I welcome Members to this meeting. I also welcome the Minister and the Ministers of State for Agriculture, Food and Forestry and their staff. Item 1 is the approval of the minutes of 5 May.
Vote 31 — Agriculture and Food.
I move that they be approved.
I second the motion.
With regard to the minutes of the previous meeting, there was a discussion on the terms of reference of the Committee during which a number of questions were raised. What is the position regarding those matters?
Those matters were brought to the attention of the Government Whip and I hope that some action will be taken as a result. Any other matters aside from the accuracy of the minutes can be taken up with the Whips office through the Deputy's party Whip. The minutes can be rectified if they are inaccurate.
Will you not allow discussion on matters arising out of the minutes?
We are concerned with the accuracy of the minutes. If you believe there is an omission, the minutes can be rectified accordingly.
The minutes of the previous meeting do not give a clear indication of the discussion about the terms of reference when satisfactory answers were not forthcoming. The question of conveners, the ability of the Committee to discuss or alter matters in the Estimates of the various Departments, what exactly the Committee hopes to achieve and its modus operandi were raised.
This is a new Committee and it is important that we establish the rights of the Committee and its purpose. The questions raised at the last meeting are not referred to in detail in this brief minute. My colleague and I thought we would have an opportunity to raise this as a matter arising out of the minutes. If you, Chairman, rule that we cannot raise matters arising out of the minutes, I consider that to be a retrograde step and a bad start for the Committee.
That would require a change in the Standing Orders of the House because we are guided by those Standing Orders. If you wish to suggest changes, you could do so through the usual channels. With regard to the appointment of the convener, I quote from a statement by Deputy Noel Dempsey, Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach:
I wish to inform you that Mr. Liam Lawlor has been appointed Government Convener to the Enterprise and Economic Strategy committee.
What is the function of the convener? It has not been explained to this Committee. You have announced the appointment of a Deputy to a position whose role and responsibilities have not been explained. I would expect such an explanation at this meeting. It seems that this is a superfluous position. I would also like to know if, as is rumoured, the conveners appointed to these committees will receive some remuneration. It is an important matter that should be explained.
I am not in a position to respond to rumours. I call on Deputy Lawlor to explain his role as a convener to this Committee.
During, the last meeting, one of the issues raised by Deputy Molloy and other Deputies was the schedule for meetings of the Committee. At the conclusion of this meeting, when the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry and his Ministers of State have left, I suggest that we agree the proposed schedule to deal with the submissions on Estimates for the Department of the Marine, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transport and Communications, the Department of Tourism and Trade and the Department of Enterprise and Employment. I have been liaising with the appropriate Ministers to arrange their schedules in order to take the Votes on the relevant days. Obviously, there is background work to be done in preparation for these meetings. The title "convenor" explains itself: the convenor does what is necessary to convene the Members and ensure that the Committee works effectively.
A comprehensive order of the House that specified the terms of reference was circulated. Matters arose at the last meeting regarding privilege; for example, if paper work would be subject to privilege. That applies to the House as well as to committees and it is not appropriate that we endeavour to resolve it. Those matters should be addressed by the Whips of the parties.
Can we agree the programme for today? It is up to the Committee to decide if this timetable is acceptable.
The schedule for Tuesday is before the Members. On Tuesday, 21 May, the Committee will discuss the Estimates for the Department of the Marine; on Tuesday, 1 June it will discuss those of the Department of Energy, Transport and Communications; Tourism and Trade will be discussed on Friday, 4 June and Enterprise and Employment on Tuesday, 8 June. These are the dates on which Ministers will be available to come before the Committee and present their Estimates.
At the last meeting of the Committee it was requested that we commence business on Friday at 9 a.m. However there is a difficulty with the availability of facilities at this time. I will discuss the matter with the Superintendent of the Houses. It may be necessary on Friday mornings to start slightly later than we had hoped. No definite time has yet been arranged. The Committee requested that we sit at this time on Tuesdays and as early as is practical on Fridays and I will endeavour to do that.
Sorry, Chairman, could we have those dates again, they would be helpful. Have the dates you just read out been circulated?
We will circulate all the dates. On Friday, 21 May we will debate the Estimate for the Department of the Marine and on Tuesday, 1 June we will debate the Estimate of the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, though we may not finish debating the whole Estimate that day. On Friday, 4 June and on Tuesday, 8 June, we will debate the Estimates for the Department of Tourism and Trade and the Department of Enterprise and Employment respectively.
Is that a 9 o'clock start or a 9.30 start?
The time of 9 a.m. has not yet been agreed with the House but I am endeavouring to reach agreement on it. The starting time depends on staffing arrangements.
May we now make the arrangements for today's meeting? It has been suggested that from 4.30 to 4.45 we will have an opening statement from the Minister. We will have to extend his time now by 15 minutes. From 4.45 to 5 o'clock we will have an opening statement from Fine Gael, from 5 o'clock to 5.15 we will have an opening statement from the Progressive Democrats, from 5.15 to 5.30 an opening statement from the technical group and from 5.30 until 7.20 we will have a general question and answer session focusing on Votes and subheads previously agreed by convenors subject to that being timetable. There is no previously agreed timetable so we will have to leave it open to the floor. From 7.20 to 7.30 we will allow the Minister to respond. Is that agreed?
Chairman, you intend to put all those times back by 15 minutes?
Yes, Is that agreed? Agreed.
Thank you, Chairman. I am glad we have agreement on the effective running of this Committee and I hope that all the committees will function properly. Those of us who appreciate the cut and thrust of parliamentary dialogue can only welcome this increased accessability and a more thorough examination of departmental Estimates. This Government through developments such as this, is bringing a new level of accountability into Dáil procedures and my colleagues and I are looking forward to helping to make it function effectively.
My colleagues, Deputy O'Shea and Deputy Hyland, and I look forward to dealing in detail with your questions later on and if there are any particular details sought by Deputies that we do not have we will be glad to communicate them to the Deputies as quickly as possible.
The farm sector had a very good year in 1992, when aggregate farm income increased by 18.5 per cent. Not unusually, this income increase was not evenly shared across farming sectors. The sheep, pigmeat and potato sectors all had difficulties in 1992. Indeed, I am glad to say that I have made provision in the Estimates to address the particular difficulties of the potato sector and action was taken at Community level — under pressure from Ireland — to deal with the problems of all three sectors. The dairy sector had a particulrly good year.
In the early months of 1993 prices for a number of the major farm products have been above what many people expected. In particular, prices of milk, beef and sheep have been buoyant, helped to a significant degree by the devaluation of the pound — and the subsequent devaluation of the green £— early in the year. Winter fatteners have had one of their best ever years as a result of the spring slaughter premium and the accompanying increase in export refunds on live animals. This buoyant price situation for our major products provides a platform for a further increase in farm income in 1993 over the 1992 level.
In so far as the food sector generally is concerned, the most significant development has been the recent report of the food industry group. This is the culmination of almost a year's effort by the foremost practitioners in the Irish food industry. Undoubtedly it is the most comprehensive review of the Irish food industry ever undertaken. More importantly, it is a blueprint for the development of that vitally important industry between now and the end of the decade. Given that its establishment was agreed with the Moriarity Task Force on the implementation of the Culliton report, its recommendations are timely. It is my intention now to seek Government approval for the implementation of the main thrust of the recommendations in the context of implementing Culliton. This will mean not just the establishment of a new Food Export Promotions Board without delay — although this is, or course, important — but responding to the whole range of the group's recommendations. Perhaps the most immediate task wil be the drawing up with adequate support from the new Structural Funds of a single operational programme for the food industry. This will provide, in a coherent programme, assistance towards the industry's needs in regard to investment aid, market production, training and research and development.
At EC level, 1993 will be especially significant as the first year of the Common Agricultural Policy reform arrangements. As everyone realises, Common Agricultural Policy reform represents a substantial shift in policy. In particular, it means a move towards the market playing a larger role for farmers and processors and it means more direct income support for farmers.
It was obvious that such a shift would not be without its difficulties and teething troubles. I am conscious that many farmers are finding the new system involving the submission of area aid application forms and maps difficult. However, I believe that we must all — farmers and the Administration — overcome these difficulties.
We will also learn from the difficulties. I have discussed the operation of the new system with my colleagues at the EC Agriculture Council. Other countries are also having their own difficulties and there is a real determination to make the reformed Common Agricultural Policy more "user friendly" to farmers, consistent with having adequate guarantees about the spending of public funds. Based on member state experiences there will be continuing discussions in EC fora on genuine administrative difficulties requiring remedies.
At international level, the GATT negotiations have not made the degree of progress which some expected late last year. I have to reiterate again that I have considerable difficulty with aspects of Mr. Dunkel's Draft Final Act and with the EC/US Blair House Agreement. I am continuing to press for improvements, particularly in regard to the proposed export arrangements, which would remove our justifiable fears that the deal would seriously damage our agriculture and food industry and, indeed, the whole economy.
I also have to recognise that there will be, over the medium term, a move towards freer trade in agriculture and food products. So we have to prepare for this by increasing the competitiveness of our industry.
There are the realities at domestic, EC and international levels and in relation to the food industry which influenced the decisions which I and my Department made in relation to the Estimates.
There are a number of points that I should mention at this stage in regard to the Estimates, details of which have already been circulated to the Committee. As most Deputies are aware, the Vote amounts represent only a small percentage of the expenditure handled by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. It does not for example, include FEOGA guarantee expenditure in Ireland — which is expenditure funded fully by the EC budget, on market support measures, such as export refunds and intervention purchases.
Such expenditure in Ireland last year amounted to almost £1,100 million. During the same year my Department spent over £600 million purchasing beef, butter and barley into intervention as a result of which the Department's foreign borrowings, as intervention agency for the EC in Ireland, at the end of December 1992 amounted to some £625 million.
Expenditure incurred by the Department in purchases of intervention commodities are met from funds borrowed by the Department. The borrowing costs and the technical costs of storage, freezing, handling, transport, etc, is initially met by my Department subject to subsequent part recoupment by the EC budget.
Intervention stocks of dairy products decreased significantly in 1992 due to a combination of factors, notably reduced production of butter, a buoyant market for skimmed milk powder and increased disposal opportunities through the implementation of sales measures by the EC.
Beef intervention stocks remain high, reflecting the heavy reliance of the beef sector on intervention as a market support. This is a consequence of difficulties in international markets. Every effort is being made to remove obstacles to Irish beef exports and generate sales outlets. This week, for the first time since they started using the tender system in September 1989, Irish companies are not offering any beef for intervention.
Cereal stocks, including barley, have continued to rise throughout the Community. It is a matter for the EC Commission to determine sales disposal programmes for products and intervention.
