Written Answers. - Disadvantaged Areas.

Ivan Yates

Ceist:

219 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will outline the minimum base area that is acceptable for inclusion in the disadvantaged areas appeal process.

Ivan Yates

Ceist:

220 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will set out the timetable for decisions pertaining to the extension of the disadvantaged areas; and if he will make a statement on when final decisions will be made in this regard.

Ivan Yates

Ceist:

221 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if farmers and farming groups who have made submissions for the disadvantaged areas appeal process will have access to the results of the survey in their areas or at any stage before a final decision is made; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Ivan Yates

Ceist:

222 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if, after the disadvantaged area appeal process, there will still be farms divided between areas that are inside and outside the disadvantaged areas categories; whether such anomalies will be rectified as part of this current process; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Ivan Yates

Ceist:

223 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if any area, which is appealed under the disadvantaged areas appeals procedure, will be included in the more severely disadvantaged area, as a result of this current procedure, if it satisfies the criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 219 to 223, inclusive, together.

The minimum base area acceptable for inclusion in the disadvantaged areas appeal process is a townland.

Any townland or DED in a non-disadvantaged area must first be admitted by the EC to the Community list of Less Favoured Areas and given disadvantaged areas status before re-classification from less to more severely handicapped status can be considered.

It is not possible to rectify anomalies where individual farms are divided between townlands that are inside and outside the disadvantaged categories. The problem of farms which straddle the boundaries has existed since the start of the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme in 1975 and the Department has since then operated a system whereby farmers with split holdings are paid headage on an apportioned basis.

Because of the complexity of the task involved in the analysis being carried out by the Panel and by the EC Commission it is not possible to set out a time-table for decisions pertaining to the extension of the disadvantaged areas. However, I can confirm that the processing on computer of all the survey data is expected to be completed in the Autumn and at that stage the Appeals Panel will commence its examination of the survey results and make recommendations to the Department as to the areas to be included in a formal submission to the EC Commission. In this regard, it is a matter for the Panel to decide whether further consultations with local farming groups are required before the recommendations to the Department are finalised. It will be appreciated that, in accordance with Protocol and established practice the contents of a formal submission to the EC by the Government of Ireland must remain confidential and information therein on detailed survey results cannot be released until a decision on new areas to be proposed for lessfavoured or disadvantaged status is made by the Commission.