 2018 amounted to €118 million, 11% ahead of 2017, and included some €24.6 million in the upgrading and development of fisheries harbours. Approximately 88% of fish landed in Ireland are landed into the six centres owned by the Department. Programme D also includes €8 million under the seafood development programme, and grants-in-aid to the Marine Institute, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, BIM, and the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA. This programme also funded expenditure of almost €10 million on the substantive completion of work on the remediation of the east tip project on Haulbowline Island.

As has been mentioned already, the Comptroller and Auditor General recently concluded an examination of forestry grants, the results of which have formed the basis of a chapter in the report on the accounts of the public service for 2018. The examination focused on the background to the forestry programme and its objectives, the outturn and activity of the programme, forestry grants in place and their administration. The value for money aspects of the forestry programme are particularly important given that it is entirely Exchequer funded. The report made two main recommendations and my responses to those recommendations are included in the chapter. In summary, I fully agree with both recommendations which relate to cost-benefit analysis, forestry targets and the impacts of changes to grant rates. I very much welcome this analysis by the Comptroller and Auditor General and found it to be an extremely useful exercise in reviewing our practices and procedures on the payments of forestry grants. The programme also raises broader policy questions which will be considered in the design of the next forestry programme.

The mid-term review of the current forestry programme, which took place in 2018, introduced several changes, including increased grant and premium rates, with the highest increases reserved for broadleaf categories. This has already resulted in an increase in the proportion of broadleaves planted, which reached 27% in the year following the changes, compared with 21% in 2017.

A cost-benefit analysis will be undertaken as part of the development of the new forestry programme 2021-27, which is in line with the public spending code. Preparation for the new programme is commencing and is dependent on the EU timeline for finalising the CAP regulations and the new state aid rules. All aspects of the current programme will be reviewed as part of the development of the new programme. The overall aim of the programme is to increase the national afforestation rate, which is currently 11%, well below the EU average of 43%. The climate action plan 2019 outlined the ambitious target of planting 8,000 ha of new afforestation each year. The new programme, in tandem with the next Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, strategic plan for Ireland, will be focused on how to deliver on the goals of the climate action plan in particular.

I thank the Chairman and the members of the committee for their attention and welcome any follow-up questions.

The lead speaker for today's meeting is Deputy Bobby Aylward who has 20 minutes. The second speaker will be Deputy David Cullinane who will have 15 minutes. All other members will have ten minutes each and have indicated in the following sequence: Deputy Catherine Murphy, Deputy Catherine Connolly, Deputy Marc MacSharry and Deputy Kate O'Connell. We will keep strictly to the timing because the committee has already agreed that we want to complete our work by 1 o'clock.

I welcome Mr. Gleeson and his team and thank him for coming before us to be scrutinised as to how public money is being spent.

As a farmer, I naturally want to ask Mr. Gleeson about the beef exceptional aid measure scheme, BEAM, and the beef data and genomics programme, BDGP. Are those schemes fully subscribed, undersubscribed or oversubscribed? It would be interesting to know what funding is available to farmers. I want to ask first about the BEAM scheme.

Many people watching may not know what that scheme. I ask Mr. Gleeson to describe the scheme in order that people watching proceedings understand what we are discussing.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The BEAM scheme was introduced to assist farmers who were very badly affected by difficult market conditions in 2018 and early 2019.

There was potentially €100 million available in funding, €50 million of which was EU funding while €50 million was national funding. We have applications for the BEAM scheme to the tune of €78 million. We intend to start paying that money in December.

What will happen to the money that will not be spent if that matures?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The funding was made available on the basis of demand, which has been for €78 million. We have announced a separate set of measures for 2020.

Why does Mr. Gleeson think that is undersubscribed? Why has that €26 million not been taken up? I thought, from a personal and farming point of view, that it would be oversubscribed.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It is difficult to know. A scheme is configured to allow for the maximum number of eligible animals, and that is what we did. We wanted to be in a position to be able to pay every potential applicant without cutting payments. Demands were placed on people under the scheme. It was not just income support.

The biggest problem was that the two animals had to be weighed.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

In the BEAM scheme, the demands related to membership of a quality assurance scheme, environmental conditionality, and a requirement to reduce nitrogen production by 5%. We discussed this when I was last here. These conditions were established in a Commission regulation. It may be that some potential applicants were not happy to try to meet those demands.

The beef data and genomics programme, BDGP, seeks to improve the genetic quality of our beef herd for two reasons. We want to make the herd more climate efficient, because the more that can be produced from lower inputs, the more climate efficient the herd becomes. We also wanted to improve the quality and economic efficiency of the beef herd. We have approximately 24,000 farmers involved in that and our funding for 2018 was more or less fully subscribed. We expect it to be this year too. This year, we created an addendum to that scheme because the weighing of weanlings at weaning point was missing. That is an important indicator of the quality of calves and was a significant addition to the database that we are trying to create, which will inform policy into the future. We initially provided approximately €20 million for that scheme. Approximately €18.5 million of that has been taken up. It is close to being fully subscribed.

All farmers lose animals. I only found out when my son and I applied for the scheme that even if one had a calf, if the mother died, that was excluded. Unfortunately, every farmer loses animals. I thought that was a severe penalty and that that animal should have been included.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Not everything that might happen is always thought of when a scheme is established, but when the scheme is established, we have to submit the terms and conditions to the Commission. Once that is done, they are locked in and we have to meet those terms and conditions. Perhaps that is a flexibility we might have built into the scheme but we did not when we submitted it, so we are stuck with it.

I am just passing a comment on it. No one wants to lose an animal but it happens. I want to move on to Bord na gCon and the horse sport industry, and the money they get every year. I think Bord na gCon gets €16 million and the horse sport sector gets €64 million. What oversight does the Department have over that? It hands the money to both bodies. Does it have a role to play in the year to make sure that the money is being spent properly and wisely? I ask this because of the controversy with Bord na gCon about the welfare of greyhounds.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

These are statutory bodies with statutory functions. We have an oversight role with oversight and implementation agreements with those bodies. When they ask for funding, we have a standard mechanism to assess whether they need it based on cashflow statements that they issue. Our oversight agreement requires meetings at a senior level within the Department a number of times a year. They are required to have their own internal audit arrangements and they are subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. They are required to submit their accounts to the Department, Government and this House. Their boards and chief executive are accountable to this House too, and I know they have been in.

Is Mr. Gleeson satisfied that the bodies' welfare policies are up to standard and implemented as per the book?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It is clear from recent months that all that has to be reviewed. I am satisfied that Bord na gCon has taken on the lessons of the events of recent months and is working hard to improve welfare. What we saw on that programme was the behaviour of individual owners. I do not believe it is reflective of the vast majority of people involved in the greyhound sector, but it is clear that the sector has a job to do to restore its reputation. That is very important and I think the board is determined to do that because it has a difficult job.

Horse Sport Ireland gets a certain amount of money each year. It was €2 million in 2016, €2.5 million in 2017, and I think it is increasing to €3 million this year. We met representatives of the organisation before the budget. The Indecon report from 2016 stated that there is great potential in this, with a return of 1,000 times the amount of taxpayers' money spent from showjumping, sale of horses etc. Does it get proper recognition for what it does here in Ireland compared with Bord na gCon or, so to speak, bord na gcapall? Should Horse Sport Ireland get more money? I tabled a parliamentary question about it lately. Horse Sport Ireland maintains that if it got more money, 1,000 times that amount would come back to the country. We have some great showjumpers in Kilkenny and got three gold medals recently. It is a big seller of horses and feather in our cap all over the world.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That is somewhat a policy question and I do not want to intrude on policy, but I do not mind saying something about the background to this if the Deputy wishes. It is a historical reality that we had a horse and greyhound fund and that, from a statutory perspective, that fund was directed towards the thoroughbred horse sector and the greyhound sector. That is how the legislation is written. We have had approaches from various bodies over recent years explaining that they have significant potential for economic development. Many cases have merit but we are constrained by the funding we have. It would be nice to be able to help everybody to the extent that they wish, but that is just not possible.

There was an effort to cohere Horse Sport Ireland's efforts into a strategic policy plan. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, organised a committee and the body established a strategic plan for the industry, Reaching New Heights. As a condition for additional funding, the Department commissioned a report by Indecon to look at the structures in Horse Sport Ireland. It is unusual, being a company limited by guarantee. It was established in 2007 and is an amalgamation between the Equestrian Federation of Ireland and what was the Irish Horse Board. It had 27 different affiliate bodies, all of which were on the board. While that had strengths with its representative nature, it was not a good way to structure a board and develop a strategic plan. Indecon wrote its report and the board has been restructured. We still have representatives of all the affiliates in advisory sub-committees, but that work has been done. The Department has increased the funding bit by bit, from €2.5 million in 2018 to €3 million in 2019, and it will be €4 million in 2020. Horse Sport Ireland also gets funding from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine provides for the development of breeds while the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport provides for the development of the sport. There is a policy question there since we will be coming into an Olympic year soon, and I know that our showjumping and dressage team have both qualified for the Olympics, but our Department will not be funding that.

The EU-funded farm retirement scheme was great.

We are going back into CAP talks. I know this is a policy issue but does Mr. Gleeson support a farm retirement scheme? I have been asked by a lot of people whether we could get it back. It helped to bring young farmers into the system when older farmers retired.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I do not want to intrude on policy and-----

I am asking Mr. Gleeson for his opinion.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

What I can say is that at one stage when we had that scheme we did an economic evaluation of it and the conclusion was that essentially there was a fair bit of dead weight in it. In other words, we were funding people who were on the cusp of doing this anyway. One of the issues that occurs to me is that I think it was designed to get people who are over 55 out of the system. Forgive me for thinking now that 55 is not as old as I used to think it was. The demographic issue in farming is not about 55 year olds, without prejudice to the competence of such people, and I am heading in that direction myself. The focus we put in the previous CAP was on encouraging young people. We had a number of incentives for young people. I accept there is great reluctance among older farmers to pass down their land and get out. This is something we must reflect on in the next CAP. In doing so we must also reflect on the outcome of our previous study, which showed we were paying people for something that might have happened anyway and it was not really that effective.

There was another issue, which is that once people reached the age of 66 the payment was subtracted from the old age pension. There were all kinds of complexities with the old system that limited its effectiveness. I accept it is an issue. We still have the demographic issue and young farmers are saying they are finding it difficult to get land from older farmers. This is partly attributable to alternative uses for land and dairy expansion. There are many reasons for it. It is an issue on which we must reflect.

I want to move on to afforestation. The results are disappointing and there is also the amount of dairy land that is being planted. We have not reached our target since 2014 and we are way behind. There is an underspend. This is disappointing given our carbon footprint. We are not reaching our target. We have had problems with beef and oversupply. Afforestation is one of the answers to it that would help the economy and with our carbon footprint. Why are we falling behind on planting? There are good grant schemes available but it is not happening. Has the Department done a study on why it is not happening?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It is disappointing that we are not reaching our targets. A couple of years ago, we were planting 6,500 ha but that has diminished. Last year was our weakest year for quite a long time. It was just over 4,250 ha-----

Are there reasons for this?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

There are probably a number of reasons and we must examine our own conscience when it comes to the development of the next programme and the next CAP. One reason is that there is natural resistance among farmers to planting land and the Deputy knows this. Our view is this is a fantastic potential source of income for farmers that can co-exist with rearing livestock. This is a message we need to get across to people.

Despite the fact our planting has decreased, our overall stock of trees is higher than it has ever been. There has been a significant increase in the overall stock of trees in recent years. Perhaps there comes a point when the overall stock is increasing at which each additional hectare becomes more difficult to deliver.

There has also been a fair bit of negative publicity about forestry. We have seen-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We have seen it in Leitrim where people are looking at the preponderance of Sitka spruce. As the trees mature, what they are seeing is the fruits of the policy as it was 30 years ago. We have very much changed our policy in favour of broadleaf trees. We have a minimum requirement for every plantation that we plant 15% of broadleaf trees. We have a target of 30%. The overall stock of broadleaf trees in the country is approximately 29% of the overall-----

What is the breakdown between spruce and broadleaf trees?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The breakdown is approximately 29% of native species compared to Sitka spruce. Last year, after we did our mid-term review, because we dramatically increased the grants available for broadleaf trees it went from 21% to 27%.