Because of the large amounts of money needed to fund the Common Agricultural Policy my Department is authorised, subject to the consent and guarantee of the Minister for Finance, to borrow to fund the system. At the time of the 10 per cent devaluation of the IR£ the Intervention Agency had outstanding borrowings of £484 million in various foreign currencies. Foreign exchange losses of between £45 million and £50 million will, therefore, arise in respect of these borrowings. Some £25 million of these losses have been provided for in the 1993 budget under subhead M4. The balance will have to be provided either by a Supplementary Estimate in 1993 or in the 1994 Estimates.
The first set of subheads are those for the administrative budget section subheads. As Deputies are aware, the administrative budget system applies in my Department, as in other Departments. The Administrative Budget Agreement, 1991, with the Minister for Finance set the basic allocation for administration and running costs for each of the three years covered by the agreement and required real reductions in running costs.
I am pleased that an additional £4.4 million has been made available in the 1993 budget. This should help implement the changes arising from the Common Agricultural Policy reform and the Single Market. It will also allow us continue to implement information technology and the management and control provisions of EC and domestic schemes.
My Department was not as advanced as other Departments in its information technology during the 1980s. However, progress in this area has been made in the past couple of years and I am committed to ensuring this progress will be accelerated. Otherwise it will simply not be possible to meet the significant demands of the new Common Agricultural Policy. As I said at the outset, the reformed Common Agricultural Policy involves a shift towards more direct payments to farmers. So effective information technology which will enable these payments to be made in as timely and accurate a way as possible is of critical importance to the whole farming community. At the same time, there will be an improvement in my Department's ability to comply with its regulatory obligations and in its accountability to the Dáil and to the EC Commission.
Effective information technology is also vital to the national effort for animal disease eradication. Under subhead C.2. a sum of £43.5 million is included to cover the running costs of the bovine TB and brucellosis eradication schemes. The current running costs of the schemes are shared by the Exchequer and the farming community im the ratio of 1:2. The conribution by the farming community is provided through the collection of disease levies. Because of the current state of the market it has been possible to adjust reactor compensation following discussions with the farming organisations. Together with slight reduction in the amount of testing originally planned for this year's programme, this has allowed us reduce bovine disease levies by about 7 per cent. The Oireachtas has approved the appropriate regulations to tke effect from 1 May 1993.
The securing of EC funding for the bovine TB programme will provide amplified resources needed for a significant initiative to press for a reduction in the level of the disease, including the expansion of the vital research needed to bring essential new technology on stream. I am continuing to maintain a vigorous case for this funding. I believe we can achieve success in our efforts to the additional resources put into the EC veterinary fund. Meanwhile, a full round of testing on the national herd has commenced.
Subhead M.3. is concerned with aids to farmers in certain less favoured areas. There is a drop in the provision for headage payments from £118 million in 1992 to £85 million in 1993. This drop has to be seen in the context of a number of special factors in 1992 which significantly increased the payments to farmers over and above what was envisaged. The major factor was the decision to pay in 1992 £20 million which could normally have been paid in 1993.
This decision was welcomed by Deputies and by the farming organisations at the time. It was clearly understood by all that payment of this £20 million would mean that the 1993 provision would be reduced by an equivalent amount. Had the £20 million been paid in 1993 instead of 1992, then the relevant figures for headage would have been £98 million in 1992 and £105 million in 1993, which increase reflects the increase in numbers of animals eligible for headage.
At part of Common Agricultural Policy reform, three accompanying measures, part funded by the FEOGA Guarantee Section of the EC budget, are being introduced in member states. The costs of establishing the agri-environment scheme and the early retirement from farming scheme —£1,000,000 in each case — are being provided for in this year's Estimate. I recently outlined the proposals which have been made to the EC Commission in relation to the retirement scheme.
In so far as forestry is concerned, the proposed allocation for 1993 clearly indicates in a tangible way the Government's commitment to the development of this sector. Forestry is considered by the Government to be a key development sector in the economy from which new, sustainable jobs can be created. Moreover, an indigenous industry such as forestry can prove greatly beneficial to remote rural communities where opportunities for wealth-creation are otherwise restricted.
The principal subhead in the Forestry Vote is subhead C. which provides for the payment of attractive grants for new forest plantations, premium payments while the plantations are growing, and other grants for a variety of projects aimed at developing a vibrant Irish forest industry. The 1993 provision under subhead C. is nearly £5 million greater than 1992 expenditure, which will permit an expanded planting programme for the private sector in 1993. In this regard, farmers will benefit most, because they plant over 70 per cent of private sector plantations. For 1993, I am providing for the establishment of over 12,000 hectares, over 2,500 hectares greater than last year's outturn. This is an ambitious target but I believe it can be achieved.
There is also a significant increase in funding for forest research activities in 1993. That increase of over 50 per cent will enable the Council of Forest Research and development — COFORD as it has come to be termed — to carry out its important work of improving the linkage between research institutions and industry and facilitating technology transfer. With so much effort and resources now being committed to the forest sector it is vital research activity does not lag behind. I am determined to ensure this does not happen.
I am delighted the Committee has got down to work. I had feared last Wednesday that wrangling within and between the two Government parties was going to go on interminably and it would never get going. I am sure the Chairman is as happy about that as I am. I thank the Minister for the briefing material which he circulated to the Select Committee on Enterprise and Econmomic Strategy in advance. It is very useful. I hope other Ministers will follow this example in their approach to this Committee. Information of this kind is always a help to our work.
The Agriculture and Food Estimate for 1993 and the Minister's remarks present little evidence of what I can only call the most appalling bureaucratic nightmare which now faces farmers. The only direct evidence of this is the increase of £2.8 million for salaries, wages and allowances which, we are told, will cover the recruitment during 1993 of additional staff to operate the new EC area and headage payments and to implement the integrated controls required by the European Community. That is only the tip of the iceberg. From now on, it will be virtually impossible to do anything on an Irish farm without first telling a bureaucrat or getting permission to do it. We will be hedged about with quotas, restrictions, limitations and stocking densities.
This is being done in the name of a botched Common Agricultural Policy reform programme, the main purpose of which is to be nice to the Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders and Australians. Their response is to pirate markets which European Community farmers can no longer supply because of the savage reductions in export refunds. That seems to me to be a totally unbalanced Common Agricultural Policy reform. The EC Ministers who conspired in that reform, including our Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, should hang their heads in shame at what they have visited upon us. They are directly responsible for putting European farmers and Irish farmers, in particular, into the most savage and constricting strait-jacket they have ever known. This will get worse. Irish farmers will be squeezed further and there will be more hedging about with restrictions.
The Minister should feel a sense of shame. This shame should be compounded by the inept way in which this new integrated administration and control system has been brought about. The Minister has soft-pedalled in his remarks on this. We need to look at the terrible extent of the problem. The European Community Ministers tamely designed restrictions on production which are needed to implement this appalling MacSharry cave-in on the Common Agricultural Policy reform. Only afterwards did they consider what controls were necessary to ensure that those limitations worked and what kind of bureaucracy needed to be visited on an already depressed farming sector in order to make these nonsensical controls work.
We now see the result. Farmers throughout the country are in a state of distraction trying to fill in these forms and get maps. The Ordnance Survey Office and the Land Registry Office are inundated with applications for maps. County Councils are being called on to produce maps. Three times in the last week the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry had to announce changes in the rules and deadlines for the production of these forms and maps. Commissioner Steichen, who seems to live on another planet, can only warn us that there are penalties for late returns and inaccuracies in these forms. Teagasc offices throughout the country, who should be busy with their own particular job, are working overtime in order to help farmers fill in forms. Farmers are travelling to information meetings to get the latest advice about these forms.
To cap it all, I have been informed that the requirement that we have to estimate the area of rock outcrops on farms was suggested by an Irish official. I do not know where this madness comes from. We now have a system in operation of which Joseph Stalin or Nikita Krushchev in their best days would have been proud.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry has admitted that this chaos is also happening in other member states of the European Community. He speaks about difficulties being experienced elsewhere: that is a euphemism for the fact that it is being repeated throughout the country. This chaos, confusion and annoyance is happening in the UK, France and Germany. God alone knows what is happening in Italy; they do not seem to pay great attention to these matters. However, this chaos is happening throughout the European Community because this daft reform requires a person to say what he will do on a particular day on his farm before he can actually go ahead and do it.
Meanwhile, there are problems in other parts of the administration which are not getting the attention they require. Rules about overtime are creating major difficulties with inspection at meat plants. The provision for overtime and Sunday duty this year, according to the Estimate before us, is £2 million. This compares with almost £5 million for last year. I have been told of one case where a meat processor has reorganised his operations so that he is in business from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., five days a week. He is getting the type of inspection which is required for that. However, he still has a problem ensuring the required supervision for the loading and sealing of trucks on Saturdays. This is because the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry is now attempting to apply arbitrary rules, without any regard to the effect they will have on operations at meat factories.
This is someting which has been well illustrated at the beef tribunal in another place. Given what we have heard at the beef tribunal, the Minister should do everything possible to ensure proper supervision and inspection of operations at factories, rather than creating new difficulties with the arbitrary new restrictions.
As I have already said, Teagasc officers have responded magnificently — and I use the word advisedly — to the demands created by this nonsensical new integrated administration and control system. Yet we find that even the most simple requirements of the staff in Teagasc are not being met. Teagasc unions have been to the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court with three simple requests. They have asked for allowances for heads of station and heads of service. They also want provisions made for promotions in an organisation where promotion has been frozen since it was set-up. Both the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court have agreed that these requests are reasonable.
The Government's first response was to refuse. When that became unsustainable, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, decreed that the Teagasc staff could have what they wanted, but that it must be funded within the provision made in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress for this year. This seemed reasonable until the Minister for Finance revealed that there was no extra money in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress for that purpose this year. In other words, the Teagasc staff can have what they requested, provided it is financed out of fresh air. The Government’s approach to this issue looks like a calculated insult to Teagasc staff. It is no way to treat them especially at a time when the Government’s new regulations are putting them under extra pressure.
I mentioned the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry. I see in the Estimate that a token provision of £1 million is made for this year. The Minister had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he made this provision. If we look back over the last two years, we discover that the total expenditure to date on Department of Agriculture Vote has been £4.586 million. Could the Minister give an indication of the amount yet to be allocated from the Agriculture Estimate, without speaking of any other Estimate this year or next year?
In spite of the fact that the Minister is unable to properly administer the operations under his conrol, he is happy to burden the people and the farming sector, in particular, with new procedures which must be administered and controlled. If the administration of the Department is anything to go by the future for farmers under this new administration system is very bleak.
I find no provision in the Estimate for office rental. Perhaps this is because the buildings used by the Department are owned by the State. However, that does not seem to be the case with the proposed new premises in Portlaoise to be occupied by those administering the livestock schemes under the new centralisation proposals. The provision for computer and data preparation equipment, including bureau services, is reduced from £2.7 million for 1992 to £1.738 million for 1993. Does the 1993 provision include any sum for equipment for the new office in Portlaoise? Will this proposed move produce benefits in terms of the administration of these livestock schemes or is there any provision for the networking of the Department's local offices with the proposed centralised office in Portlaoise? Is this new office in Portlaoise a feather in the cap of the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Hyland, or the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen? It is not a feather in the cap of Deputy Connolly because he has been told that he will not have his way in this matter and Deputy Gallagher (Laoighis-Offaly) has not been involved in this at all.
