asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (a) the number of applications received before 18th April, 1969 for the beef incentive bonus scheme, (b) if he will consider the further extension of the date for applications as some farmers who did not apply before closing date, now wish to join the scheme and (c) if there is not a further extension of closing date, when farmers may next apply.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Beef Bonus Scheme.
Up to 18th April, 1969, the number of applications received under the Beef Cattle Incentive Scheme was 34,500.
The closing date for applications in order to participate in the June inspections had already been extended from 31st March to 18th April to facilitate farmers who had omitted to apply in time. I also arranged that postal applications received for some days after 18th April be accepted. I regret that I cannot extend the closing date further.
Farmers wishing to have a first inspection of their herds under the scheme next autumn can now apply. An announcement as to the closing date for the receipt of applications for the autumn inspections will be made later.
(Cavan): Is the Minister aware that quite a few farmers wish to apply for the June inspections and would it seriously upset his arrangments or the arrangements of his Department if he were to give one short and final extension of the time in order to allow these people to apply—say a week or ten days?
As the House is well aware, the situation here is that the first application closing date was 31st March.
(Cavan): I know.
The grant at that stage was £8 per cow and calf unit under the scheme. It was then decided by the Government that this grant should be increased by 50 per cent, that is, from £8 to £12 and because of this, and for this reason solely, people who might not have been attracted by the £8 grant would, perhaps, have been attracted by the higher grant and it was decided accordingly to extend the closing date for first applications. This we did up to 18th April. Subsequent to the 18th April there were some officers throughout the country who had difficulties with their consciences about accepting those applications that had come in by post and which were posted on Friday and Saturday and did not arrive until the day afterwards. All these cases were solved by indicating that they could be accepted if they were suitable and qualified. To propose a further extension at this stage would be rather upsetting in so far as the administration of the scheme requires that the numbers in all cases should be clearly identified, that staff would be deployed for this job and we will have to take staff from many other endeavours for a very short period in order to have a quick run of inspections so that they will not be spread out too long in the summer. An extension at this stage would be upsetting to that situation.
May I say, in addition, that any farmer who is to qualify under this scheme must not have supplied milk for sale since 1st April last. There may be some people now thinking about applying who in the meantime have been supplying milk and, even if their applications were taken up, they would not be qualified for grants in this first year of operation. Finally, even if they are people who have not been supplying milk, they have had two opportunities which were well publicised and they did not take them and they are now open to participate as from next September-October. They do not really miss a year; they miss the first inspection and can come in on the second inspection if they apply now and come to be considered suitable at a later date but not on the first run.
Can you qualify at any time?
An applicant can qualify between inspections from year to year as long as the scheme lasts.
(Cavan): Would the Minister be prepared to have examined on its merits every case that could be considered within the next week?
No; I could not give the Deputy that undertaking.
(Cavan): There are a number of people—not very many—who wish to apply and who for one reason or another failed to apply.
I have some information on this. What the circumstances of such cases are or what their merits are in the long run or as to their being qualified on the milk supply basis, I do not yet know but probably will know in the next day or so, having had a good look at them as they filter in from inquiries made throughout the country. I do not know that at this stage.
(Cavan): Does that mean that the Minister might consider the possibility of an extension?
No. I am a curious animal. I like to know what is going on, the where, the why and by whom.
You said it yourself.
There are two meanings to the word "curious".