Sorry to interrupt but on a point of clarification Mr. Gleeson said we were at our highest afforestation rate. Did he mean in the ownership of the State?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Overall. We have had an afforestation programme in place for many years.

Farmers have been planting and drawing grants on it.

We have more trees in Ireland than we have ever had.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It is approximately 50:50. Ever is a long time. For example, something we hear is-----

Record-keeping goes back several hundred years.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Something I said in my opening statement is we have 11% afforestation in Ireland compared to an average of 35%. That is an accident of history going back over the past 500 years. It is not that we have deforested to any significant extent. One of the difficulties we have with our forestry programme is we have this requirement for people to replant forests once they plant them.

I am not being pedantic but I was of the view that 200 or 300 years ago Ireland had vast coverage of trees. If Mr. Gleeson makes a statement I just want to make sure it is based on fact.

It is very much appreciated from an urban-based Deputy.

It is not an urban remark.

This is why we want to spell out the details of what we are talking about.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

My expert has a bit more information than I do. He tells me it is the highest rate in 350 years.

I thank Mr. Gleeson. He said "ever" and I thought that could not be possible.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Apologies for my hyperbole. My point is the overall stock is increasing all the time but we have a low overall stock compared to other European Union member states.

When the Vikings came here it was all forestry.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Allegedly. I am old but I am not that old.

Including Fingal.

We are moving towards broadleaf trees and away from Sitka spruce.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We are trying to incentivise the planting of broadleaf trees but there has been a lot of narrative about the replanting obligation. Farmers are reluctant to plant in circumstances where they would have to keep the land planted in perpetuity. The difficulty from a public policy point of view is that the objective is to increase the overall stock of trees and if we do not have the replanting obligation the risk is people will start to deforest and that could match our afforestation.

Can Mr. Gleeson see a time when it could be compulsory for every farmer to put a section of his or her farm into forestry given the carbon footprint? Every farmer might be required to have 10% forestry. Could that happen?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

One of the things the Commissioner, Mr. Hogan, mentioned in the context of the CAP was a requirement for every farmer to plant a hectare of trees. That could be an option in the next Common Agricultural Policy. From the point of view of developing an industry around this, there would be difficulties from a practicality point of view with regard to harvesting. There would also be potential difficulties in capacity because so many companies are planting trees that if they had to plant a hectare of trees on individual farms I am not certain the capacity would exist. There would be practical considerations in developing a policy of this nature.

My time is running out and I want to ask a few more questions. A total of €100 million was handed back or was not spent last year and €20 million was carried over into this year from last year. Why was that? It was a bad year for farming but €300 million went back into the coffers that could have been spent. Why is that happening? Why is the money not being spent?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I have seen this in the media. The fact is that most of it related to receipts that arrived in early or late. What we are looking at with the €200 million is the net figure. What happened was that we were expecting an €82 million receipt in respect of the rural development fund to arrive in 2017 and it arrived in 2018. Equally, our assessment was that because of changes in EU legislation we would not get some of the rural development funding for 2018 until 2019 and we actually got it in 2018. The bulk of it is made up of two very large receipts. It is not that we spent €200 million less than we had, it is that we got appropriations-in-aid to a significant amount of it. The actual spending figure was €40 million. We spent €40 million less than we had. The reason for this is that when we have rural development schemes we make prudent provision for what might mature during the year but they are demand led and if the demand does not arise the money cannot be spent.

When we set up the TAMS scheme, which was previously the agricultural investment scheme, we made what was not the best decision, which was that once people had an approval, they had three years to deliver on the investment. That meant it was difficult to predict when the approval would mature and when the money would be spent. Since then, we have changed that to one year so we are finding that we are spending much closer to budget on our capital investment schemes now.

It is more accurate. Why was €20 million allowed to be carried over?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

A feature of the public spending code is that a proportion of capital savings can be carried over into the capital expenditure for the next year and we have been doing that. The code allows 10% to be carried over and that is what we do. That is subject to a negotiation every year with the Department of Public and Expenditure and Reform.

I want to ask about the €25 million for the SBCI loan scheme that the Department oversees. Who benefitted from that? Does the Department have a breakdown of where that money went? What type of farmer got it, who applied for it and who is entitled to it?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We paid €25 million into that and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation also provided funding. That leveraged €300 million in loan funding for SMEs and mid-cap companies. Some 40% of the fund was dedicated to working capital loans for food businesses at an interest rate of 4.2%. The key feature of the scheme was that security was not required to get the loan. There was another scheme, the Brexit loan fund, that was made available to farmers. That also had the same configuration whereby we put in €25 million and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation also provided funding. We leveraged a fund of €300 million, of which 40% was made available to farmers.

Does that go directly to farmers?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes, 40% of it is available to farmers. I do not have the precise figures on who drew down what but I can get them for the Deputy.

How did that compare to the regular bank a farmer would normally go to such as Bank of Ireland or AIB, as we would have all done for all of our lives? Why is this different to a regular loan one can get from the main banks?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

With the working capital scheme, the big thing was that security was not required. That was also the same with the future growth loan scheme for farmers. They did not have to put up their land as security to get the funding.

If someone reneged on the loan, how would the money be recovered?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We put the funding in for two reasons - first, as an interest subsidy and, second, to take some proportion of first losses on the scheme. I can say because we have significant engagement with the banks, which the Deputy will know this anyway, that there is a low level of default among farmers on bank loans. They are reliable payers and they tend not to over-leverage themselves, despite what one might read.

This is the Deputy's final question. I have allowed additional time.

I have several more questions but this is the final one I will be allowed to ask.

This is the first round of questions.

I mention the knackery service because we met its representatives here in the Houses yesterday. As Mr. Gleeson will be aware, it is a vital service for farmers with fallen cattle and for the factories, etc. There is an ongoing problem It seemed to have been sorted out by the Department two months ago, as it seemed to be taking over. The knackeries are looking for the rendering to be paid for. The farmers and the knackeries would bear the rest of the cost but they want the Department to take over the rendering. Will Mr. Gleeson comment on that because it is serious. We cannot have the knackeries going on strike because we know what will happen with disease control, etc. Every farmer has problems with fallen animals. Where does Mr. Gleeson see this going because we are coming into the winter and the spring calving season? It is a serious time and we do not want the knackery yards to be closed.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I agree it is a vital service for rural Ireland and for Ireland generally. The question is: who pays for what? Who pays for rendering and how do we subsidise the service? We are in an ongoing discussion with the knackeries on that point.

The Department did one time-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We have substantially reached agreement but elements are still under discussion. I do not want to prejudice those discussions other than to say we recognise how vital the knackery service is and we are working constructively with the sector to try to finalise any remaining issues but we also have to have regard to the public purse and that is our concern in this context.

I am not sure of the dates when this happened but the Department used to pay for the rendering and the knackeries are looking to go back to that arrangement. They used to then charge the farmer for collection and all the other costs. Would it be possible to go back to that arrangement?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Prior to 2010 we paid a lot more of a subsidy to the knackery service, and by "we", I mean the taxpayer. In considering how we manage this now, we have to have regard to what the taxpayer pays compared to the knackeries and farmers. We have substantially reached agreement on the key issues with the knackery service.

Does the Department know how serious it is?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Of course.

I mention the issue of disease control and the control of animals. It is not possible to go and dig a hole to dispose of animals anymore because traceability and all of that comes into it. Knackeries play an important role in traceability.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That is the reason we reacted so quickly when there was a problem.

I thank the Department for the good work it does but we are also here to probe its failure to reach targets in certain areas and areas where it might not have stood up to scrutiny. The first area I want to focus on is non-compliance with procurement rules. Page 4 of the appropriation accounts refers to 47 contracts with a spend of €3.9 million. We have put all Accounting Officers on notice. Mr. Gleeson might have noticed that when the committee sees instances of non-compliance in audited accounts in the opinion of the Comptroller and Auditor General, we try to probe that a little more to achieve better compliance with the rules. Why were 47 contracts totalling almost €4 million deemed to be non-compliant and where there was not sufficient competition within the procurement process?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That is a reasonable question and we had a discussion on this matter the last time we were here. To give the Deputy some perspective, which does not absolve us from responsibility, we have approximately €100 million worth of procurement in the Department, of which €3.9 million is self-declared as non-compliant. That is unacceptable. We have done a lot of work to improve our procurement systems in recent years. We have established a procurement office. Every division has a procurement liaison officer so that when procurements are made, they can guide people and explain the rules to them. There is an issue with the accumulation of contracts. Non-compliant contracts remain on the list until they are excised, at which point we move on. Overall, our level of non-compliant procurement is diminishing. Our objective clearly is to get that down to zero. We need to look at some of our systems. I will give the Deputy an example of how this might happen, which again is not intended as an excuse but as an explanation of the administrative inadequacies that might lead to this happening. If we have a dispersed laboratory service and it is buying laboratory disposables such as test tubes and so on, it is possible that people in different places could be procuring from the same company without sight the overall picture. That is something we have to resolve. A significant part of this €3.9 million was in the laboratory service. We are establishing a centralised procurement unit in the laboratory service so that every procurement goes through the same person and so that person can see what procurements are outstanding with individual contractors.

That is a positive and that is exactly what we want Departments to do so I commend the Department on that. Is it a self-reporting system the Department has for non-compliance?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We require people to say ex ante if they do not intend to have a competitive process for a particular contract, and this is the standard across all Departments. Sometimes there are justifications for that because there is only one supplier. The procurement unit and the head of procurement make the determination as to whether that is all right or not. Otherwise, the report we make to the Comptroller and Auditor General is a self-created report. That is the standard across all Departments.

I want to move on to the carbon emissions targets for the Department.

Mr. Gleeson will have seen the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, report which is out today. Unfortunately, it does not make good reading for the Department. Agriculture emissions have increased by 1.9% in 2018. We are all in a situation now whereby we must reach the targets that were set for 2030 and 2050. We are told there is an all-of-government approach to make sure that happens. There cannot be any silos or individual Departments not pulling their weight. I accept that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is one of the few Departments that has a more challenging role in terms of carbon emissions but, nonetheless, an increase of 1.9% is significant. Could Mr. Gleeson give a reason for the increase in 2018? What is the Department's view on that?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Agriculture is a big part, 30%, of national emissions and 44% of the non-emissions traded system sector. We had a short discussion on the matter at the previous meeting. Agriculture is always going to be a big part of national emissions. It is a result of where we are as an economy and the important role agriculture plays. The reason for the increase is largely to do with the expansion of the dairy sector. The sector has expanded because quotas were lifted in 2015. Dairy farmers were permitted to produce more milk. Productivity has expanded at a rate that significantly exceeds the emissions, but we are getting additional dairy animals.

I will get to the national herd in a moment. Does the Department have an obligation to ensure that agricultural emissions are reduced? Is that now one of the clear remits of the Department given that we are being told there is an all-of-government approach and a special committee of the Oireachtas to hold Secretaries General and Ministers to account? I accept it might be the case that things are happening in the economy that act as a driver but the Department has a responsibility to play its part. Every Department must be held to account on this very important issue.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Absolutely, yes.

Does the Department have an obligation to make sure that the figures go in the opposite direction?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We do. We have a national obligation to reduce emissions overall by 30% by 2030. There was no sectoral breakdown in the national obligation, but since the production of the climate action plan this year, individual sectors have an obligation.

Does Mr. Gleeson expect that next year we will be looking at a decrease or will there be a further increase?

Mr Brendan Gleeson

First, it looks like the overall size of the national herd is stabilising. We have identified a toolbox which will allow us to get emissions down. There is a long list of obligations on the Department in the climate action plan. This is a big ship to turn around and I am not confident enough to tell Deputy Cullinane that I expect emissions to go down next year. What I can say is that we are required to engage in action quickly that will turn that ship around.