Farmers are worried that this centralisation move will mean that it will be more difficult for them to obtain information from their local office, about their entitlements under the livestock premium schemes. This proposal is perhaps the first manifestation of a new policy of decentralised centralisation on the part of the Government. I ask the Minister if the administration of these schemes could be improved without the need to move staff around. This could be done by proper networking of the local Department offices' headquarters.
There is a small increase of £88,000 in the grant-in-aid for general expenses to An Bord Glas. Provision for trade exhibitions and promotions is increased this year by £24,000. The grant-in-aid for general expenses to CBF is reduced by £198,000. I note from the Vote for the Marine, because it is relevant to what I have to say, that the grant-in-aid to BIM for administration and current development is to be reduced by £170,000 this year.
It appears that it is being proposed that those three bodies, An Bord Glas, CBF and BIM be put together and constituted into a subsidiary company of An Bord Tráchtála. This is an unwise proposal. Each of these three bodies has built up a network of contacts and a body of expertise which should be exploited in the interests of expanding our exports of food products.
The Deputy has two minutes left.
The Chairman is generous. I think he is foreshortening me a little but if so, he would be the first man to do so. The constitution of those three bodies into a subsidiary company of An Bord Tráchtála will dilute the effort going into export marketing and the promotion of our food products. I hope the Minister will not allow the cutting edge of our export promotion effort in relation to food to be blunted in that way.
I am glad the Minister explained the change in the allocation in subhead M.3 between last year and this year. I would like the Minister to confirm that there is no question of interfering with headage grants in the nonsensical way proposed by the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Fitzgerald. Apparently she wanted to hijack the funds for headage payments for other purposes, in total and culpable ignorance of the purpose and the source of these payments. As my mother's people in Mayo would say, "May the Lord preserve us from cross cows, deep bogholes and interfering Labour Ministers of State".
I would like the Minister to confirm that no attempt will be made to hijack funds for headage payments under subhead M3. The Minister avoided this issue in the Dáil and I would like to give him the opportunity to tell us that it is "hands off" headage payments.
The scheme for early retirement from farming is a token scheme, although a provision of £1 million has been allocated to this scheme. The Minister must clarify the anouncement he made last week, which was a masterpiece of opacity. Nobody understands the content of this announcement and we may find that the scheme will be worthwhile in terms of its operation. If this is the case, we will have missed a great opportunity. Unless the Minister receives some leeway, a scheme designed for large farms in the Paris basin, will not operate effectively in this country and we will have missed a valuable opportunity to improve the operation of farming here.
I ask the Deputy to bear with an interfering Labour Chairman. The Deputy has exceeded his time.
I find, Chairman, there is a tendency for socialism to short-change agriculture.
The Minister's statement is an extraordinary admission of losses of between £45 million and 50 million, incurred as a result of devaluation. A under-provision has been made in the budget for that amount and we will be faced with a Supplementary Estimate. This would indicate that the budget figures were put together on a false premise.
The full brunt of the changed era in terms of EC agricultural policy and Common Agricultural Policy reform is now being experienced at first hand by thousands of farmers as they grapple with the intricacies of completing the EC area aid forms, which underline all of Brussels' zeal and commitment to bureaucratic red tape. This form-filling exercise and the requirements that land, head-lands, unused patches of land, areas under trees or shrubs, rock outcrops, etc. be measured, recorded and deducted from the overall arable acreage, is a nightmare for many farmers.
This complex and comprehensive declaration of land uses which has to be completed by tillage farmers and the bulk of livestock farmers, who are seeking to qualify for various headage and other livestock grants, is so complicated that at face value it is hard to take the matter seriously. However, it is a serious matter and it will impact greatly on the income of individual farmers. That is why, for all its complexities, they have to endure this current bureaucratic maze and seek to complete the forms as best they can by the deadline of 14 May 1993. The situation is complicated by the shortage of Ordnance Survey maps. Although farmers must meet this deadline of submitting their applications, they are allowed some leeway on the submission of accompanying maps.
One has mixed feelings about this bizarre business. While it is bureaucracy gone mad, the income of over 30,000 farmers depends on meeting Friday's deadline. In that respect, the decision announced yesterday by the Department of Agriculture to allow its local offices accept forms is a welcome move. It is difficult to understand why the local Department of Agriculture offices cannot remain open throughout Saturday, which is the EC's own deadline date. It would give farmers, many of whom are genuinely bamboozled by the requirements of this latest bureaucratic imposition, an additional 24 hours to complete the task.
One further depressing feature of this slide-rule and pocket calculator approach to agriculture is that the present scheme relates directly to the proposal for land set aside by the EC. We are now stuck, it appears, with this option, but there is something deeply and morally reprehensible about the deliberate setting aside of good land and the payment by Brussels to farmers only on condition that they leave it idle. To pay some of the most efficient farmers in the world, both here in Ireland and in other parts of the Community to force them to keep land idle while there are millions of people starving elsewhere, represents a perverse and immoral economic scenario by any standards. The EC and other global trading powers must do better than this.
The necessity for Irish agriculture to become market driven also highlights relevent key considerations. These are the necessity to allocate greater financial resources on the part of the State to agricultural research to help farmers and the food processing sector to bridge that producer-to-customer marketing gap, which is extremely expensive and highly competitive when we bear in mind the efforts of other primary agricultural producers within the EC like France, Denmark and Holland.
The second issue arising in this context is the necessity to co-orIdinate and focus our food marketing efforts to make them more efficient and capable of making a greater impact on the domestic and foreign market places. State spending in this country on food research and development amounts to a mere £5 million and this is a total under-investment in such a vital sphere. Total investment, taking public and private money together, in food research is about £15 million. That is only about a quarter of the level of investment of other EC countries with whom we compete directly for Community and wider markets. I would like to see the Minister indicate a Government commitment to greatly expand the level of investment in food research and to seek to increase this dramatically over the next few years.
A greater and more effective research capability must also relate to the farmer as the primary producer and not merely to the food processing sector. It is essential, in an era of quota restrictions, that farmers adopt the most efficient production methods possible and agriculture research has a vital role to play here.
The focus on improving the marketing effort of the Irish food sector, embodied in the recent report from the committee headed by the Secretary of the Department, Mr. Michael Dowling, recommending the establishment of a single food marketing body, is to be widely welcomed. It is essential that a small country like ours with limited resources should have a co-ordinated and unified marketing approach for our various food products. The key issue for the Government is to decide who should have ministerial responsibility for the food marketing board and how it can be dovetailed with the wider promotional marketing of Irish industry and overseas markets. I am aware that the majority of the Dowling Committee recommend that the new food authority should remain under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture — no doubt a welcome and not unexpected recommendation on the part of the Minister and some of the primary producer groups represented on that committee — but I believe we should think long and hard before taking this obvious option. There is great merit attaching to the minority recommendation of the supermarket boss, Senator Fergal Quinn, who suggested that responsibility for marketing food should be taken from the Department of Agriculture lest the concerns of the farmers and primary producers would continue to predominate.
I realise, in the context of last week's announcement in relation to the part implementation of the Culliton recommendations, that the Government have yet to make a decision on this matter. On balance, I would recommend, on behalf of my party, that responsibility for food marketing should be integrated under the auspices of the Department of Enterprise and Employment with the wider function of promoting Irish exports under all sectors. This would provide a single unified focus for marketing and would also require that the quango Department called "Trade" and the hiving off to it of responsibility for An Bord Tráchtála should also be considered by the Government.
There is little doubt that over the years the concerns of the Department of Agriculture, so far as food has been an issue, has been to bow to the demands of the farmer as the primary producer and to take only secondary account of the impact that issues like the prices of farm produce, for instance, can have on the capacity of Irish food manufacturers to trade on a competitive basis with international food companies, not only for foreign markets, but for their place on the supermarket shelves of Ireland.
In regard to subhead A1 it has to be a matter of concern, notwithstanding the fact that extra staff are required to implement new EC schemes, the overall staff level within the Department should increase over the past year by 128 to 3,951. Bearing in mind the large expense undertaken by the Government in recent years to reduce Civil Service numbers, it is regrettable that, in the case of this Department, they are on the increase again. The Minister must explain why it was not possible to cover any additional duties that might arise within the Department through a reorganisation of existing staff levels.
Under subhead A.3. there is reference to providing equipment for inspection services in the meat export plants. This raises the wider question of the serious deficiencies revealed in the operation of the meat factory inspectorate in the course of the Beef Tribunal at Dublin Castle. Would the Minister tell this Committee what measures if any, have been taken within his Department to tackle these deficiencies and to ensure that the inspectorate services operated on his behalf in these meat factories are carried out to the highest standards and without any deviation from what is appropriate and necessary to uphold the reputation of the Irish meat processing sector?
Subhead C.2. which deals with the Bovine TB and Brucellosis Eradication Schemes, underlines again the enormous industry which disease eradication has become in this country. There is provision for over £43 million for this apparently never ending programme to eliminate these two serious diseases in our cattle herd. I again urge the Minister to consider the proposals made by my party that we need fundamental changes in how this scheme is operated and to consider the possibility of effectively privatising this scheme by making it an exclusively farmer-vet relationship, with his Department acting as the regulatory or monitoring agency and to introduce blood tests instead of the present method of testing which has been found wanting. Only when direct responsibility is given to the farmers and their veterinary practitioners for the disease status of their herds will we ever really come to grips with the eradication of these diseases.
While the allocation under subhead D.5. is obviously very small, it is disappointing to note a reduction of £5,000 in the grant to aid organic farmers in research and development. In an era of increasing health consciousness on the part of the consumer and an understandable aversion to, and a suspicion of, pesticides, growth promoters and other additives in the food chain, the development of organic food produce is bound to reap rich dividends in the longer term. It is a retrograde step on the part of the Minister and the Government to reduce the already miserly aid to research in this area.
Subhead I.1. which relates to the grant-in-aid for the CBF again raises the question of the best way forward in relation to co-ordinating the marketing efforts of the various strands of the food industry. I repeat my request that the Minister not only co-ordinate and integrate the marketing function for various food products, but also see the logic of taking overall control for such a new marketing drive away from his own Department.
Subhead K.1., which provides £1 million towards the expenses of the Beef Tribunal, again brings home to us the necessity to ensure that the enforcement of optimum standards in our beef processing sector is given top priority by the Minister and his Department. While we still await the conclusion of the inquiry and the findings of Mr. Justice Hamilton, there is little doubt that the weight of evidence, as given in relation to some of the activities of the Department of Agriculture personnel in various meat factories throughout the country, gives rise to serious concern and the Minister should already have taken steps to reform the manner in which the meat factory inspectorate operates. I expect him to give details to this Committee of whatever changes, if any, he has made.