I sit on the Joint Committee on Climate Action. I think Mr. Gleeson came before it recently.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I was.

Scientists and environmental experts have come before us and they say the ship must turn around very quickly. We do not have a choice.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

It is not something that we can have an à la carte or relaxed approach to, we must reach the targets. I have not heard a sense of urgency in the Department's response to being challenged on the issue. There is almost an acceptance that it is a big challenge and it is a big ship that we must turn around. It is Mr. Gleeson's job to turn the ship around, however challenging it is.

Mr. Gleeson mentioned the number of dairy cows. I think the report said there was a 27% increase in the numbers. I expect that was due to the abolition of the milk quotas. At the time, the policy was to encourage an increase in production. That seems to have been a bad policy at that time. That decision was made only a few short years ago. Now, it is obvious we must go in the opposite direction. I imagine some farmers borrowed money to put infrastructure in place to take advantage of the abolition of the milk quotas. How challenging will it be for us to change tack? What, specifically, is the Department doing to reduce the national herd? Does the Department have a target for the reductions? How does the Department expect to achieve a reduction and in what timeframe?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

First, what was produced by the EPA was a report on 2018 figures compared to 2017. We did not have a specific agricultural target in 2018 but we do now.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It is a reduction of agricultural emissions by between 10% and 15% by 2030.

It is not broken down by year. The target just has to be achieved by 2030. That is the problem with such targets. When one says one must do something by 2030 it is very hard to hold anybody to account. Every year it can be said the target is a ten-year one. For accountability purposes, it would be much better if there were yearly targets on which we could then hold the Department to account. We can only work on the figures we have here, which are for 2018. If Mr. Gleeson has the figures for 2019 to date, he can feel free to give them to us. It seems to me that the policy in recent years was to encourage an increase in the national herd and now we are going in the opposite direction and trying to decrease the national herd, because we must, but I do not see any urgency. Neither do I see a policy underpinning the target. Mr. Gleeson says he wants to reduce the emissions by between 15% and 20% by 2030 but I do not see a policy indicating there is a real drive to ensure that happens.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

There is a sense of urgency. Deputy Cullinane is correct to say accountability structures will be established in this House and through the Department of the Taoiseach. I will be accountable for what we deliver. It was never a realistic proposition to expect emissions to decline between 2018 and 2019. Deputy Cullinane asked me about next year. I am just giving the honest answer that it would be a significant challenge to expect emissions to decline. That said, we have a plan and we have actions which are required to be delivered. We have a-----

I am sorry, but there would have been an anticipation that the Department would have reduced the emissions in 2018 because the State signed up to international targets and obligations, not yesterday or last year but many years ago. For many years we have had targets, following on from the agreement at Kyoto and other European Union targets as well. Targets have been set for this country. The problem that I see is that the targets are very macro and long term but there are no real targets for each individual Department other than over a long period. Mr. Gleeson must revisit that. There needs to be much tighter year-on-year targets so that we can see what has been done.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I take the Deputy's point. There were no sectoral targets. Until the climate action plan was published, there was a national target. We have actions laid out in the national plan and we are just on the point of publishing our own detailed action plan on how we are going to deliver that. There will be quarterly reporting arrangements with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. We will be required to report to the Department of the Taoiseach on how we are doing. We have a roadmap of specific action laid out. Some of that will be dependent on how we configure the next Common Agricultural Policy because we need to configure the measures in that to encourage and support farmers in delivering what they must do.

I am only giving Mr. Gleeson the facts, what we have is increased agricultural emissions, an increase in dairy production and I will move on to an underspend in forestry. Mr. Gleeson answered some questions in that regard asked by Deputy Aylward. Mr. Gleeson is in one of the key Departments that must play a leading role in reducing carbon emissions and our carbon footprint. One of the things to reduce carbon emissions is to reduce the national herd. The other way is to increase carbon capture in a carbon sink, which is through forestry. I will get to the special report of the Comptroller and Auditor General. Given the urgency of climate action, how is it that we could end up with a situation where there is a shortfall of 17% in the targets of 4,500 ha? That does not make sense to me. Mr. Gleeson said there is resistance from farmers, but his job is to challenge that resistance, not just to come here and tell us there is resistance. He must put in place the solutions to challenge that resistance. It is breathtaking that when this is such a global issue and there is a major focus on it in the Oireachtas, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine underspent on afforestation. That is extraordinary.

Deputy Cullinane has two minutes remaining.

It was a whole chapter in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. Mr. Gleeson needs to give us a better explanation as to why the target was not met.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I do not think my explanation gave any one thing; I said there is possibly a number of factors. Of course, we must examine the programmes we have to see if we can improve them. Planting was higher in previous years and has diminished for a variety of reasons. We must examine all those reasons to determine how we reconfigure our forestry policy.

We will have a brand new programme from 2020 onwards and we will have to learn the lessons of the recent past in encouraging people to plant more trees. I accept that. We have a large number of very dedicated people in our forestry division who are trying to drive this programme as hard as they can. I assure the Deputy that we do not rest on our laurels when we see figures like 4,250 ha compared to our target. We have an obligation to increase that to 8,000 ha a year.

Telling me that the Department does not rest on its laurels does not answer the question. Mr. Gleeson has outlined a lot of what he sees as the challenges but I am looking for him to outline the solutions. One of the points the Comptroller and Auditor General made in his special chapter is that there was a concentration in a small number of areas but very uneven development. Is that right?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

That is correct. The afforestation rate is much higher in Leitrim and Longford.

There was also mention of Sitka spruce, this monoculture afforestation, which seems to be prolific in those counties as well. I commend the changes that encourage more broadleaf plantation. I have only a minute remaining and I am going to stick to my time. Perhaps Mr. Gleeson could provide a detailed note as to exactly what the Department is going to do to in response to what was in the Comptroller and Auditor General's special report. We may not see it in next year's report or in that for the year after. I accept that the officials have to deal with the challenges. If there is resistance, there is resistance. What I want to see from the Department is what it is going to do about it. I am not hearing that. Maybe a written response could be supplied to the committee. We can reflect on that and maybe respond through correspondence at the next meeting.

I know there was agreement with the recommendations but we want to see implementation. People regularly agree with something and then carry on. We want to know what is happening after the agreement.

Just to pick up from where Deputy Cullinane left off, I published legislation that was debated in the Dáil in February 2013. That legislation was defeated. It was the same week that the Minister introduced the climate legislation; mine just came in a week before. I remember it very well because my Bill contained targets and my criticism of the Minister was that he did not. He told me that the national ambition would be stated in sectoral plans. If we do not have a year-on-year target, we will fail to meet our overall targets. We have been spectacularly unambitious in meeting our targets across the board. It has been a real source of frustration for those of us with an interest in this area who have tried to do something about it.

On the chapter on the forestry sector, we are very poor compared to other jurisdictions yet our climate is the most advantageous for this sector. We have an ideal climate for it. That is not going to be a reason. It does appear that the policy is very much focused on the private. We do have public land, some of which is not usable for buildings, houses or whatever. There is a degree of public responsibility being taken for this but the public policy is focused almost exclusively on the private side. Will the review look at that? How can people make an input?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I thank the Deputy. This may also address part of what Deputy Cullinane was asking. The ownership is approximately 50-50 public-private but the focus of afforestation effort regarding new planting has been on private lands in recent years. The Deputy is right that public policy has a part to play. For example, this year Coillte is entering into a joint venture with Bord na Móna for the planting of native trees on 1,500 ha.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Well, they will all be subject to a very detailed environmental scrutiny and the focus will be on native woodlands.

Bogs are a carbon sink. Wetlands are incredibly important. I am just losing my temper on this.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

This is cutaway bog, not raised bog.

We need Mr. Gleeson to send the committee a note on that. What is proposed is sending very strange signals from a biodiversity point of view. The category of land that has been proposed by Coillte-----

I was on the committee that presented the report. We had pre-legislative scrutiny and a really quite detailed report. We had people making the argument that the best thing we can do with cutaway bogs is to wet them. Planting trees is the wrong use. Perhaps Mr. Gleeson would give us that note. I am losing my patience in respect of this matter. Maybe it is just that it has annoyed me for a long time.

I want to go through a number of other issues with the Secretary General. Going back to the key policy areas, we got a number of replies from him on animal welfare and the greyhound sector. One of his responses said that Bord na gCon is a commercial State body. It may be set up as a commercial State body but would Mr. Gleeson describe it as such? Could it exist without the very large subvention that goes to it? I know it is taken in by way of the gambling tax but from memory it is about 50% of its annual revenue.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The Deputy is right. It could not exist without that. Successive Governments have provided funding for it on the precise basis that the sector could not exist without some kind of public subvention. That is correct.

What is the definition of "commercial"?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It operates on a commercial basis. It runs commercial enterprises and the objective is to make those sustainable, economically and commercially. Obviously, there is a public policy remit here and the judgment was, I presume from time immemorial, that this made a contribution to rural life and employment and was therefore worth subsidising. They are commercial in the sense that they run commercial greyhound stadia.

I cannot remember the exact number of stadia that were not private but only two of them were commercial. One was in Cork and the other was Shelbourne Park. They also have falling numbers attending, to the point that they are running early morning race meetings for television audiences and they do not mind if they do not get people coming in through the door. It is very difficult to see how rural life benefits from that. There are very good and diligent people in this sector but there are also absolute cowboys in it. We saw some of that in the RTÉ programme, which was really very difficult to watch. We have been through that before. The only two stadia that were commercially viable were the two in question but it was stated that if the prize money was not increased, none would be commercial. That needs to be rethought as regards what is commercial.

On animal welfare, why is Bord na gCon not responsible for the stud book? Why does the Coursing Club run it and why has it not been transferred to Bord na gCon? Mr. Gleeson talks about the animal welfare aspect in terms of the policy area.

The animal welfare area, as it relates to Bord na gCon, only relates to racing greyhounds when it is the large number that are retired, or which were never in the racing industry because they were too slow. That is the real animal welfare issue. They are regarded as livestock as opposed to dogs, so they do not come under the responsibility of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, for example. Why is it that the responsibility is in a place like the Irish Coursing Club?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That is a question that goes back. As I understand it, the ICC predated Bord na gCon and it was a private club. When Bord na gCon was established under its legislation, the ICC was subject to its direction but continued to operate. The ICC does not get any funding from the State and its source of funding is substantially the maintenance of that stud book. Provided there is a continuing policy disposition to support coursing, one could either subvent it directly from the State or allow it to continue as it is, with the stud book from which it obtains a substantial amount.

That is where it gets its income. It does not get any funding other than from these 8,000 greyhounds.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I am sure there are fees and other things.

That is where its primary income comes from.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It does not get funding from the State.

However, it does by virtue of the fact the State recognises the responsibility it has in-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

For the stud book. I have just been advised that it sells a newspaper, the Sporting Press, which is another source of income.

Given the precarious nature of small newspapers, it would surprise me if it was a very large amount of money.

In regard to the forestry sector, why did the Department not do a cost-benefit analysis at an earlier stage? Given the length of the period from 2014 to 2019, midway would strike me as an obvious time to carry this out, given it was not making the strides it needed to make. To go back to the national ambition, it strikes me that the Department should keep a tab on that. Why did it not do that at an earlier stage?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

There are two points. One is that, as a condition of the state aid approval for the forestry programme, we are required to do a cost-benefit analysis at the outset, before the start of the programme, so we did a cost-benefit analysis before the start of the programme. Midway through the programme, we were required to do a mid-term review. It is true to say that the primary focus of the mid-term review was on the broadleaf biodiversity problem. We changed our programme substantially to deliver a higher rate of broadleaf cover and, in the year since we have done that, there seems to be a fairly significant response from growers because the rate has gone from 21% to 27% in one year of planting.

In conjunction with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, there is an expenditure review of the programme. Before we start the next programme, which should be in 2020 with a view to getting it done from 2021, we will have a cost-benefit analysis. At that stage, we will be in a better position to evaluate the carbon impact of forestry because, of course, if the shadow price of carbon increases, then the value of the stock of forestry and the value of afforestation will also increase in the context of our climate change obligations.

What is the national target for forestry cover?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The national target is to increase forestry cover to 18% by-----

Why is our target below the EU average?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

To clarify, when we compare our stock of forestry to the EU stock of forestry, we are not comparing planting rates; we are comparing the overall stock. The overall stock is an accident of history combined with whatever we have done in the programme for the last few years. It would be over-ambitious to expect that we could increase forestry to 35% in the next period, given the resources we have and the difficulties we are having in meeting our targets as they stand. Increasing the overall stock to 18% is a very substantial and ambitious target. Reaching the 8,000 ha per annum that we are required to reach in the context of our climate action plan is going to be a real challenge. I have been challenged on that today and on our failure to meet the targets we have already, so I think they are sufficiently ambitious and we have to reconfigure our programme to try to reach them.

In terms of funding policy, we know there are grants available to farmers, and that is fine. What funding is available for non-farming sectors? Are bodies like Coillte funding themselves or is it done through local authority lands, or possibly through the Land Development Agency with land banks that might exist?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We pay farmers a 15-year premium, with different rates for different species, the highest being for broadleaf species and native species. We pay an establishment grant, which is essentially about covering the costs of establishment. We have various others sub-programmes, on which can give the Deputy note or explain further, if she wishes. We do not distinguish between farmers and non-farmers in the context of the availability of those grants and we do not give them to public bodies like Coillte, so it does not get grants. For example, if Deputy Murphy owned 20 ha of land and wanted to plant forestry on them, she would get the same grants as a farmer.

Tá fáilte romhat. Gabhaim buíochas as na cáipéisí uilig atá faighte agam. I thank the witnesses for having a clear audit, except for the two items that were raised. One, procurement, has been dealt with and the other is in regard to asset management. What progress has been made in regard to asset management?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We had a long discussion on that and-----

We will not go back on that. What progress has been made since then?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We are making progress. We have an asset management unit. We have established a system whereby it is not possible to procure something without putting it on the asset management register. We have a legacy issue in that we have a very large Department with, for example, a lot of equipment that is fully depreciated on the account but perfectly functioning. We have an audit system where we compare the asset register to the assets we find. We have an ongoing programme of labelling assets to the extent that we found gaps between the register and what is present in some places. It tends to be that perhaps a piece of equipment has been moved from one place to another without notifying the register. These are things we now recognise as issues and we are trying to resolve them. We think we are making significant progress and we have established structures within the Department to do that.

When will it be complete, with everything on the asset register, give or take a few pieces of equipment?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I have with me a document which states that the unit will continue to function in its asset management role and the project to verify the asset register is scheduled for completion in 2021.

Where it says it is scheduled for completion in 2021, will that be an updated asset register?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It will mean we have verified that everything in the Department is recorded on the asset register and that everything recorded on the asset register is present where it is supposed to be.

Something that caught my attention on page 18 of the accounts is the school milk and fruit scheme, on which it appears the Department has commissioned University College Dublin to carry out an evaluation. Is the figure €555,000 for the school milk and fruit scheme?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The school milk and fruit scheme sounds like an anachronism but it is actually something we consider important. It is an EU scheme to try to encourage children to improve their diets.

I was delighted to see it but I am trying to see where it fits in. I was in a number of schools lately in regard to the hot school meals programme. Although it has nothing to do with the Department, that programme is very ad hoc and some schools have got it that one would not think should have got it, while others schools did not get it. There is also the ongoing meals programme. Is this the third part of that jigsaw?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Bord Bia had a Food Dudes programme.

It was supported by the European Commission. Fruit was brought into children in all kinds of interesting packs, etc. They were encouraged to eat it with their lunches.

Are we paying the university €555,000 to tell us that fruit is good for us and that an apple a day keeps the doctor away?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

UCD is undertaking an evaluation over five years. I think it has been given €100,000 a year to evaluate this programme and determine how we can improve it and build on it.

I would like to hear a little more on that, if Mr. Gleeson does not mind. Theoretically, it is an excellent programme. It strikes me as an awful lot of money to tell us to eat an apple a day. I am thinking of the bigger picture of where money should be going. I know of schools on the ground that are not getting the benefit of food. This is the third one. It is in that context that I would like to hear more. I do not know that we need to give €500,000 to a university to tell us about this. Could we get the details of that?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I can give the Deputy more details now. In fact, I have a note in front of me that I can make available to the Deputy.

If Mr. Gleeson can make it available to me, that would be great.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Sure.

Lovely. That is great.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Okay.

Unfortunately, it is a big ship to be turned around, to adopt the terminology that has been used. Mr. Gleeson is not a captain, if we are going to go down the road of that language. Mr. Gleeson and his colleagues in the Department will need to be retrained. I do not mean that in a flippant way. We are all facing the same challenges in respect of climate change. What resources are available to the Department to meet the enormity of the challenge? I asked this question the last time the officials were present. Turning a ship around is an enormous task. What is available to the Department? I have looked at the range of subjects under its remit. It includes everything from forestry to the high seas. We are in the midst of climate change. It is quite legitimate of us to hammer the Department, for want of a better word, as we seek to hold it to its targets. What is available to the Department? Can it turn the ship around? What does it need to turn it around? I am going to come to the trees. I hope we might see the wood from the trees. We might need to see the tree from the woods at this point. I am confused.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

A significant part of the Department's Vote is devoted to environment and climate change.

What percentage are we talking about?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I cannot say offhand. I do not have the figure.

The Department might confirm it for me.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We can come back with the figure.

Yes, that would be helpful.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It is a very significant proportion. Most of our rural development programme is devoted to this area. Some of our programme of capital investment on farms is devoted to things like low-emission slurry spreading. The availability of photovoltaic cells on farm buildings-----

I have read it, honestly.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

I have read the stuff. I have only ten minutes. I do not mean to stop Mr. Gleeson. I have read it. The programmes in question are very good. I would like to know what the percentage is. Notwithstanding all the good efforts, we are not meeting our targets. I am beyond a list of the good things we are doing. Similarly, I have to face that in my own life as well. I am not personalising this. There are big issues here. What percentage of the Department's Vote is spent on climate change measures? I ask Mr. Gleeson to come back to me with that figure.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I will come back with that figure.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It is very significant. That is the first thing. The second thing is that the Common Agricultural Policy is being reviewed.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The Commission has proposed as a target that at least 40% of the reformed Common Agricultural Policy will go towards environment and climate change. We will have to write a new CAP strategic plan.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That plan will have to place a significant focus on supporting the efforts of farmers to meet climate change obligations.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We will have to reconfigure our CAP strategic plan to do that.

Does the Department have the resources to do that in the urgent manner that is needed?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We have a couple of things. There is a slight difficulty here. The reformed CAP-----

It will not be done.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

-----will not be done by the end of 2020. We are probably looking at 2021 before that is achieved. We are already working hard. We have €100 million for forestry, for example. Earlier this year, we announced a pilot programme to look at less intensive management of organic land on the margins of peatlands. This comes back to something Deputy Catherine Murphy said earlier. This is a very significant potential carbon sink.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We want to configure programmes to encourage farmers to manage such lands in a less intensive way. This could involve filling up drains that were previously dug, thereby allowing the water table to rise.

We understand that from meeting groups on the ground. I am no expert. We are no experts. We know this. People are coming to us all of the time.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

Leadership and vision are necessary here. They must be accompanied by resources.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

I am putting Mr. Gleeson on the spot when I ask whether the leadership and vision are present in the Department. Are the resources needed to do all of this available? It is all reactionary. I will come to the forests. Many Deputies have asked about forests. When I read in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report about what the Department has done, I did not see a sense of urgency. It is in that context that I am asking Mr. Gleeson about the position moving forward.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That is very regrettable because I think there is a sense of urgency.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

A big resource in the Department is devoted to delivering on these climate change obligations, which have crystallised this year in the context of the Government's climate action plan. We are required to do very specific things under that plan. We will be called to account for them once a quarter.

I hear that and now, for the first time, sectoral targets.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Exactly.

From our point of view, there must be a focus on value for money. I will set out what has led us to this point. People on the ground have been telling us about climate change. There have been protests. Everything has been reactive. I am not expecting Mr. Gleeson to comment on that. I am explaining where I am coming from in this regard. Finally, we have sectoral targets. Is that right?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

Okay. Before I go on to the woods, I would like to mention the harbours. This is another issue we considered on the last occasion. I ask Mr. Gleeson to remind me where we are with that.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

There is a separate account - the fisheries harbours account - which has not yet been laid before the House for this year.

When will it be laid before the House?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I think the Comptroller and Auditor General is-----

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It is under way at the moment.

Is it in the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It is under way.

Is the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General responsible for the delay on this one?

Ms Olivia Somers

The fieldwork is ongoing.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I assure the Deputy that I did not say that. Nevertheless, it is a separate account. There was a special report from the Comptroller and Auditor General.

That is right. A number of recommendations were made.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Exactly. The Comptroller and Auditor General is looking at that in the context of his audit.

I am asking Mr. Gleeson about the recommendations. Why have they not been implemented?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

They are substantially implemented. Many of them have been implemented.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I do not have that account in front of me.

Mr. Gleeson must not have been expecting it today.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I was not, to be frank.

It was not on the agenda.

It was not on the agenda. Okay.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We are engaged in a process with the Comptroller and Auditor General right now. We are being held to account in that context for what we have and have not delivered.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I am sure the Comptroller and Auditor General will report to the committee in due course after this process has been finished.

From my point of view-----

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Apart from the financial statements we are examining, we are also looking back at the recommendations. We are specifically looking at the extent to which they have been addressed. I will be reporting to the committee again on that.

I will leave that one for the moment. I will move on to the forestry grants. There is a reference to "an external party" on page 149 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. Chapter 10.20 states:

The Government has indicated that it intends to review the grant application process. In July 2019, it commissioned an external party to analyse the process undertaken by the Department in the approval of forestry planting applications.

Was that done? If so, when? Where is it? The number of applications for afforestation was much lower than had been anticipated or expected. Has that review been done?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It is being done at the minute by Mr. Jim Mackinnon, who is a former chief planner with the Scottish Government. He is analysing the processes undertaken by the Department in the approval of forestry planting and felling applications. We expect the review to be completed by the end of 2019. He presented interim findings to a stakeholder group last week. The stakeholders in the sector, from environmental non-governmental organisations to farm bodies, will make an input into the review when it is considered.

It is under way. It will be completed by the end of the year.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It will be completed by the end of 2019. I understand that when Mr. Mackinnon undertook a similar exercise with regard to the forestry programme in Scotland, the implementation of his recommendations led to an increase in planting.

Are the terms of reference for that review broad? Do they cover climate change and the targets we are failing to meet?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I think they focus principally on the processes adopted by the Department in the context of the approval of forestry and the extent to which they might slow the delivery of the forestry programme. I might ask my colleague, Mr. Colm Hayes-----

Again, I am going to run out of time. I would like a written note on the review setting out the full list of stakeholders. What was said in the interim report? The terms of reference are extremely important. According to the mid-term review of the forestry programme, they are extremely limited. If the Department is facilitating an external review that is limited, it is not aligned with our climate policy. Could we have all of that clarified on paper?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I will ask-----

I am not sure I have enough time.

The Deputy has two minutes left.

I have two minutes. I would like to get the answer in written form.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Okay.

Unless he lets me back-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Absolutely.

If the Chair lets me back-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Fine.

I will move on to the review.

Other speakers have said the targets were not met. In 2018, in particular, we were considerably below target. In other years improvements were made, but in 2018, the very year in which we were all coming under pressure on climate change, it was down. I would have thought a mid-term review in February 2018 would have looked at climate change and many other variables. What was done with broadleaves was welcome. Why was the mid-term review so specific and restricted? Why has no cost benefit analysis been made since? I understand the Department had to do it before it and that is good, but it has not been done since. Mr. Gleeson is talking about doing it in the future. I do not know whether the best terminology to use is a cost benefit analysis, a review or a post-project review. However, nothing was done, except a limited mid-term review with very restricted criteria.