Subhead M.12., dealing with both the Leader and INTERREG programmes, underlines the vital importance of the Leader initiative, particularly in revitalising rural communities and expanding the range of activities in the face of the restrictions on the production of primary agriculture produce, like milk and beef. Whereas the recent experience with the Tipperary Leader programme is to be regretted, we must not allow that to over-shadow the fact that, throughout the rest of the country, the various Leader programmes are providing a tremendous success and a major boost to rural enterprise and morale in many dispersed rural communities. Indeed, I suggest to the media, in the wake of the attention focused on the Tipperary enterprise programme, that they should, devote some of their attention to the success stories of Leader programmes in many other parts of the country.
Turning to Forestry, I note that the Minister has reaffirmed the previous Government's commitment to achieving an annual planting target of 30,000 hectares. It had been the intention to double tree planting to 30,000 hectares per annum by 1993 as compared with 15,000 hectares planted in 1988. I am pleased with the Minister's commitment to maintain planting at the 30,000 hectare level up to the year 2000. This will bring the total area under forestry up to 10 per cent, or 688,900 hectares, which is still not a lot when one looks at France which has 29 per cent forestry cover, West Germany has 27 per cent and the EC average is about 24 per cent.
I would like the Minister to give us a breakdown on the level of planting achieved in 1992 and targeted for 1993 between Coillte, individual farmers and others, because there is a great deal of corporate investment in forestry. There is no doubt that forestry as an alternative farm enterprise has an immense potential for rural development and the higher level of grants announced last year as part of the Common Agricultural Policy reform were geared to maintain a high level of farmer participation in tree planting. I expect that the Minister's figures, when given, will confirm that an ever-increasing number of individual farmers are opting for forestry as a viable alternative land use.
Forestry is a highly labour intensive industry, particularly at the planting stage. I understand that studies of the employment potential of forestry have shown that, on average, every additional 1,000 hectares of planting generates 100 jobs. Harvesting is also a labour intensive operation. The increased planting and harvesting programmes of recent years have brought valuable jobs to rural areas and will continue to do so, as long as we maintain a high planting target.
In that regard, I would like the Minister to state in respect of Coillte, if it will achieve the planting target of 14,000 hectares to which there are commitments in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. Will the current debt situation in Coillte affect its capacity to achieve the published targets and when is it not expected that Coillte will achieve a self-financing position? Will it be in a position to phase out equity by 1996. In asking these questions I am aware of the difficulties which Coillte had to face following the price collapse of over 30 per cent since 1991 and the disturbances in Irish-UK trade arising for the earlier turmoil in the exchange markets.
I wish to pay a special compliment to the chairman, board members, chief executive and all the staff of Coillte for their enthusiastic dedication to achieving commercial success for Coillte since its establishment as a semi-State company, after it took over from the old forestry service.
Last year, Coillte undertook a leasing scheme as an alternative option to outright purchase and also undertook a sale of assets programme where it determined the land had a higher value for uses other than forestry, I would like the Minister to give this committee some information on the success or otherwise of these activities. The leasing of land for afforestation should be encouraged as it also ties in with set-aside and retirement schemes to the benefit of the overall forestry programme.
One contentious matter I wish to mention is the poor condition of rural roads and their effect on the quality of life for rural dwellers. Large lorries drawing timber out of forests in rural areas have caused serious damage to an already poor rural road structure and not enough is being done to deal with the problem. Overloading of trucks is one aspect of the problem but the Department of the Environment must recognise the need for greater improvement by them in finding a solution before some local communities object to afforestation because of the damage it might do to their local roads.
My final point is in relation to the important area of forestry research. This is an essential element of effective forest development in order to improve the yield, quality and diversity of wood grown; also to check on the health of our national forests and to ensure that increased afforestation is compatible with our environment. I am pleased to see a 50 per cent increase in the estimates for forestry research to £1.180 million. The Minister might give some details of the research work to be undertaken in 1993 and also whether a decision has been made on the possible contribution of satellite remote sensing to checking the health of all public and private forests.
I think I should set the record straight. First, as some of you will be glad to hear, I am substituting for Deputy Rabbitte. Secondly, while I am a member of the technical group I can only speak here on behalf of Democratic Left. It would take a wide-ranging imagination to span all the views of the technical group.
The Minister referred to a number of changes which are taking place at EC level. I think that was an important statement because when one looks at the Estimates, those major changes are not obvious from the figures. The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the ongoing GATT negotiations have serious implications for the agricultural sector. The Minister alluded to these factors but I felt he missed out on the crucial point that, as a food producing country, we must stop thinking in terms of what we can produce and start thinking in terms of what consumers will buy from us.
The Department has traditionally served the needs of farmers. That is a position which is increasingly challenged by changes within the EC and here at home, by demographic changes and greater emphasis on job creation and a better use of our national resources. The title of the Department has been changed to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, but the reality has still to shift to meet the new language.
The publication of the expert group on the food industries is expected to lead to a new Bord Bia, or whatever the body will be called, which will absorb a number of bodies mentioned in the Estimates which have money allocated to them. Obviously this in itself will have an impact on the Estimates. The key question is whether the initiative will end up being subservient to the needs of producers and processors rather than launching a new strategy which puts the consumer at its heart. If responsibility for this body rests with the Department of Agriculture the likelihood is that the necessary leap will not be made.
It is interesting to note that the expert group which was set up did not have any consumers representative. It was very much biased in favour of bureaucrats, producers and processors but ultimately it is the consumer who will determine the future of our food industry.
The whole question of intervention was mentioned and certainly the breaking of the stranglehold of current practices which subsidise the over-production of beef and milk has begun. I found it interesting that the Minister made the point that this week for the first time companies are not offering beef for intervention.
In case anyone thought the problem was under control, the figures in relation to the borrowings are extraordinarily high which is something we must examine in detail. In July 1992 the total number of cattle sold into intervention was over 202,000 head, valued at approximately £165 million. On 30 June 1992 the total book value of dairy product held in intervention was £97.5 million. At the end of May 1992 the book value of beef held in intervention was £158 million.
Whether our farmers and processors are capable of switching from the crutch of the Common Agricultural Policy to a market-led agricultural sector will depend in part on research and development into what the market wants. I would be interested to hear what element in the budget will be spent on research into consumer demand and how we intend to meet that demand.
At a time when increased efficiency and better standards are critical, the reduction in the allocation to Teagasc is disturbing. The administrative costs of the Department are up 4 per cent, yet the Teagasc allocation is down by 7 per cent. What kind of thinking is behind this decision? In fact, while the overall administrative costs of the Department are up 4 per cent, the overall figure for the services provided by the Department is down by 8 per cent. I am reminded of how, when Britain began to shed its colonies, the costs of staffing and funding the British colonial office increased.
In relation to the estimate for the beef tribunal, the necessity of holding that tribunal is indisputable. Unfortunately, as Mr. Justice Hamilton pointed out, if Ministers' answers to questions had been more forthcoming the tribunal might never have been necessary. However, they were not and it was. This is a lesson which the Minister for Agriculture will take to heart.
The cost of the tribunal raises the question of the right of the legal profession to demand such exorbitant fees. Clearly, the best legal representation had to be provided for the beef tribunal, but the cost of such legal representation has to be questioned. It is welcome that the exposure of some tax evasion scams during the tribunal has led to much needed funds for the Exchequer.
Any recommendations arising from the tribunal need to be acted upon. Indeed, the Minister referred to the environment and food production and the question of the supervision and inspection of meat plants must be dealt with to help ensure a clean, green image. The Department only faced up to this matter when the agricultural officers threatened to go out on strike recently. We need to ensure that there is proper supervision and that there are in place people who are skilled and trained in the onerous job of ensuring good standards in the meat processing business.
I am disappointed that at a time when the environment is a factor in the development of our food industry, a small but important area has been affected badly in these Estimates. Organic farming has the potential to grow to about 10 per cent of our national food output from its current level of approximately 1 per cent. Yet, by reducing its allocation, that potential will be stymied rather than encouraged.
The biggest injection of capital funding will come from the £7 billion or £8 billion in Structural Funds, but there is no clear picture as to how these funds fit in with the Estimates — they have to be treated separately. I would point out to Deputy Dukes that a study commissioned by the Department of Finance argued clearly for a new approach in Department grant aid. It argued for a switch from headage grants for farmers to rural development and alternative farm enterprises. It was not just the Minister of State who made this case, but the best professional advice the Department of Finance could get. If that study had come up with a different proposal I have no doubt Deputy Dukes would be lauding it and saying what a good job they have done.
There is no indication that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry accepts the merit of such a switch either. The lobbying by farmers organisations, like the IFA to divert greater funds in the direction of their members has already built up. The argument put is that if headage payments are improved the impact is felt locally throughout the community. I do not deny that there is some merit in this argument. It is certainly a good argument for headage payments but it is a trickle-down theory that is not sustainable when one considers the real needs of rural communities. The Minister pointed out that this year was a good year for farmers but it has not been a good year for rural communities: farmers' incomes went up 18.5 per cent but the rural community as a whole declined and rural unemployment increased.
We have had a lot of talk in recent years about rural development and I welcome any attention being paid to this aspect of Irish life. However, I believe it takes more than lip service and the Leader programme to make a reality of the idea. One of the shortcomings of the Leader programme is that where it is actually needed most, where communities do not have the resources to make financial contributions the Leader programme cannot help. This is because local people must make a contribution to ensure that resources can be allocated in a particular direction. This is something that needs to be looked at closely. It is not possible for a poor community to be part of the Leader programme the way it is designed at the moment and yet poor communities probably need it most.
As plans emerge in relation to the Structural Funds and the breakdown — or the shake-out is probably a better term — of how they will be spent there are already two arguments emerging — that money should be directed towards the urban areas, the cities of Ireland, and that money should be directed instead to the farming community. There is a third element that is getting lost in the contest over Structural Funds and that is the rural community as a whole. As the rapporteur of the European Economic and Social Committee said recently:
The rural world is not just to do with agriculture it is a whole series of activities. If aid is granted to the rural world so that it might carry out these activities then this world could be a source of employment and improve family life and the standard of living. Large towns and their negative aspects continue to develop despite the studies and recommendations made by the Commission Green Paper on the urban environment.
Since this Department is responsible for rural development, I would like to know what is done for communities whose life blood is being drained away.
People living in rural communities know that they belong to a place but often the place they belong to is slipping away from them. For many people living in a rural community means that: when the GMS doctor dies, his or her panel is tacked on to that of the neighbouring doctor who may operate from a base 40 or 50 miles away; the Garda station has already been closed down and the post office is likely to close down. It also means the local national school which is a focus for social life, where people meet on a daily basis, is more than likely to be under resourced compared to its city counterpart, and is under threat of closure in the long term. That is what we are talking about when we are talking about rural communities I do not believe there has been proper consideration of this.