The forestry programme lists ten criteria. There are 11 measures listed on page 147 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. The forestry programme focuses on two. Measures 1 and 3 accounted for 95% of the spend in 2018, the very year in which the level of planting was down. That means that nine other measures were not getting a look in. Interestingly, the ones that got in were the construction of forest roads to allow access and native woodlands, on which progress was made, which I welcome. However, some of the other measures are very good, including close-to-home woodlands, I imagine in city and rural areas and so on. I would have thought a review would have looked at all of these to see why they were not being pushed because, presumably, they were equally as important.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I am not sure at what page of the report the Deputy is looking.

It is page 147 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report, the chapter on measures included in the forestry programme for the period 2014 to 2020. Figure 10.1 includes 11 measures.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

What I am being told is what I intuitively would have thought, that the mid-term review looked at all of those measures and how they might be delivered. The reality is that the two programmes at which the Deputy looked are the programmes under which there is the highest spending. They tend to attract the most investment. We would not limit the configuration of our budget if there was more demand in the system for the other programmes.

My difficulty with that is that there are 11 measures. It is demand-led, but there has to be leadership. We need more afforestation It cannot just be demand-led; it has to be combined. My colleague mentioned public lands, something I do not even have the time to go into. There are many issues involved. However, it goes back to my original question. If the captain is to turn the ship around, the captain needs considerable help. The Department will have a lot of wind behind it in dealing with climate change, but it might be heading in the wrong direction.

The next speaker is Deputy MacSharry. We are sticking rigidly to ten-minute slots.

I thank all of the witnesses for attending. Is it right that a sum of €178 million was returned to the Exchequer?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

Is that because people did not meet the provisions of schemes for which they were applying?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The €178 million does not represent an underspend. It is primarily made up of additional receipts. It is about the timing of receipts. It is a net figure for the Vote. The bulk of our receipts are related to the rural development programme and EU funding. Some €82 million that we had anticipated coming into the Vote in 2017 actually came in at the beginning of 2018. Similarly, our view was that a certain volume of receipts related to the rural development programme would arrive in 2019, but, in fact, they were received late in 2018. Therefore, the primary reason for the handing back of funding to the Exchequer was the arrival of additional receipts, not reduced expenditure. The difference between what we had programmed for and what we spent was about €40 million. That is the net figure for the Vote. It represents increased receipts, rather than reduced expenditure.

I will ask the Comptroller and Auditor General a question. In real money terms, was there a return to the Exchequer?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The gross provision was €1,587 million and the spend was €1,546 million. About €43 million was returned.

It was €43 million.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

In fact, that is what I said.

Okay. Mr. Gleeson is in command of all of the information which I am hearing for the first time. I just want to be clear on it. To come back to the original question, was there an insufficient number of applications for certain schemes or were the criteria not right?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It is a demand-led scheme. We have already had a long discussion about the difficulty in meeting our targets under the forestry programme; therefore, there was reduced expenditure on afforestation.

On our capital investment schemes in agriculture, we are depending on people to execute approvals and new approvals. For example, we would have anticipated approvals to have matured in that year, but some of them did not. Nevertheless, we had to make prudent provision for the expenditure we thought would arise in that year. They are the principal items, but there were many other smaller underspends.

According to recent media reports, the figure for applications under the beef exceptional aid measure, BEAM, scheme amounted to €78,192,380. This means that there were not enough applications received because the figure provided for was €100 million. Are the criteria for the schemes entirely home-grown? I know that half of the money came from Brussels and half from here. Do we come up with the criteria?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

There is a delegated Act at European Commission level. It sets parameters within which member states are required to design a scheme. We designed the scheme but strictly within the parameters laid down in the regulation. In the particular regulation there was a requirement for environmental action, as well as a requirement for a reduction or a restructuring of the herd. That was understandable because it was a market-support scheme. I suppose in looking at it the Commission stated, "If there is a problem with beef prices in Ireland, we cannot have a scheme that will lead to an increase in production. We need a temporary adjustment." This was a temporary adjustment and the parameters were laid down in the regulation.

Are we being too strict in our interpretation of the parameters?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The alternative to being too strict is that we could design a scheme, send it in and in three years' time an EU auditor would come and say, "You have not designed a scheme in accordance with the parameters laid down in the regulation." I would then be back here for a different reason.

I did not say that. I did not suggest breaking the rules. Are we being creative enough within appropriate parameters to ensure we will get the money where we need to get it?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That asks for a judgment on my part. We develop schemes that we consider will serve the interests of farmers within the parameters laid down in the regulations. We work hard at doing this. My own view which the Deputy may not share is that we are quite imaginative in how we do it.

No, I am just saying I only look at the figures. Under the scheme €22 million remained unspent. I am sure we will find another hole for it. There is no doubt about that. However, we made €100 million available. One thing is for sure - certain farmers are suffering. If we are making €100 million available and cannot find a way to legally provide the sum for which we are budgeting, that is a problem. It is reasonable to ask, therefore, if we need to look at how we are putting things together.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I accept entirely that it is not desirable to leave €22 million behind.

What will happen to that €22 million? Will €11 million be sent back to Brussels and will €11 million go into our own-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Our understanding is we will receive €50 million from Brussels. The balance will comprise national funding. We have an annualised accounting system, an annualised Estimates system. Therefore, the money will be gone at the end of 2019. We will then be into a new budget cycle.

We have provided for increased funding for beef in the 2020 Estimate. It has been increased from €20 million to €40 million.

We are keeping the €50 million that we are being given by Brussels.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

Are we using it for something else?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The €50 million will be spent in the context of the €77 million of expenditure on the scheme.

We only have to put in €28 million of our own money.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

Brussels fronted up big time there.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

We did not capture the spirit of the scheme in trying to support farmers. It is a badge on somebody that €22 million was left over.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That is arguable.

I do not consider it to be a success.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

A balance has to be struck between prudence and trying to make the money available. In this instance, clearly we would prefer to have received €100 million worth of applications, but we did not.

It seems bizarre that the Department did not receive that level of applications. Farmers are not renowned for hiding behind the door when it comes to accessing available supports.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

There was conditionality attached to the scheme, as is always the case.

Are we being imaginative enough? Are we being the best boys in the class when being middle performers in a European context would be a better approach from our perspective? Perhaps we are sometimes too literal. It is not a case of bending or breaking the rules, but perhaps we are too eager to match the parameters laid down by Brussels.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We work hard to match the parameters laid down. Ireland was the only country to receive an allocation of €50 million. Such provision was not made available to other member states.

That is comparing apples and oranges. We are also the only country to have counties such as Sligo and Leitrim. We are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with have small holdings and bad land and are very dependent on the suckler herd and so on.

I will allow the Deputy another 30 seconds on this specific issue. Mr. Gleeson referred to conditionality. Was it a condition of the scheme that farmers would be obliged to reduce their number of livestock in the coming years?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes, the-----

Is that a yes? Mr. Gleeson said "Yes".

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I did not finish. I would like to give the Chair a complete answer.

I ask Mr. Gleeson to give me an answer. The scheme did not work because of the attached conditions whereby farmers would have to reduce their herd in future years in an attempt to alleviate climate change. Farmers did not sign up to the scheme because they would have to reduce their potential future income. Was that condition dreamt up in Dublin or in Brussels?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It was a temporary market adjustment scheme. That is the wording at the top of the regulation. An explicit condition was that an applicant must be part of an environmental or quality assurance scheme and must be willing to reduce or restructure his or her herd. Within the context of that wording, we had to come up with a scheme that met those requirements. We had to reduce or restructure the herd.

What is meant by restructuring of a herd?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The regulation was explicit in that regard. We could have gone for a higher figure. There are several things we did. Deputy MacSharry said we were not imaginative enough. I am quite certain that had we not included the 5% figure at a minimum, we would-----

I ask Mr. Gleeson to explain the reference to 5%.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We stated that applicants had to reduce their nitrates level by 5% within a certain period. That allowed several options to meet this requirement. One could meet it by reducing stock numbers, slaughtering animals earlier or engaging in various management practices. We deliberately configured it in that way to allow people options in terms of meeting the requirement to reduce the nitrates level. If we did not include a provision of that nature, we would have been found to be in breach of the parameters of the regulation. That is my clear view.

It is a European problem. It is like telling a fisherman that we will give him money to survive this year, but we will take his fishing rod next year and he will not be able to fish. Farmers are engaged in the production of food. I will come to the fact that we are giving €20 million to the World Food Programme at a later stage. Under the cover of an emergency in the industry, we came up with €100 million and it was used to get farmers to reduce their herds or downscale. We are talking about people who might have eight or ten animals.

The committee will ask for a detailed note on the matter. Mr. Gleeson keeps referring to the lack of demand. Farmers did not apply for the very good reason we have just been discussing. There was a condition attached whereby they would have to reduce their future agricultural output to be accepted onto the scheme. That is like telling a person that he or she will be given a grant now because he or she is stuck, but including a condition that he or she will have to reduce his or her potential income in future years.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

May I briefly respond on that point?

Mr. Gleeson understands what I am saying.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I understand that this is in the public narrative. We have engaged with farm bodies on it. I understand the issue. This was not a permanent requirement. Beef prices are a function of demand and supply. If one goes to the EU College of Commissioners and states that we have a problem with beef prices, the Commissioners would respond that the problem must stem from oversupply or reduced demand. The logical reaction from the European Commission and the European taxpayer who is stumping up this money would be to require some kind of adjustment that will deal with this problem as they do not wish to throw money at people because that might exacerbate the problem and encourage people to increase production. From the point of view of the Commission, this was a perfectly reasonable provision to include in the regulation. I am not in the business of bashing the Commission. It was a perfectly reasonable provision for it to include. We interpreted it in a way that we thought gave maximum flexibility to farmers. We knew that it would not be well received but we felt we were meeting the minimum conditions provided for in the regulation.

To close off this contentious topic, I ask Mr. Gleeson to send the committee a full briefing note on the matter, including the take-up, the consultations with farmers' groups, the issues raised, etc.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The scheme and the provisions we sent to the Commission are on our website. They were published at the time. I am happy to provide a note to the committee.

I thank Mr. Gleeson. I do not want us to get bogged down dealing with this one issue.

I have no difficulty bashing the Commission. If it is being over-zealous in designing supports or parameters, it is perfectly legitimate for us to criticise it. If it is the fault of the Commission that the parameters are so narrow, it certainly deserves to be bashed.

The accounts note a significant number of lands held by the Department. This is a matter I raise with other Departments. Has the Department obtained a valuation for those lands? Why is there no valuation for them in the accounts?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

As the Deputy noted, there is a long list of landholdings. There are some large properties as well as some smaller properties, including forestry plots and so on, that we inherited from the Land Commission. By and large, our policy is to value the properties at point of sale because it would be an enormous task to have each of these small plots valued and the valuations might be out of date a week later. We are engaged in a programme to value the assets and properties in our fisheries harbours. We have a separate fisheries harbours account and as part of a set of recommendations from the Comptroller and Auditor General we are valuing those properties. We are valuing properties to that extent but, as a general proposition, we do not value them in advance of a potential sale.

There is no current valuation for any of these properties.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

There is not, with the exception of the fisheries harbours.

Are the fisheries harbours noted at the end of the accounts?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

No, the fisheries harbours are a separate account that is not laid before-----

In addition to land and buildings, six fishery harbour centres are vested in the Minister.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

The other 20, 30 or 40 holdings have not been valued.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That is correct.

One could hardly call Haulbowline Island a small patch of forestry.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The Department has temporary ownership of Haulbowline. It is permanently owned by the Department of Defence.

How the hell does that work?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Is the Deputy asking how it works?

How can the Department temporarily own something?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

One can temporarily own something.

How can one temporarily own something?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I sold a second hand car some years ago. I bought it and then I owned it and then I sold it.

Mr. Gleeson's Department currently owns Haulbowline.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Absolutely, yes.

That is it. There is no such thing as temporary ownership until the Department sells it to whoever wants it next.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I will explain the background, if that is okay.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Haulbowline Island, which is the former site of Irish Steel, was contaminated and needed to be remediated. During the time of the then Minister, Deputy Coveney, the Department took it over from the Department of Defence with a view to remediating the island and making it fit for purpose again. There is no question of us selling Haulbowline Island but we are at the point where we have fully remediated the east tip and are discussing with Cork County Council how it might open the east tip, which had been a waste site, as a park. The intention is to revert the property to the Department of Defence, the work having been completed, because Haulbowline Island is the headquarters of the Naval Service. We took ownership of the island for the purposes of completing the remediation work, for which we recently received a certificate of completion.

Did it cost approximately €20 million?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

€24 million.

It is poor practice for us not to value such matters. I do not accept that the Department could not be going around the whole country doing valuations or that valuations could be out of date the following week. That is not good. What does the Department do to ensure that the property's title is clear? I refer to issues that might arise due to squatter's rights or unscrupulous people erecting fences.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The Deputy is taking me into territory on which I may not have the answers. Has he something specific in mind?

Mr. Gleeson thinks I will drop a bomb and ask where the 300 acres that have been taken over by such and such are. I will not do that, however. There are 40 holdings, some of which are small, but I would hazard a wild guess that nobody from the Department has walked near them since the Land Commission gave them to it 100 years ago. It is quite likely the assets have been lost to the State as a result of squatters' rights. I recommend that an assessment be done of all the properties. If they are too small to keep an eye on, they should be sold, perhaps to the appropriate local authority. If it is added together, it is a great deal of land, even if it is just scrub, forestry or whatever. In the case of Haulbowline Island, there will be plans for it, and perhaps the council will buy it and there will be a use. The people own the land but, in reality, much of it may well have been taken over by the mearing farmer or the mearing person over the years, and it may not be an asset to the State.

I presume that protection of the Department's assets is on its risk register. If so, I would like the Department to examine it, what mechanisms it has in place and the reasonable remarks that have been made about the practicality of having half an acre here and half an acre there. One can see what happens over decades. It is about protecting State assets. The Department might revert to the committee with a note on the matter. I do not mean that it should be broken down plot by plot but Mr. Gleeson understands what I mean.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Sure.

The beef data and genomics programme, BDGP, is a five-year plan that will run from 2017 to 2022, inclusive. I am a strong supporter of the programme in respect of improving the productivity and health assets of the herd. How does the Department measure its success? How can it measure the impact of breeding programmes and so on in such a short period? Will there be a next phase, and if so, will the Department collect data to use in it?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Apart from the benefits the programme brings to individual farmer applicants, it is also intended to build a national asset, namely, a database of the genetic resources, maintained by the ICBF. We follow the progress with quite a degree of rigour. I do not have the specific figures in front of me but we certainly see higher rates of fertility among participating herds, earlier calvings and heavier weights at weaning for fewer inputs. Those objectives are being measured scrupulously. The expectation was that it would lead to a 12% overall reduction in emissions from the beef herd, based on a static population, which looks like it will be delivered. We will pursue the progress rigorously.

There was a degree of controversy over the programme containing obligations that ran over five years. The view of the Commission, which was legitimate, was that to do something for the environment, a once-off action would not deliver much and that there should be an evolving programme with a series of commitments from farmers. There has been substantial interest in the programme and approximately 20,000 farmers are involved in it. One of the advantages is that the benefits of the programme do not rest only with the herd but filter out to the wider population. All the benefits such as earlier calving, higher fertility and increased efficiency are beginning to filter out to other herds that were not part of the programme.

In the conversation about the 30% reduction in emissions from agriculture, and in light of the climate emergency, it often seems to be forgotten that we need to eat high-quality food. It seems to be left out of the conversation that the end product of the agricultural sector is the food on supermarket shelves. There is an argument that the only way to reduce emissions is to cull the herd but there are tiny farmers with five or six head of cattle - usually bad, old cows that nobody else wants - as a hobby, although I mean them no disrespect. The issue is that many small farmers have inefficient animals, which might be infertile or might not produce good milk, and they contribute to the overall negative picture. As Mr. Gleeson noted, however, we must breed and feed correctly, and get as many calves as possible from each cow before returning them to production and sending the calves and milk to wherever. The key is making the herd more efficient rather than indiscriminately culling animals for the sake of the bottom-line figure. How does that assessment sit with Mr. Gleeson?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The Paris Agreement explicitly recognises the special position of agriculture and the need, in a global sense, to match the requirement for sustainable food production with the need to address the climate change issue. There is now a climate action plan at national level that applies sectoral targets and requires us to reduce emissions from agriculture by between 10% and 15% by 2030. A list of actions in the plan, based largely on a marginal abatement cost curve, MACC, produced by Teagasc, can deliver emissions reduction based on a roughly static herd. What we have said to people is we have to tackle those measures early and hard. We have to drive them through a combination of support and regulation. If we do that, it will reflect itself in our view of the impact of the size of the national herd, but the two issues are not mutually exclusive. If we double the size of the national herd, which will not happen, we will increase emissions substantially. We have identified actions-----

If we make the herd more efficient, we can maintain the herd at the same number while still reducing emissions.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Absolutely. More efficiency with a static herd means reduced emissions.

Yes. That seems to have been lost in the earlier conversations but I wanted to make the point.

The Department funds Bord Bia.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We do.

Has the Department governance over the pathway of the money? Mr. Gleeson mentioned the Food Dudes programme. I am concerned about the impact on primary school children of the narrative to the effect that veganism and plant-based diets are better. Given the Department's role and its funding of Bord Bia, has it any cross-departmental collaborations with the Department of Health, or with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, FSAI, in respect of the food pyramid? I refer to getting the message out about efficiency, which we just mentioned, and the food miles impact of supermarket products.

I had better not mention the name, but one of the large supermarkets has a vegan section. I get concerned when I see that there is no Irish section. We are good at selling our products abroad, but I am concerned that we are not marketing our high-quality food products to our own people in the way we should. My children tell me that they should not have palm oil. I do not even know if we have palm oil in the house. I tell them that eating steak is good for them. There is a narrative that quinoa and soy that come all the way across the world are better for us. I do not see the message about the protein of high biological value in our meat. The constant narrative is that agriculture and meat production are bad. As I said at the outset, we do not ever seem to make the point that we need the stuff on the shelf to live and to produce a good herd of humans.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The Deputy has made several points there. One of the difficulties faced by public servants, and perhaps also by politicians, is keeping up with public opinion. Things have changed so radically in recent years that it is quite difficult to keep up with it. There is collaboration between the Department and Bord Bia-----

Does the Department ensure governance of the money that is sent off?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes, we have somebody on the board. There are systems in place and we have an oversight agreement with Bord Bia. We meet its representatives several times a year and we examine every claim they make when they look for funding. There is a strong governance in place.

How does Mr. Gleeson feel about the Origin Green product? This is a plan for marketing Irish food both domestically and abroad that has been brought to my attention. Organic food producers have complained to me about it. The name suggests organic food, and the Origin Green branding often sits beside organic food in international food expos. That is how Bord Bia is marketing our food. Obviously the production of organic food is far more expensive than non-organic food. Organic farmers feel irritated and let down. Does Mr. Gleeson have any thoughts on that?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes. It is a complex area. I have been around the world on trade missions and I can attest that there is almost unlimited demand for some kinds of organic food overseas. It is a question of getting-----

What about the domestic market? Imagine a consumer who does not have much time or interest looking at a supermarket shelf. It seems unfair to organic farmers to use the phrase "Origin Green".

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We have an obligation to develop the entire sector, which is a massive entity accounting for 178,000 jobs. I do not have to go through the statistics because the members know them. There are significant supports for the organic sector within our Vote. I think they amount to €10 million or €11 million. We are working hard to register people and give them funding for capital assistance. We are working hard on that.

I do not believe Origin Green is consumer-branded. The Bord Bia quality assurance brand is visible in shops. This relates to the origin and quality standards of the product. I can understand-----

This is something on which I have received representations and I felt it was important to mention it today.

I have an observation on the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP. Food was 30% of household spending in the 1970s. That figure is now between 10% and 15%. Some farmers would argue that we are moving towards an economy based on cheap mass-produced food. What is the Department doing to mitigate that narrative? Is it doing anything?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The Common Agricultural Policy exists explicitly to support farm families, and that is what it does. That is why the European model of agriculture still substantially involves smaller family farms. The irony is that this makes it difficult to compete on a global level with countries that mass-produce food on large farms. That makes it difficult for Irish and European farmers to compete at a global level. That is why we have those supports. We support a model of agriculture and a set of standards that do not necessarily apply elsewhere. That involves costs. Of course, we argue for the best possible budget for the Common Agricultural Policy. We are doing that now in the context of a new multi-annual financial framework. However, other member states embrace other funding priorities at EU level. We have always been very supportive of devoting the maximum possible funding to agriculture, even though we have been substantial net contributors to the budget since 2014.

Returning to the efficiency of the herd, I note that we export 90% of our agricultural products. The European Commission's report on efficiency put us in first place for dairy and fifth place for beef. The European Union is an open market at the moment. Without oversimplifying it, is it said at European level that food must be produced somewhere because we need it to stay alive, and it is better for it to come from the more efficient producers that produce less greenhouse emissions? There is a distinct difference between highly pollutant food production and clean and efficient production. Is there a conversation about a hierarchy concerning who is the best boy in the class, as it were?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That is a really big question. It is a fact that we are the most climate-efficient dairy producer in Europe and probably the world, and the fifth most efficient producer of beef. The objective of the Paris Agreement was to give every state a target. It has already been said here that unless every country has a specific target, it is difficult to achieve gains. Determining what should be produced where involves big geopolitical questions and significant economic effects, sometimes affecting developing countries. While I accept the Deputy's proposition that we are very efficient, it is very difficult to translate that into global policy because doing so has very significant effects.

Everyone is at a different starting point.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Exactly, yes.

I wish to return in my final question to Bord Bia's role. It is a big issue for me at the moment. I cannot understand why we are not marketing our product better. The Bord Bia quality assurance brand is brilliant. People recognise it and use it. Is there any move towards a traffic light system to show how far a product on the shelf has travelled? It should be very clear to the consumer that soya is worse for the environment than steak given how far it has travelled. Does the Department have any plans in that regard? Mr. Gleeson spoke about keeping up with public opinion. Public opinion has moved significantly in recent years. I am very concerned about the food pyramid, balanced diets and the narrative that we can all live on vegetables and get on fine. I am not saying that one cannot live on vegetables, but as we all know it requires supplementation.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I will say a couple of things about that. First, we export 90% of what we produce. We are a part of the European Union and we have wider international markets. We rely on export markets. Regarding the kind of measure the Deputy describes, Ireland could not unilaterally establish rules that might be viewed as barriers to trade for countries wishing to export.

I am not suggesting barriers to trade. I am talking about something that is very clear to shoppers, like the Bord Bia quality assurance system. It would make clear that although there is a narrative saying it is better to use certain foods - I keep picking on soy because it is the handiest example - this is not factually correct. This is not about trying to skew information. It is just about delivering the truth.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

There are two points there. First, Ireland could not make those regulations. It could not demand the labelling of individual products with that information because it would be viewed as an effort to impede trade.

I am subject to correction on this and I do not have the appropriate person here to correct me but I think Bord Bia is involved in an exercise to establish food facts and to set up some kind of a programme that in a general way, and not through a labelling system, establishes food facts to address any inaccuracies-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

-----in the narrative around meat and dairy.

Will the Department provide us with a note on that?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I will, yes.

I get concerned when there is a global movement about something. At the end of the day, we all need to eat. Some people will see that as a market and without any regard for science or evidence will claim that certain products are better because it is a good story.

We have mentioned already that we have pencilled in a meeting for Tuesday evening, 5 November when we are back again and starting our work on carbon tax, but I will call that formally. We will have two meetings on carbon tax. The Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI has confirmed it will attend.

What time will that be?