I do not recall any mention of rural development, in the Minister's statement. There may have been a mention of it but the statement did not look at the question of industrial development in rural areas, so that parents with children growing up can expect their son or daughter to get a job and not inevitably to see the draining away of young people from their communities. Is it good for the country to have that growing imbalance the constant magnet towards the cities, leading to greater pressure on those cities and to rural depopulation? I return to my point that what is good for farmers is not necessarily good enough for rural communities.
The Minister mentioned information technology which is obviously beneficial and important. However I have noticed that anybody I have seen operating a word processor in the Houses of the Oireachtas is not complying with EC regulations. Are the regulations being applied by the Department? Have workers in the Department the proper arm supports, eye screens or whatever is required to protect workers operating computers and word processors? I expect that if we are to comply with the EC Directive this will be done as a matter of course.
Another item mentioned relates to the bovine TB eradication scheme. We should not take any joy in the fact that the EC is now funding a scheme that has cost £1 billion and still has failed to eradicate the problem. It is to our shame that we now expect the European tax-payer to foot the bill for this scheme.
I would like to make one last point in relation to forestry. As a representative of a county that has honourable and long tradition in forestry I welcome the target set by the Minister in relation to forestry, but one or two points in this respect need to be made. First, it is unfortunate that in the hurry to meet these targets Coillte have sold off assets to, in effect, the first bidder they could find. For example, in my own constituency Kilmacurra House was sold off in order to try to keep the show on the road, with no consideration given to the importance of Kilmacurra House as a resource to develop tourism projects, employment or whatever. That is a short term form of asset-stripping that should be reconsidered in view of the loss of the State and local community. Extremely heavy forestry trucks create mayhem on county roads and local authorities can not pay for the damage caused by such trucks. This work must be done. The timber has to be transported. There must be recognition that many of our county councils are unable to sustain the cost involved.
The question of public liability for farmers, land owners and for the State must be tackled as a priority. Farmers and land owners should not be under continual threat of law suits if they have a national monument or an access through their land which is attractive to visitors. A Bill to solve this problem will be introduced shortly and I hope that Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party will support that Bill because it has been with the Law Reform Commission for nine years. Important archaeological sites in my own area are inaccessible to the public and this is holding back tourism development. The Government is not facing up to its responsibilities in relation to public liability.
We have until 7.20 p.m. for a question and answer session. It is up to members to decide how the Committee should start this discussion. We can go right through the Estimate. We will have to allow some time for Vote 32 on Forestry. I suggest we give from 7 o'clock to 7.20 p.m. to a discussion on Forestry and from now until 7 o'clock on Vote 31, which is Agriculture and Food. We can sub-divide that if the Committee wish. We can go right through the whole Estimate. It has been suggested that we take the first page of the Book of Estimates as presented and take subheads A.1. to B.4. We will then go from C.1. to L. and from M.1. to N. Is that agreed? Agreed.
The level of frustration felt by farmers because of the area aid form has not been exaggerated by any of the Opposition speakers here. I emphasise that. The form itself is frightening. Heretofore, the farmer went out to plough and plant his fields, to milk his cows and tend to his cattle. He never envisaged becoming an office boy and certainly not becoming one overnight. The farmer has never been coversant with the art of topography. Today he is expected to be a map maker.
For the uninitiated we should say that when a farmer gets his map from the Land Registry or the Ordnance Survey — I know of a farmer who applied in February and still has nor got his map even though the closing day is Friday next — he must measure the amount of production within that field. He cannot take the acerage given on the Ordnance Survey map. This is causing such confusion that in County Wexford a consultancy firm has been set up specially to deal with the difficulties. Other counties are experiencing similar difficulties. If it were not for the consultancy firm in Wexford and for the fact that Teagasc are working to full capacity there would be very little aid for the tillage farmers in County Wexford. The Minister must take this into consideration. I know he has made some move towards delaying the closing date. The Minister must delay it until 1 June to ensure that the farmer, who in this instance must be regarded as the most important person, has time to submit the application, gets the aid. This must be done if we are to get the aid we deserve from Europe. It is not good enough to say, as they do in Europe, that it must be completed, because that is bureaucracy gone mad.
Our Minister can show how determined he is by having it delayed until 1 June. If that does not happen farmers will suffer. I met a farmer over the weekend who asked me to fill up his form. I did not relish the thought of spending two hours doing this. The farmer said that if I did not fill it up he would throw it in the bin. I say to the Minister that this must not happen, and the only way in which he can ensure that this does not happen is to delay the deadline until 1 June.
I wish to make the same point. However, I would not go so far as Deputy Dukes who has used some of the scaremongering techniques used by certain people in the upper echelons of farming organisations. Farmers are intelligent and perhaps Deputy Dukes went too far and insulted some of them in this regard. The Minister has admitted that his Department is lacking somewhat in technology over other Departments. Therefore, I welcome the fact that he has increased his staff by 200. It is up to his Department to discover whether that number is sufficient. There will be much more bureaucracy involved. I am hopeful that some of the 200 staff will be used to simplify the area aid application form. It could be simplified and broken down into certain sections, such as the tillage and the livestock sections. The Minister has the opportunity to do something about this.
I intended to speak about forestry and to refer to Teagasc and Bord na gCon which are further down the agenda.
The next speaker is Deputy Deenihan, under the subheads, as agreed.
On subheads B.1., B.2. and B.3., I wish to refer briefly to Teagasc and our expenditure on research and training, and to point out to the Minister that the vote for Teagasc has been decreased in real terms. I understand that to keep operations at the present level an extra £1.5 billion is needed. The Minister no doubt will dispute this but from information I have received that is the case. I remind the Minister that since 1988 Teagasc staff, especially in the areas of research, advisory and training, has been almost halved. For example, research staff have been cut from 235 to 135, advisory staff cut from 600 to 300 and teaching and training staff from 162 to 140. Because of their diminishing and insufficient resources Teagasc cannot deliver adequately on their mandate.
Comparing Ireland with Holland, investment, research and advice is four times greater there than here. On a per acre basis, the Dutch spend 13 times more than Ireland on research. The French have responded similarly in recent times. For example, the increase in the number of animal scientists in France since 1988 has been almost 100. The same applies to plant and food scientists. During the same period the level of research staff in Teagasc was halved. The Minister may not agree with me but we could become a scientific backwater with grave implications for the competitiveness of our industry unless we increase funding for research and training. Surely it is not a prudent national policy, particularly for a country which depends so heavily on trade and on being competitive, to cut back on investment in research and development.
I would like to refer briefly to the report by the expert group on the food industry which I am proud to say was chaired by a fellow Kerryman, Mr. Dowling. I would refer especially to page 43 would the Minister care to comment on this? The two main recommendations were that the Department should spend at least £15 million on Teagasc and other institutions for research and development, and that £20 million per annum should be spent on support for the private food industries for research and development. I would like to point out to the Minister that there is no current research into animal health in this country at the moment. Also, while we talk about developing our horticultural industry, there are large regions with no horticultural advisers at the moment. There is no horticultural adviser, for instance, in Kerry, a county with great potential for development in the horticultural sector. The last adviser there retired three years ago. I would like the Minister to refer to the points I have raised.
I would like to remind Deputies that this is supposed to be a question and answer session and I welcome the participation of everybody. We have already had nine speakers. I hope to conclude this session at 6.20 p.m. but we will have to give the Minister and Ministers of State an opportunity to respond to you. Could Deputies limit their contributions to questions please? We could deal with the business more expeditiously if we have your full cooperation.
I have had the opportunity of meeting the Minister quite often in my constituency. Could I ask the Minister how did he arrive at the decision on page 3 of his report which says that EC farm support levels in 1993 were as significant as in the first year of the Common Agricultural Policy reform arrangements? This EC aid form is diabolical and that is describing it mildly. How can the Minister or his technicians and advisers in the Department quantify the forage acreage of the mountains from Cork down to Donegal? Will there be a dramatic reduction in the headage acreage for sheep farmers in those mountainous terrains from Donegal down to Cork? Will they all be penalised by having their acreage dramatically reduced as a result of this forage acreage scheme? Is the Minister satisfied that our farmers are getting a fair share of the cake and that they are not being forced to be the "goody goodies" of Europe? Can the Minister confirm that French farmers are complying with the EC area aid forms? Is the Minister aware that they have burned them openly at cattle marts throughout France? What will be the result of that procedure in that country?
More money for us.
In addition, the Minister's set-aside policy is a laughing stock. It is far removed from the policy——
Questions, Deputy please.
This comes under area aid. I admit, naturally, that you would not be conversant with the problems that exist in the penisular areas of West Cork, but I am sure the Minister is quite adaptable and he knows what is happening there.
And the offshore islands, yes, indeed.
You might let him have a word on it.
It is far removed from the policy of the first Minister for Agriculture, the late Paddy Hogan, when he said: "One more cow, one more sow, and one more acre under the plough." After two decades of generous grants to farmers the Minister is now telling them to grow weeds. Will we require a bigger estimate than is provided here for pesticides to burn these weeds? Will the Green Party be touring the country telling——
There are at least nine other Deputies who wish to speak.
We are servicing the constituency of Cork South-West where small farmers are becoming an extinct species. I can guarantee that if the Minister's policy was allowed to continue in Europe — I know the Minister is not 100 per cent personally responsible for it——
He is irresponsible for it.
Take off the kid gloves and make sure that our farmers get a fair share of the cake from Europe and that they are not forced to be the "goody goodies" of Europe while other farmers who never observed the quota system——
Deputy, you are out of order.
One of the things that strikes me about the Estimate is that the budget to introduce computerisation is much less this year than last year. It was Mrs. Thatcher who said we would bury ourselves in a few years under EC bureaucracy and red tape. I think it is said that at a time when bureaucracy has gone mad, it is our Minister, and especially our own Irish Commissioner, who has brought about this further bureaucracy and red tape as far as form filling is concerned. Was there no way in which a more simplified form could have been issued to the vast majority of farmers who are only livestock producers, that they would not have to fill in the same form, with 16 pages of notes, as tillage farmers? Many farmers have difficulty in completing these forms.
Earlier, someone said that we were leading farmers astray and causing them anxiety. The situation is that many people in senior positions in various organisations did not know up to a few days ago whether or not the livestock forms had to be filled in before 14 May 1993. It is, therefore, not difficult to see why farmers did not understand the situation when people in offices, who have much more time to read and should be able to understand it, did not. We need to examine why the computerisation programme is being cut back at a time when the Department had hoped to introduce computerised permits to control the movement of TB infected herds, as well as cattle of all sorts for headage payments and other purposes.
Similarly on the issue of Teagasc, the Minister rightly advises farmers to go to Teagasc to get the forms filled in. However, how realistic is this advice when, in an area like County Cavan, there are only four active instructors on the ground to service some 10,000 farmers? There is a need to get our structuring right and also our service to farmers.