Around 7 p.m. It will be in the evening time. I have a few questions to put. I thank the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for all the documentation and for the annual report. Everything in here is clear and all of that, but I am kind of surprised by it and I think others will be surprised by it as well. I am reading straight from the annual report, and if I am correct in my reading of page 9 of same, we exported 7 million tonnes of agrifood products in 2018. I am going by the chart on page 9 of the Department's 2018 annual report. Is that figure of 7 million tonnes correct? It says 7 million tonnes on the right hand side of the chart. My questions are on these three or four pages, so we will try to get page 9 up on the screen.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Is it the annual review and outlook?

No, it is the Department's annual report for 2018.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The Chairman can put his question and I will try to address it anyway.

I am not sure of the figure. It refers to billions on one side of the chart and it refers to millions on the other side of the same chart.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Is that for the volume of exports?

Yes. I think the billions on the left-hand side refer to money, specifically to euro.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I can tell the Chairman what the value was. The value of exports in 2018 was about €13.7 billion. I could not tell him what the volume was in terms of tonnes but that was the value.

I accept that, and €5.5 billion of that was to the UK, €4.3 billion was to the other EU countries, and the rest of the world was €3.6 billion.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

The page from the annual report I was talking about is on the screen now. There is a reference to billions on the left-hand side and I suspect that refers to billions of euro and that about €8 billion euro is referred to.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes, that refers to euro.

The right-hand side refers to tonnes.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

OK.

That tells me Ireland exported approximately 7 million tonnes of agrifood products last year. I want "Yes" answers to these questions because I am reading the Department's annual report.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

I want to get the whole of page 9 on the screen if it is possible. People know Ireland is well known for its agricultural trade and exports. Of those exports detailed in the chart, 4.3 billion tonnes went to the UK, 420,000 tonnes went to the Netherlands, and 190,000 tonnes went to the United States. They are our biggest markets. Page 10 of the Department's annual report details the 2018 imports. This page tells me Ireland imported 13 million tonnes of foodstuff last year. The report tells me Ireland exported 7 million tonnes of agrifood products but we imported 13 million tonnes of agrifood products. I thought Ireland was a big agricultural exporter. I want to quote a few figures directly from the annual report and Mr. Gleeson can comment if he wishes. To put this in context to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, I am saying as the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts that I am surprised by this. Maybe we should have all known this and these facts and figures have possibly been hiding in plain sight for decades. The annual report of the Department says the volume of the agrifood exports in 2018 was 7 million tonnes. The next page details the volume of imports, which was 13 million tonnes for 2018. Clearly, Ireland is importing much more agrifood products than it is exporting. I am going on the Department's charts when I say that. Then I look at the top ten destinations for agrifood exports in 2018 on page 9, and that says we exported 4.3 million tonnes of agrifood products to the UK. Am I right about that?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

I know I am right. I look at the bottom of page 10 on the annual report and it tells me we imported 4.856 million tonnes of agrifood products from the UK.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

From all the talk about the agricultural industry, people understand that we export a massive amount of food products to the UK, and according to the Department's annual report, we import much more food from the UK than we export to the UK. I will continue on this point. The Netherlands is the second biggest country for our exports with 420,000 tonnes in 2018, but we imported 710,000 tonnes from the Netherlands in the same year. I will go down through the list. The United States is a growing market to which we exported 190,000 tonnes of agrifood products in 2018 but we imported 1.071 million tonnes in the same year. It is a revelation. I must admit it is a revelation to me.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

The pricing is a bit different.

I am talking about the volume. I know about the pricing and I have been looking at the book. It will come as a surprise to most of the population that Ireland imports much more food than it exports. We always knew we were eating more pasta and rice and that we were eating fewer potatoes than we used to, but when I looked at these figures I did not realise the scale of what we are doing. I understand the pricing when it comes to euro, but let us talk about the product first because it is about the product and the price can vary between sterling, euro and everything else. The value of what we sold to the UK last year was €5.5 billion but the value of what we imported was €4.5 billion. That is not a major difference. It has come as a bit of a surprise to find we are importing more than we are exporting. Am I right in saying all of this? I am talking about the volume of trade in tonnes based on the Department's annual report. Are those figures right or not?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

The only thing I do not like about the charts in the annual report, and I ask the Department to take this into account for next year's report, is when the Department comes to the exports on page 9, the chart shows the volume of exports going up from 1 million tonnes to 7 million tonnes in gaps of 1 million tonnes, but when I go to the next page the chart goes up in gaps of 2 million from zero to 14 million. When one looks at those charts, they look kind of similar but the right hand figures have been shrunk to make them look different. That might not have been the intention but the same method should have been used on both charts because those two charts are not comparable unless the reader understands that the gaps on the right-hand side should be twice the height of the gaps on the left-hand side.

The presentation is not helpful. We have to go through it to see the amount on the right-hand side, where the gaps are different. That is one of the issues I wanted to raise. I do not know if it has been discussed much in Ireland. We knew we were importing quite an amount of food, because we see it on our supermarket shelves, but I thought we were exporting more than double of what we were importing. It now transpires that it is the other way around. We will come to the price and the monetary value in due course.

I refer to prepared consumer foods. The Department's chart states that the prepared consumer foods sector, which is obviously the convenience-type foods many people want, accounted for more than €2.6 billion in agrifood sector exports in 2018, and €3.6 billion in imports. Ireland is importing far more prepared consumer foods for consumption than we are exporting. All the witnesses know this because they are in the Department but the public will be surprised to know we import much more prepared consumer foods than we export. We import much more agrifood products than we export. Is that an accurate reading of the Department's figures?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

Those charts are accurate.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

There is a myth out there, and I come from a rural constituency and was born and reared on a farm, that we all believe we are a great agricultural exporting country. In fact, we are a much greater agricultural importing country than an exporting one. That is never mentioned. People are probably going to jump on me for highlighting this and talking down agriculture, which is not what I am doing. My job as Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts is to present the figures brought to us, report on them and put them in the public arena. One of the jobs of the Committee of Public Accounts is to put information out there so that people understand what is happening, which is all I am doing. I was surprised to see that we import much more than we export.

We can look at the money in respect of England. We get more out of this money. When I was looking at the figures earlier, I saw that we probably get a better price for some products per tonne exported. This is because in money terms, we export €13.7 billion and import €9.7 billion. It is ratio of approximately 60:40. Out of every €1 million traded, 60% is made up of exports in money terms, and 40% is imports. Perhaps we always thought that. Long may we continue to get good price.

I have learned today that we import more food than we export. I have not heard that said in the public arena.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That is interesting.

Do you understand my-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Absolutely, maybe people should read our annual report more carefully in future. There is interesting stuff in it and we put a lot of effort into presenting as much information as we can.

Yes. It is a great report.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

There are a couple of things here. As the Chairman spotted, the value of our exports significantly exceeds the value of our imports, which is really important to the economy. We want to add as much value as we can.

There is €4 billion difference: €13 billion versus €9 billion.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I refer to the narrative around Brexit and will focus on the UK for a minute. We have always said that we are their largest source of food. We are also their largest export destination for food.

I have never heard that second part.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We have said that a lot them. Again this is significant in the context of Brexit and the prospect of tariffs in both directions. We have been saying that for sometime. The reality is that a big part of the imports - one will see that in the chart - is that timber is included. A lot of timber is imported from Scotland as logs. Animal feed is included.

Where is timber on the chart? Is that under "other"? I see dairy, animal foodstuffs and beverages on the import page.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Animal foodstuffs is 12%.

Mr. Gleeson mentioned timber.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Timber is under "other".

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Timber is under "other", which is 26%. I am not sure what the volume it is.

It is "under" which includes wood based products-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Timber would be high volume and relatively low value. I do not know the precise figure but it would skew the figures.

The next thing is-----

The Department will send us a breakdown of these figures.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Absolutely.

We cannot produce everything here. There is a very dynamic demand among consumers for all sorts of products that we cannot produce in Ireland. That is another reality. We export 90% of our beef. We could not consume that 90% here-----

I know that.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

-----in any event. We are part of a Single Market, where we cannot put up barriers to trade, and of a global trading network, which is based on a framework determined by the World Trade Organization, WTO. We cannot just establish barriers to trade and decide that we are not going to-----

I am not suggesting that. My concern, which is unconnected to the Brexit issue which, is that when I look at the charts the Department has given us, at the start of 2009, ten years ago, we were importing roughly 6 million tonnes but were exporting eight million tonnes. Ireland was exporting more foodstuffs than it was importing ten years ago. This is the myth we have all lived on. In the last ten year - this has nothing to do with Brexit - the level of imports of foodstuffs has increased at a much higher rate. In fact, it has more than doubled in the last decade. The product, not the price, of our exports has only gone from approximately 4 million tonnes to 7 million tonnes, an increase of 3 million tonnes, whereas our imports have gone from 6 million tonnes to 13 million tonnes. The public is not aware that in the last decade, Ireland has changed in respect of how it deals with food and in the last decade - this has nothing to do with Brexit - we have far surpassed our food consumption in terms of imports as opposed to what we export. That is the only point I am making. This is something of a surprise to me.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It sounds like increased value-added for the Irish economy.

No, I am only talking about product. We can then talk about value added, and I have put those figures on the record as well. The only value-added product I am concerned about is the prepared consumer food which is food and added-value, where the exports were €2.6 billion but the imports were €3.6 billion in that sector. In the other sectors, the value of our exports are €13.7 billion and the value of our imports are €9.7 billion, the monetary values of which I accept. People did not think there was this gap.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

On the prepared consumer foods, this is a really significant and important part of our food economy that people do not appreciate. One would, for example, have raw materials going from Ireland into processing facilities elsewhere-----

In the European Union.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

-----and possibly coming back as prepared consumer foods. One would also have the opposite happening, where one would potentially have raw materials coming in from other European Union countries and going into processed foods here and being exported. It is a very complex web of trade that is difficult to explain to people. Unless one understands the precise economics around every product, it is difficult to understand.

I am making a general point. The trend in the last decade has surprised me and possibly most people, where it is heading in a particular direction. Is it possible to say how much of the €13.7 billion of exports from Ireland went to the primary producer? That is a very legitimate question for 2018. Out of the €13.7 billion of cheques written to Ireland for the food products we exported, how much of that did the primary producer get and how much did the processors get? Does Mr. Gleeson get my point?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

I will compliment Mr. Gleeson on those figures, which are there for anyone who chooses to look at them, but which is probably not everybody. The figures are presented clearly, which is great. I compliment Mr. Gleeson on this is a fantastic annual report of well over 100 pages. Has Mr. Gleeson a view on what was paid to the primary producers out of the €13.7 billion? It might answer a lot of questions.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

On that question, in the annual report, which I have not read for a while, one will find a figure for output from farms. The report has a figure for the value of the output from farms-----

Has anyone got that approximate figure?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

This is a very contentious area, as the Chairman knows. What is more informative is the proportion of the margin rather than the proportion of output.

We can deal with that as well but-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That is a more complex kind of calculation. I say that without prejudice to anybody's sensitivities about it.

I am not confining this to one sector. Dairy is our biggest export, followed by beverages. I am looking at this across the board. I am seeking data on the value of the output. Do we have an idea of what that was?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I will come back to the Chairman on that because it is definitely in the report but I just cannot-----

It is kind of surprising that when I ask representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to tell me the value of the food produced for export, they cannot tell me. They can give me a figure for what we got for those exports but I would love to know the value of the food product output. The Department has that figure because it knows what was paid to the farmers. If Mr. Gleeson does not have the figure to hand today, he can send it on via a detailed note. Having read the first ten pages of the annual report, these are the questions that jumped out at me.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

My colleague has now pointed out the figure to me. The overall value of goods output, or farm output, is €8.182 billion.

Is that out of the €13.7 billion?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes, that is the value of output.

I will ask Mr. Gleeson to say that again on the public record because that figure needs to be out there. That is quite a high proportion. It is certainly the majority. One must also consider transport, processing and the profit margin on sales.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

€8.182 billion is the figure.

The farmers are going to put it this way: the value of their output was approximately €8.2 billion and the profit made after the goods left the farm was €5.5 billion.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I do not know what profit was made.