There are a number of other issues I would like to raise later regarding the TB and headage areas. In the meantime, may I ask the Minister why, when everybody else is going totally computerised are we cutting back? That needs a major explanation.
I am somewhat amused that everybody is blaming the Minister for something that was decided by Brussels when only a few years ago a small number of voices, voices like mine, raised doubts about decisions being made in faraway places. I would like a uniform, unified effort behind the Minister to try to get some reason brought to forms compiled in these faraway places.
Regarding the IACS forms, there is great confusion and misunderstanding. May I ask the Minister whether this scheme is going to be run on a year by year basis? I believe most farmers will complete the form this year and submit the same acreage in subsequent years. It may happen that after five years an inspector would find that in his opinion the error was more than 2 per cent. Could he then penalise back over each form on the basis that each was a wrong declaration or could he penalise only for the year in which the inspection is carried out? This matter is causing great concern among people. Should an inspector find that in his opinion there was an error of more than 2 per cent would this finding be based on the inclusion of ponds, lakes, woodlands, houses, roads and so on? Will any appeals procedure be instituted by Brussels on this issue as some of these factors are subjective rather than objective, particularly, for example, the question of "sheetrock" which could have serious consequences?
Regarding the funding of Teagasc, may I ask the Minister whether he could make funds available for the employment of temporary advisers? There are 14,000 herdowners in the county of Galway. I estimate that up to 6,000 of those are west of the River Corrib which is serviced by one Teagasc adviser. This is an area of small farmers and of old farmers. There are many elderly people and widows in possession of land there. This is a very difficult area with many unclear issues to be resolved. Would the Minister consider giving funds to Teagasc to appoint temporary advisers in an area like this to help with the completion of these forms?
May I also ask the Minister for clarification of the phrase in the explanatory form: "commonage available to you in the current year, that is land available to you in the current year". Does ownership have to be proved, or in the case of commonage where there might be 20 shareholders but only five of them using the commonage? Can each one claim a quarter of the commonage or can they claim a one-twentieth share of the commonage, if they have not got titles to the part they are using? This is a common problem and it will continue to be if we do not get a positive response to the question, namely that it is the availability of land rather than ownership or lease ownership that is involved. Otherwise many western farmers will be peculiarly overstaffed for extensification purposes.
Regarding the various EC schemes, what percentage of the administration costs of £79 million in the Department of Agriculture goes to administer these schemes? Is there is any refund to the Government from Brussels for the administration of their schemes, particularly in view of the fact that they can make them as complicated as they want and leave it to the Minister to administer them?
Finally, could the Minister give any indication as to when the livestock scheme area will be totally computerised to enable farmers inquiring in local livestock offices to obtain updated information?
I agree with the other Deputies regarding the problems with IACS forms. Farmers in Waterford have taken to phoning their Deputies at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. to make a point about the difficulties they are experiencing with the forms. I am not competent enough to assist them in the detail that is required in completing the forms. I support Deputy McDaid in regard to seeking an extension. I do not believe that all the forms will be completed by the end of this week. A lot of unnecessary chaos and hardship could be avoided if it would be possible for the Minister to make a statement this evening granting an extension up to 1 June 1993 for the completion and submission of these forms.
In regard to subhead A.1, 1,711 administrative staff cost approximately £23 million per year whereas 290 people, referred to as "other staff," cost £11 million. Why are they described as "other staff"? Why, if 1,700 people can be accommodated for £23 million, are 290 people costing over £11 million? There would appear to be an enormous difference between the cost involved.
Referring to subhead B.1., which deals with Teagasc, I cannot emphasise enough, given the changes in the nature of the Common Agricultural Policy, how important research and development is in this area. Is the Minister satisfied that the amount of money being spent by Teagasc is leading to the type of project research that is needed in this area? As for example, research centres are referred to as costing £27 million and training and advisory and education £26 million. What do those figures relate to? Do they relate to the cost of running the centre or are they specifically related to projects in those areas? Would the Minister agree that the efforts of Teagasc should be geared towards research in terms of projects as opposed to a huge area of administration? It must be recognised that there will be a greater need for research and development in the years ahead. Teagasc has made valuable contribution in that area and national and EC funding should recognise that. I would like the Minister to support its work in research and development.
Under subhead B.2., grants to the various organisations amount to £76,000. In view of the number of organisations involved it is a small amount of money. What is the purpose of that money? Should it be substantially large to yield better value? It was £64,000 last year. We have increased it to £76,000 this year. Obviously a small amount of money goes to each organisation. Could the Minister explain how that figure is divided and why it is there in the first place?
I am not as sensitive as Deputy McDaid. I was not too upset over Deputy Dukes' contribution because I found it entertaining. Much of what he said was spoken with tongue in cheek.
How very kind of the Deputy.
It sounded quite impressive until one remembered that he was Minister for Agriculture, admittedly for a short period, and also Minister for Finance.
We had no area aid then.
Why did he not implement some of those fine ideas when he was a Minister? He was a good Minister but not a crusading Minister.
There is too much confrontation in Irish agriculture, too many vested and sectional interests involved. There should be more cohesion and consensus in that sector. That is the only solution for its problems. The area aid forms are very complex and convoluted. They should be made simpler. Deputies are overworked; they do not have the time to fill out forms and secure maps for their farming constituents. I have regularly noticed them doing this. Surely some of the farmer organisations, who have staff in offices throughout the country, could be of use in dealing with this problem. It would relieve the burden on Deputies.
The Minister said that the Department spent over £600 million last year purchasing beef, butter and barley for intervention. A sum of £625 million was borrowed last year, part of which will be recouped from the EC budget. Can I expect a reduction in those figures next year as a result of Common Agricultural Policy reform? I urge the Minister to offer some assistance with the forms to tillage farmers. Limerick city is the heart of the Golden Vale, the most fertile land in the world. However, in shops and supermarkets one will see cabbage, lettuce and onions from Holland, potatoes from Cyprus and Israel, pate from France and an array of vegetables from countries throughout the world. This is totally wrong. We should encourage more tillage farming but these complex forms are an impediment to that.
The Minister is sometimes subjected to abuse and criticism from different groups. Almost all Ministers for Agriculture, in the last 15 to 20 years, have endured the same barracking. That should cease. The poor mouth attitude should cease. If the Minister returned from Europe with gold and frankincense, he would be asked "where is the myrrh"? Some people cannot be pleased. It is time people did something for themselves. It is time Irish farmers understood that the reform of Common Agricultural Policy was inevitable. Could the Minister confirm that Common Agricultural Policy reform was inevitable and that he did all he could in the circumstances? A trade war with America, as advocated by Deputy Dukes would be suicidal for a small country like Ireland.
Just give in; that is what they have done.
Not give in, but one cannot dictate to Europe, there must be give and take. Deputy Dukes wishes to take all the time.
They take and we give.
There must be compromise in any agreement. Deputy Dukes' advice sounds Bismarkian, which will get our small population nowhere in Europe.
The Deputy has become more like Fianna Fáil than the party itself.
I have no doubt Deputy Dukes will have something to say about the matter in due course.
Under subhead A.1. the Minister proposes to increase the Department's staff. That is welcome if it will hasten the issuing of cheques to farmers who are approved applicants for headage payments. Most Deputies will remember the considerable delays experienced earlier this year. While we appreciate that every effort was made to issue cheques on time, the system appears to have broken down to the extent that hundreds of farmers in my county and surrounding counties experienced substantial delays in receiving their payments. If staff is provided I hope they will be deployed so that payments will be made within a reasonable period of time.
I join with other Deputies who have referred to subhead A.5. and I ask the Minister why we are not sufficiently computerised to ensure that EC premium and headage payments can be paid efficiently? The Minister has acknowledged that other Departments have been more successful in computerising their Departments. I cannot understand why a Department which has a big impact on the lives of so many people and manages the country's most important industry has not carried out the necessary planning for effective computerisation to ensure that at least cheques can be issued to approved applicants.
Under subhead M.9. a sum of £12.8 million for 1993 is allocated for the operational programme for rural development. I understand that one Vote was reduced to provide money for another under that subhead in 1992. Money was transferred from the community enterprise scheme, which comes under the operational programme, to the agri-tourism area. On one occasion there was no funding for agri-tourism. People who applied for payments under other headings were denied because the money was not available and, as the structures were in place, that was deemed sufficient. That is a poor way to respond to employment opportunities being offered by persons with enterprising ideas. If there is to be an operational programme for rural development the various headings under which people can apply should be adequately funded. If not, applicants should be told that there are no funds available. Many people have gone through the process of studying a project's feasibility only to discover that funding is not available. They are told that the structure is there but there is no funding. People should be left in no doubt about the prospects of funding should they qualify for it. I hope the Minister can give guarantees in these areas to ensure that a reasonable contribution can be made by this programme to the development of job opportunity and the creation of enterprises that will give employment this year and in years to come.
There is a reduction in the amount allocated under subhead A.5. for computer and data preparation equipment. The Minister's addendum states that 1993 is the final year of the Department's Computerisation programme. The Department should try to be more user friendly. One of the ways this can be done is by computerisation. Local offices should be totally autonomous then there would not be delays in travelling to main offices in Cavan and around Dublin. Computers would alleviate that problem. 1993 should be the commencing year, not the final year, for a programme of computerisation. Real reforms should be introduced to make the Department's services more user friendly. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, form filling and cheques in the post are the way of farming at present. If the work of the Department is to be made more efficient and more accessible for farmers and less onerous for overselves, we must put in the necessary effort and money.
My male colleagues and the Minister may not notice but the decor of the Department is an abysmal disgrace. Subhead A.6. provides for an increase in the allocation for office premises. I ask the Minister to use some of this increase to replace the ugly couch in the Department's reception area. People cannot visit the Department without seeing the holes on this leather couch.
The Minister should spend money to improve the decor of the Department, not only is it unattractive to look at, it is also like a steam box. I ask the Minister to use the funds available to him wisely and perhaps do his utmost to obtain more funds.
Subhead B.1. provides money for research into potato seed. Are funds available for research into different types of potato and is such research taking place at present? One problem that has been brought to my attention is that we are not producing and growing the potatoes required by some markets, especially chip and crisp factories. It is preposterous that we have to import potatoes from Northern Ireland and Holland. Have we not got the expertise in the Department and in research organisations to enable the growth of the correct type of potatoes needed for chip and crisp production?
I remind Deputies that we have exceeded the time laid down for this group of subheads. I allowed the discussion to exceed the time limit because much concern was expressed about the area and application form. Most people who have contributed have expressed concern about that. I ask speakers to avoid repetition and to cooperate in completing the business of the Committee. The Minister has yet to speak.
Chairman, I will be very brief. Deputy Kemmy accused me of using exaggerated language and I am sad to hear that. The only occasions on which I can plead guilty to exaggeration are those occasions on which I expected to find some gems of wisdom in Deputy Kemmy's homespun philosophy. I am sorry to have to say that.
The question I want to ask has to deal with subhead B1 (4) which is in relation to testing for homones in meat. The provision for 1993 is being increased by £13,000. Was that provision made before the enactment of the Animal Remedies Act? Was it constructed before that or not? Does he really think that an increase of £13,000 in 1993 is sufficient to finance the extra work involved in detecting these substances at the level we hope to?
In deference to your wishes I will not be repetitive. I, too, would like to raise the question of the area aid forms. In west Mayo there are many livestock farmers with highland rather than lowland farms and huge areas of commonage, to which Deputy Ó Cuív has referred. It is imperative that the Minister clarify the position in relation to commonage holders and users.
While most farmers are well intentioned and will read the regulations and while the forms initially appear to be user friendly the reality is that the filling in of the forms rather than the explanatory memorandum is not user friendly. As a person who is used to form filling for a number of years I have to say I was horrified when I saw this for the first time. A Teagasc adviser of at least 20 years experience in the Headford area sat down for four hours with a cereal farmer — one of the few we have in our constituency — to fill in the form. During the four hours he had to turn away another 15 farmers who had called for assistance. After four hours of giving the farmer his time he had to send him away without the form being completed fully. That is the scenario with which we are faced.
Many of my constituents are bachelors who entered farming at a very young age and did not have the benefit of third level education. I appreciate that the form permits a margin of error of 2 per cent but it would take a university graduate or a highly qualified engineer to estimate the amount of rocky crops on the side of Croke Patrick or down in Ballycroy or places like that. The Minister will have to ensure that when he uses the words "discretion" and "latitude" he means them and that the interpretation of the regulations will be fair, otherwise there will be very serious decline in the incomes of the farmers we represent.
As there is no longer a requirement that ewes be in lamb at tagging and inspection times, the Department should ensure that these inspections are carried out at a more suitable time than they are carried out at present. Asking farmers to round in their flocks when they are dropping lambs is most unfair and is not acceptable to farmers in my constituency.
Fragmented holdings have been an historical problem in my constiteuncy, and on the Aran Islands in Deputy Ó Cuív's constituency. Long before the establishment of the Land Commission farmers decided intelligently to swop around fields and try to make their holdings run more economically. As a result of various changes in regulations they had to regularise their legal titles and accordingly sought to formalise titles to which they had possession.
The Finance Bill proposes that where houses are being exchanged stamp duty should be paid on the total value of the property. Will the Minister seek a derogation in respect of agricultural holdings which are being exchanged as a result of fragmentation in the past. A penalty in the form of additional stamp duty should not be imposed.
Finally, farmers are being notified as to what their ewe quotas are. In relation to the national reserve, has the Minister's Deparment learned, as a result of representations and cases made to it, that there should be greater flexibility having regard to the four or five standard conditions that appear in these letters of notification? Is the Minister reviewing that matter?
I welcome the opportunity to raise matters in this format. I have questions for the Minister about horticulture, an area that is often neglected. There is a great opportunity for import substitution and for the provision of jobs, particularly in food crops, ornamental crops and amenity horticulture. We have not made the necessary commitment required to meet our targets.
I would like a commitment from the Minister that the future of the Teagasc research centre in Kinsealy is secured once and for all. Deputies referred to the potential in the food industry. There is concern about the proposed transfers of the vegetable research centre to Oak Park. As far as people in the industry and I are concerned, it is illogical to move this research centre from the heart of the horticultural industry.
I am concerned about the cutback in research and training. This is a major problem. The Government and the Department will have to examine that and give a greater commitment to it in the future. France has seen the necessity to increase research and it has borne fruit. Yet here, we are reducing and cutting back.
I have raised two points in the Dáil, of which dealt with the cutback in the sale of assets to finance the funding for Teagasc. Some of the asset disposal has not been in the interests of this country. The assets have been disposed of at bargain rates subsequently sold at enhanced prices. I ask the Minister to take a more detailed analysis of any such proposals in the future. The horticultural sector must have a voice on the board of Teagasc. It has been neglected and forgotten. Until such time as the potential in that area is acknowledged it will not be properly exploited.
I have a number of questions, most of which relate to the area aid schemes and are outside the immediate area.
I must ask you to stay within the subheads because we have gone over the time.
May I ask about the area aid schemes?
You may, since everyone else has.
The first question is of immense interest to my constituents. Will the 1993 payment be made during this year and, of more immediate concern, when will the last of the 1992 payments be made? In relation to the Burren highlands — which are close to my heart and my home — what formula will be used in deciding how much of that area qualifies? A number of speakers have said it has implications for extensification aid. A question recurring frequently among my constituents is what exactly is a Friesian cow? That relates mostly to the quota for small milk producers and the extra quota now being sought. I understand the form has to be in next week and I would request the Minister to extend that time period as he is in a position to do that.
First, in relation to subheads A.3, A.5 and A.6, has the Department any policy on payment for goods and services? We have heard a great deal about delays in payment of grants. A considerable volume of suppliers find a trend emerging not just in the Miniser's Department but in other Government Departments. There are considerable delays in paying for goods and services supplied. This causes great difficulty to the smaller supplier.
The Government's approach to job creation and preservation is partly based on small industries. Sometimes these are dependent on business from Government Departments or agencies. Payment to these suppliers should be made within a reasonable period. Small firms have said delays in payment go on for six months or more and they have been told there is no money to pay them. If one contracts to take a service or be supplied with goods one should be in a position to make payment within a reasonable period so that one does not inhibit the supplying company.
I want also to refer to the potential for urban involvement in matters agricultural. There is a tradition in other European cities of residents becoming involved in the development of allotments. This has not occurred in our capital city — I cannot speak for other cities around the country. On their own initiative, local authorities have tired to encourage urban residents to utilise lands held for development purposes perhaps a decade or 20 years hence for gardening and the growing of vegetables. In some areas this has proved to be successful. It appears, however, that the Department does not have a policy in this regard. I would like to know if the Minister would be prepared to give this matter some consideration which might be of benefit to those who are not the owners of farms or other such facilities in rural areas.
Before I call the Minister I remind the Committee that we agreed to give 20 minutes to Vote No. 32. That will not be possible now. I suggest we take the remaining subheads under Vote 31 with Vote 32. Then the Minister will reply at 7.20 p.m. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I thank the Deputies who have contributed and were helpful in eliciting as much information as possible. The first and most contentious item raised was the question of area aid application forms. I acknowledge that farmers generally, and certainly those represented by Deputy Sheehan and I, are hardly ever engineers, accountants or lawyers. The Department will take that into account when examining the application forms.
I was asked if it would be possible to extend the closing date of 14 May. This date was laid down by the European Commission and it is not possible to change it without a Council of Ministers meeting. The next meeting is not for some time. We have already endeavoured to be as helpful and to give as much assistance as possible to farmers. We have had information meetings and Teagasc, as has been acknowledged, has been outstandingly helpful and has gone beyond the call of duty to assist farmers. Not only has it met farmers individually in the farm centres, but it has had group meetings as well.
In an effort to be helpful, local Department of Agriculture Offices throughout the country will be available to receive the application forms without the maps. This will give farmers more time to complete the forms which they have had for some weeks. I acknowledge the difficulties which exist, but we have extended the date for the submission of maps.
I acknowledge public representatives' and Deputies' anxieties in relation to the people they represent. I will ask the staff in the local Department of Agriculture offices throughout the country to remain open on Saturday.
That will not be enough.
All possible help and assistance will be given to farmers after 14 May 1993 so that maps will be submitted by 31 May 1993. Therefore, if there are any difficulties completing the forms without the maps, time will be available for farmers to fully complete the forms with the assistance of the local Department of Agriculture offices and Teagasc. It is important to submit the forms because there are considerable amounts of money being paid to farmers as a result of these applications. Last year more than £300 million was paid and by 1995 there will be £700 million paid annually and £700 million paid in direct payments and cheques in the post. Control must be exercised in this area.
People, including myself and the Deputies, must complete complex forms for the Revenue Commissioners when money is deducted from our income. It is fair that applications must be made for the payment of money in certain areas. Therefore, I will try to make the application forms as simple as possible. I raised this matter at the last Council of Ministers meeting and I will continue to seek simplification of these forms and to ensure that the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is as helpful as possible. The area aid application forms applying to the arable section covers approximately 30,000 applicants.
What happens if the forms are not submitted by 14 May 1993?
That is the deadline.
Will a person lose payment?
A person will be penalised.
It will not be possible to submit them before 14 May 1993. The Teagasc personnel in County Wexford are working extremely hard, but it will not be possible to submit them before 14 May 1993.
Everything the Minister does results in money being deducted from farmers.
I have discussed the deadline for the application forms which affects 30,000 farmers. As I have said, we have extended the deadline for the submission of the maps.
Is it possible to extend the deadline for the forms? This is essential because there will be egg on our faces if the forms are not submitted. They will not be submitted in County Wexford unless more time is given.
The deadline has been decided by the European Commission and it can only be changed by the European Commission. We have tried to facilitate farmers by opening regional and local Department of Agriculture offices so that the forms can be submitted.
He is turning you down.
It is a sad day.
May I ask the Minister if today's Farming Independent is incorrect when it refers to late applications and a penalty of 1 per cent per day?
Perhaps the Chairman could tell me if it is possible to reply and I will answer supplementary questions later.
As I have said, the deadline is 14 May 1993. I will ask staff in the Department of Agriculture offices throughout the country to remain open on Saturday. I am sure they will do so. I want to help farmers. The deadline has been extended for the submission of maps. Penalties will be imposed if they are not submitted.
I ask the Minister to deal with this question in his concluding statement because Members wish to ask supplementary questions.
I am dealing with the matter now and I will refer to supplementary questions in the concluding statement also. There are 100,000 livestock farmers with permanent grassland and the deadline for their applications is 1 July 1993. I have asked staff in the Department to devise a simplified form for these farmers. They will have until 1 July 1993 to complete these forms.
Will they receive new forms?
In order to simplify the form, we will send out help sheets to farmers. I will send a simplified form to the 100,000 livestock farmers.
To replace the previous form?
The previous forms could be used by both livestock and arable farmers. There are 100,000 farmers with livestock on permanent grassland and they have until 1 July to complete the forms. The question of simplifying the forms has been raised here.
Is there another form for farmers to complete?
I got the impression that people wanted to help farmers.
Is this instead of the forms they already have?
Yes. The deadline is 1 July 1993 for the 100,000 farmers.
Livestock farmers will get a shorter sheet and a new form. They should now wait until they get the replacement form.
These are for livestock farmers on permanent grassland.
They should wait until they get a new form and help sheet because they have until 1 July 1993.
They have until 1 July 1993. The 30,000 people in the first category are arable farmers and those with mixed operations.
These are very few.