Mr. Gleeson said that the value-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

What I am saying is that the value of exports-----

We are not talking about the costs but the value added. The price achieved for the €8.2 billion worth of farm output-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Of total output-----

The price achieved on the export market for that was €5.5 billion. There is more to that because we did not export-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That is not on the export market. That is €8.182 billion of total output at farm gate.

How much of that was exported?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Approximately 85% to 90%. Most of it was exported.

Out of that €8 billion or so, let us say €7 billion was exported. By the time it left the country, that €7 billion generated an extra €6 billion for somebody. Does Mr. Gleeson see where I am going?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I see exactly where the Chairman is going. What I will do is come back with-----

It is probably not fair-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I will get the economic unit to have a look at this and come back to the committee with some kind of a note. The second point of relevance in the context of the recent controversy over beef in particular is that part of the deal we did with farm bodies was to get somebody independent to look at the carcass of an animal to determine what proportion of the margin went to each participant in the supply chain. That is an exercise that is going to be done.

I am not getting into that debate. I am saying that these are macro or national figures based on the sectors in the industry, as summarised in the Department's annual report. I am just asking Mr. Gleeson to break down-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The figures here are correct. I just want to make sure that in the context of making any assumptions about them, we articulate it correctly.

Out of the €8.2 billion in output, approximately €7 billion worth was exported, which yielded-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

€13.7 billion.

There was almost 100% of an increase after the farmer was paid. That is interesting. That is all I will say. I am making this calculation on the basis of the figures supplied by the Department.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes, and the supply chain could include primary processors here, secondary processors overseas or here, retailers and in some instances it could also include food service companies. There could be a multitude of parties along the supply chain.

The Department probably has some breakdown based on the sector as well. I do not know.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I will come back to the committee on that. I am pretty sure we have that.

I ask Mr. Gleeson to come back to us with what he has.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It is probably in the report but we will do the work for the committee.

The more information the public has, the better its understanding of the industry. That is all I would say. I also suspect that in the context of the €9.7 billion that comes into Ireland in foodstuffs, the primary producers in some of the exporting countries got very little of final price that we paid for their produce. It cuts both ways but this committee has to look out for Irish citizens.

Grants for the organic sector dropped from €45 million in 2017 to €35 million. A drop of €10 million in grants to the organic sector is recorded on page 16 of the appropriation accounts.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

They are commitments so-----

No, these are payments. There is a note on the next page about commitments but these are payments, I presume. Apologies, they are commitments.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes. Whenever we make payments, the commitments drop. We would have made advance commitments through the programme.

Right. Has the funding that the Department is actually providing to the sector increased or decreased?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I think we reached the end of the organics programme last year but we reopened it temporarily. I can hand over to my colleague, Mr. Hayes.

He can send the information on to us. I do not need it now. I am not here just to extract figures on the hoof, if Mr. Gleeson will pardon the agricultural expression. He can send that on to us. I wish to go back to forestry now. I ask Mr. Gleeson to give a breakdown, in whatever range he can, for forestry. He referred to approximately 50:50, public to private. Obviously we know that Coillte is involved but who else is in the public sphere? Are there any other State bodies involved or is it 99% Coillte?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We own small bits and pieces as well but very little. We have some very small holdings.

Mr. Colm Hayes

The National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, would also have some.

I ask the Department to provide a breakdown of the forestry grants paid to each of the public bodies involved and a breakdown of the payments to the other landholders who have forestry, by range, in terms of under €5,000, between €5,000 and €10,000 and so on. That is the type of information people seek by way of parliamentary questions and-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

It will be a short list but we will give it to the committee.

We also want to know what were the largest payments. We are interested in what would be some of the highest payments, typically, in forestry. Is there a cap on the number of hectares that can be afforested in the private sector?

Mr. Colm Hayes

No, there is no upper limit. I would point out that we are prohibited under state aid rules from paying grants and premiums to public bodies.

So they do not get anything.

Mr. Colm Hayes

They do not get anything. Once upon a time, they would have but not under the current forestry programme.

Their forestry must be totally commercial. Is that correct?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

Apart from Exchequer funding, they proceed in the normal funding so-----

How does that get around state aid rules? Is there a grant from the Department?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

They would typically not be growing for commercial purposes anyway. Let us take the NPWS.

Let us take Coillte.

Mr. Colm Hayes

Coillte does not receive grant-in-aid funding from the Department or the State.

Therefore, its forests are strictly commercial.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy

It is trading on past-----

Mr. Colm Hayes

Coillte is a commercial semi-State body.

It is strictly commercial and does not get any subsidy. Therefore, the forestry payments are all for private planters. I ask for a breakdown of those figures. I just presumed that every entity in the forestry scheme was getting a payment but Mr. Hayes is saying that Coillte and the other public bodies are excluded.

Mr. Colm Hayes

Correct.

One learns something new every day.

There is one final topic I want to deal with, about which we received some additional information by way of a letter from Mr. Gleeson. I want to follow up on the dog business in much more detail. I am not referring to the greyhound industry. We had representatives from Bord na gCon before us who spoke about how many greyhounds had entered the industry, how many were still racing and so on. They spoke about their own record in that regard. I was concerned about double registration. The letter from the Department says that there is no double registration but I do not understand it.

I would see racing greyhounds as a small subset of the overall canine or dog business. There are probably a lot of greyhounds in the country that are not in the racing business. People have them for walking, for example. The Bord na gCon people are just a subset of the larger industry. How many dogs are in the country?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I do not have the answer to that.

Is there an answer?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I am not sure. There is a microchipping system for dogs rather than a traceability system. I cannot tell how many enter or leave the system, how many are exported, or anything like that. That is one of the difficulties we have in the greyhound sector. The committee will have heard from Bord na gCon about its plans to improve traceability. We will assist it with that.

My question is on a broader issue than that of the racing greyhounds; it is about the canine industry. It is possible that the animals we saw on that television programme were formerly involved in the greyhound racing industry, although they may not have been. I do not know. I am not sure. The point I am making is that many things are happening in the canine industry that are not connected to racing greyhounds. That is a subset. This is about animal welfare. People are as concerned about puppies, little terriers, or nice labradors being mistreated as about greyhounds being mistreated. We have concentrated on greyhounds because there is a State body involved in the area at which we and the public can have a go. The Irish Coursing Club, ICC, however, is a private organisation and gets no funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. In following this issue in recent meetings, I have been mystified as to why a private organisation is stitched into national legislation. It is a policy matter but, as Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, I would say that, if we are interested in animal welfare, it makes no sense that a private charity with no public accountability can be responsible for registration in the canine industry, of which the Irish Greyhound Board is only a subset. Who does the chipping? Is it the board or the Department?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

There are five bodies that can carry out the chipping. It is separate from the studbook. There are five microchipping bodies recognised by the Department.

Which bodies are they?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I do not have a list but I can get one for the committee.

Mr. Gleeson will send that to us.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I will, yes.

Who pays for that? The person-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The person getting the dog chipped.

Mr. Gleeson probably does not have an idea of the number of dogs that are not microchipped. He will understand that this is about-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Absolutely, but it is an impossible-----

There is a big lacuna here. We are concentrating on just one subset of animal welfare.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Answering that particular question is like proving a negative. The fact is that we do not have a traceability system for dogs. We have a very good traceability system for bovines because of an overwhelming public health and animal health imperative many years ago. That is the truth of it. We do not have as good a system for other animals.

At the level of the EU, does any other country have a system to ascertain its number of dogs? Is what we are doing normal or are we an outlier?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I cannot say definitively.

Will Mr. Gleeson send us a note on that?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I do not think we are unusual. With regard to the ICC, we have taken the policy decision to embrace sporting bodies in public policy and legislation. For example, the Irish Turf Club is referenced in legislation related to the horse and greyhound fund and the Irish Horse Board, which maintains the studbook for the Irish draught horse, is dealt with through Horse Sport Ireland. There is a legacy of the State embracing various sporting bodies. The relationship between the ICC and Bord na gCon is not entirely unique in that sense, although I accept what the Chairman is saying.

This is a learning process for the population. When people heard about the issues in respect of Bord na gCon and greyhounds, certain matters became very obvious. Those involved know all about it. As I keep saying, racing greyhounds comprise only a tiny subset of all the dogs out there. People are concerned about all dogs, not just one category. That is why we are looking to Mr. Gleeson's Department. What is it doing about animal welfare? It is a matter for his Department?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We are responsible for animal welfare on farms. Bord na gCon has a statutory responsibility for animal welfare among greyhounds.

That is a small subset. I am sure there is more-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

There is a lot of activity going on in respect of animal welfare. For example, we-----

There are probably more labradors, terriers and dogs of other breeds out there.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I cannot answer that question.

We do not know.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I do not know. The Department puts approximately €2.7 million into voluntary animal welfare bodies every year. We have a tracking system for the export of canines. People are supposed to report exports on our trade control and expert system, TRACES, which is the system for tracking exports of animal-based products and animals. The Chairman makes a point-----

Does Mr. Gleeson understand my concern?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Of course I do, yes.

There was a very narrow focus as a result of that particular programme, which did highlight great issues. I am just saying that the issue is much broader than that narrow area of focus. It is about all dogs.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I will make a point off the top of my head, which is always a bad idea in here. Dealing with traceability in a highly regulated sector is difficult enough. Dealing with a rigid set of traceability requirements in a sector that is completely unregulated would be even more so. I have a dog myself and she is microchipped but I am sure there are many private citizens out there whose dogs are not. I am not saying that is acceptable, but there is an issue of complexity.

We have a long way to go. We understand that. I presume Mr. Gleeson is able to get the number of dog licences issued by each local authority every year.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

That should be available, yes.

He might start with that, although it is only one little bit of the matrix. There has been a licensing system in place for quite some time. Thousands of dogs are put down by dog wardens every year.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes. It is a question of matching licences with dogs. It is a bit like our assets register. Something can be registered, but one has to check that it is there.

I know. I am making the point that if a dog warden comes across dogs that are being a nuisance, that are not microchipped and whose owner cannot be identified, a very high proportion of them will not be rehomed, to put it gently. Does anyone in the Department have a role in handling-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

We have an animal welfare division.

Will Mr. Gleeson put what he can together for us?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes. I can tell the Chairman what we do, I have a note here but it will not resolve his very detailed questions.

It might take a decade to resolve the issues about which I am asking. It is not a matter for today or tomorrow.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I appreciate that.

We are looking at years. I am just suggesting we assemble the basic information available, although we know it does not show the full picture. If we do not start assembling some information, we will never understand the extent of these particular problems. Mr. Gleeson will send us what he can. To move to my last issue, is the Department responsible for the control of horses?

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

Where does the Department come into it and for what are local authorities responsible? The local authorities will pass the buck to the Department and then-----

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

I will pass the buck again. Straying horses and control of horses is a matter for local authorities but we provide assistance for those issues through the Department's Vote. We run a number of urban horse projects and things like that.

We understand that.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

The Department provides funding but the administration-----

It is done through the local authorities.

Mr. Brendan Gleeson

Yes.

We understand that. Dogs are smaller animals and I have no concept of how many are out there. It is an issue that keeps coming up. Now may be the time to have a wider debate on all dogs, not just those that potentially make money on racetracks. Mr. Gleeson gets the gist of what I am asking for and will answer as best he can. We all know the information will be limited, but it will be a start. It is useful for such information to be out in the public arena. I think we are done at this stage. It is agreed by the committee that the clerk will seek any follow-up information and carry out any agreed actions arising from the meeting. There is no meeting next week because the Dáil is not sitting. The committee has provisionally arranged a special meeting to specifically deal with the issue of carbon taxes for the evening of Tuesday, 5 November. The ESRI has indicated that representatives will attend. The CSO has produced an excellent report on the collection of carbon taxes, their use, and their possible extent. We hope it will send representatives but that is not yet confirmed. Our next meeting after that will be on 7 November, when we will meet the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection with regard to its 2018 appropriation account and chapters 12,13 and 14 of the Comptroller and Auditor General's annual report. I thank everyone for their attendance.

The witness withdrew.
The committee adjourned at 1.28 p.m. until 9 a.m. on Thursday, 7 November 2019.