Farmers have already completed these forms. I have filled in aproximately 100 of them this week.
Deputy Sheehan is the man the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry needs.
Am I correct in saying that the Minister is preparing a new simplified form for livestock farmers only——
For livestock farmers exclusively.
——which they must complete and return by 1 July 1993? Is this a substitute for the form they have already received?
There is no difficulty if the farmers, which Deputy Sheehan mentioned, have completed those forms. We are trying to turn the system inside out to help them.
That pertains to the grass farmer.
Were many of those farmers from the Clonakilty area? The Deputy is moving to the eastern side of the constituency.
Another issue raised by a number of Deputies was the prompt payment of headage and other premiums. The simplification and the computerisation of the Department and local offices throughout the country was also mentioned. In my initial statement I said we were behind other Departments but a considerable amount of work has yet to be done in this area. It will take approximately two years to complete this task but improvements are ongoing. This is being done in the interests of improving and simplifying the system. This will enable the Department of Agriculture to implement the Common Agricultural Policy reform as smoothly as possible and to initiate effective payment of the various schemes. These schemes will cost approximately £700 million per annum by 1995, much of which constitutes a major portion of the individual farmer's income.
A number of Deputies raised the question of farmers awaiting payments under the 1992 schemes. Approximately 98 to 99 per cent of the 1992 schemes was paid by January or February this year. However, 4,500 farmers await payment under the special beef premium scheme.
This delay has been caused by errors in tag numbers and difficulties with batches which have been rejected by the computer. The individual herd owner must then be investigated separately.
If 92 per cent of the 1992 schemes were paid in January 1993 why was it necessary to close the Roscommon headage office to the public and to public representatives? Staff were unavailable to answer questions because they had been diverted to work on headage payments. There was a knock-on effect which affected other work and services provided to farmers. This resulted in the non-provision of application forms in respect of other areas of agricultural application. The failure to pay the remaining 8 per cent has been disastrous for County Roscommon. I mention this because hundreds of people were involved.
A number of additional schemes were initiated under the Common Agricultural Policy reform. These schemes began on 1 January 1993 and included the ten month premium, the 22 month premium and the deseasonalisation premium. Many applications were received and this created an enormous workload. Some 200 additional staff were provided for in this year's budget and advertisements will appear in the newspapers shortly, although a number of Deputies did not agree with additional staff been taken on. When errors occurred files were returned to local offices and investigations were carried out. That caused problems.
As I said in the Dáil on a number of occasions, farmers have a role to play in this regard. Large payments are involved and it is only right and proper that farmers fill out application forms carefully.
I wish to give time to the remaining subheads in Votes 31 and 32. Any outstanding points may be summarised in the Minister's concluding statement. We have gone over the time and I am bound by Standing Orders. It has been a lively and interesting debate but we must move on. I will call the Minister again at 7.20.
I will try as far as possible to deal with the immediate questions.
I ask Deputies for their cooperation. Speakers should ask questions only for the remaining 15 minutes.
Before I comment on forestry, I wish to refer to subhead I.3. which concerns Bord na gCon. Approximately £750,000 has been allocated for the promotion of greyhound sport. Those of us with an interest in the sport are aware that the industry is on its knees. I hope the Minister will meet Bord na gCon to see where improvements can be made and to ensure that as many people as possible are employed in the industry. Breeders, trainers, etc., must be supported because this industry has created quite a number of jobs over the years and Ireland is a leading exporter of greyhounds.
At present, the number of people attending our premier track on a Saturday night is similar to the number who attended on a Wednesday night ten years ago. A number of the provincial tracks many of which are privately owned are also on there knees. They also require help, although they receive some assistance from Bord na gCon.
Bord na gCon needs more money to promote this industry and keep greyhound racing alive. The recession in Britain has had a major effect on the industry and the demand for greyhounds has declined. We may be coming out of the recession but it is important that we maintain employment in the industry. I hope the Minister will keep this in mind over the next 12 months.
Forestry was referred to by a number of Deputies. The Minister acknowledged that this is an area, particularly in rural Ireland, which provides tremendous opportunities for employment. Coillte must employ as many people as possible in this area. I hope the Minister will reverse the effects of recent policy in this area. We were informed that 1,500 jobs would be created under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.However, 700 jobs were lost in Coillte. There is one officer for fewer than two forest worker, in other words there is nearly parity between officers and forest workers.
Jobs were created in forestry but they were black economy jobs. I am aware of this because I dealt with the people who tried to prevent this happening. People from Northern Ireland employ, as they say in County Donegal "the men on the brew" or as they say in County Cavan and County Monaghan "the dole men". These people have been employed in forestry over the last number of years. A person in County Donegal received a grant of £100,000 to buy a machine. He was a contractor, a former Coillte worker, and he was working while others were being laid off in Coillte. Four Coillte workers went to that individual — this is what is happening in forestry — and ask him for a job while they were laid off. He said, "Yes, but on four conditions: (1) you have to have a false name; (2) you have to have an address in Northern Ireland; (3) we will not stop tax; (4) you are on your own if anything happens." That was the type of industry created when Deputy Molloy was in Forestry. I hope the Minister will reverse this and if he requires any further information, I would be glad to help both him and Coillte to put rural people in jobs there, because there are many jobs available due to our forests having been neglected.
There are 30 Coillte workers left in County Leitrim, ten in County Monaghan, 20 in County Cavan and probably fewer than 100 in County Donegal. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that all is well in forestry. Thanks to a policy adopted by those not too far from me, it is disastrous.
Could the Minister give time for a discussion of subhead K.2. On subhead I.3, I agree entirely with Deputy Fitzgerald. It is ludicrous that only £4 million has been allocated to the racing and greyhound industries. Wherever a video of Ireland is being shown horse racing is invariably included. It is synonomous with this country and I hope to see more money diverted to it. On M.1., could the Minister comment on the £8 billion EC Structural Funds? What stage has it reached and will we retain the percentage already agreed to?
It interests me to hear the Minister insisting that penalties will accrue if the farmers concerned — especially those in tillage — delayed in filling in their forms. Will the Government pay any subsidy or interest on the moneys that have not been paid as yet to farmers, because it is hard to believe that 98 to 99 per cent of them are being paid, with the number of queries on headage that we are getting daily. This leads to the problem — and the Minister has given some reasons for this — of the decrease in funding for less favoured areas this year. We all know that most of last year's budget was given out before a certain election and those that were not lucky enough to get paid then had to wait for some time.
Will there be a major slow-down in payment this year and is it also true that there is no provision for the extension of funding for severely handicapped regions? In Cavan and Monaghan, a large percentage of farmers do not qualify for headage payments, yet all of Longford and Roscommon, for some reason, do.
On control of farmyard pollution, which also is relevant to a drumlin soil area like Cavan-Monaghan, there is a decrease in the allocation for grants. I think the money allocated is only for projects already decided, so no new farmers can apply. I am glad to hear that the Minister has employed new people to seriously tackle the problem of bovine TB. We must have a proper analysis in order to find out what causes the disease and we must have control. In my own area of Cavan-Monaghan especially Monaghan, this is a serious problem and that is why I asked why our computerisation budget was decreased. We do need a computerised system to control and monitor the movement of every animal.
The last question I want to ask relates to the Leader and INTERREG funding. I see that they have increased and that INTERREG funding is for Border areas only. In the agricultural area, where does it stop, because as far as roads are concerned, money has been allocated for the Border areas as far down as Ashbourne, Roscommon and Longford, so I hope that INTERREG funding will also be allocated to the Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth areas. I know the Commissioner did get Sligo thrown in.
The first issue I wish to address is subhead L. — Land Commission Services. It says that the subhead provides for residual expenses associated with the Land Commission. For many in the west, the Land Commission is still a live issue on two grounds. The first is the question of the records branch. We are still dealing with estates going back to the Congested Districts Boards era and people are trying to get title. Resources are needed to speed up the operation and ensure that land title with the Land Registry is not held up by a lack of resources in that part of the Department of Agriculture. The second question relates to whether it is intended to continue financing — I cannot see any subhead here — commonage division. Commonage division, reorganisation and land reorganisation are live issues and there is a big demand for this in western areas. In a High Court case there was a decision as to whether 100 per cent agreement was needed. There are still many commonages and parts of commonages for division and therefore I ask the Minister to consider making funds available for this.
Regarding the funding for environmentally sensitive areas and the interface between that and the social welfare code — I have raised this before — I will be making the point that it should not be taken up unless there are corresponding arrangements made with the Department of Social Welfare to ensure that whatever payments are made under this subhead are not taken back by the Department when the payments are made. I would like to ask the Minister whether it is intended, in the applications for further aid from the EC, to reinstitute a package similar to the older western development package, which was funded, because the farm improvement programme does not suit many western farmers. A farmer would have to keep extensive accounts just to get a small grant of £600 or £700 for building a shed and we would——
And it has to be firm.
——favour a new western development package which would include special fencing grants. Finally, on Forestry, I notice in the Minister's speech there is reference made to and I quote: "an indigenous industry such as forestry can prove greatly beneficial to remote rural communities where opportunities for wealth-creation are otherwise restricted" and I would like clarification regarding the policy issue here. It seems to me that Coillte is acting out of line with Government policy in this issue because there has been a tendancy to let trees grow in the west but to create the jobs in the east by transporting timber over the Shannon——
In Northern Ireland.
——for processing outside the areas where they are grown. It is important, since many farmers in the west were told that if their land was planted it would create jobs for their children, and for their children's children, that there should be positive discrimination to ensure that the areas where the trees are grown is where the processing will take place. Reports up to now have tended to favour the already strong units. Those who gave the land should benefit from the investment they were willing to make in forestry development.
Before I call the next speaker, I wish to say that we lost 15 minutes at the beginning in coming to an agreement on the procedure we should follow. Five Deputies have indicated they wish to put some questions. Is it agreed that all five should speak before the Minister responds? Agreed.
I will confine my contribution to a question. May I ask the Minister if the allocation of £10 million under Vote 32: Forestry is sufficient to keep all the current forestry workers employed for the entire year, avoiding the situation which arose last August in the Galway-Mayo region where 65 forestry workers were let go, to be reemployed in January, because the budget ran out? These people cost the State the same amount of money in social welfare as they would have working in forestry. They were not let go because there was no work, but because the Estimate was insufficient to keep them employed until the end of the year. Is there adequate provision this year?
I would urge the Minister to christen his own child first. I was listening to Deputies talking about Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal but I would advise the Minister not to lose sight of his own constituency in west Cork.
We are disappointed in west Cork by how little employment has been provided by forestry. Almost no growth has taken place there in the past 20 years. Were it not for private investors and the private planting operations by a well-known company in south-west Cork, it would have ground to a complete halt. I would like the Minister to promote interest at deparmental level. I believe the Department provided substantial employment in forestry 15 to 20 years ago but that has disappeared completely. In the Minister's little hamlet of Glengarriff, where he has a country home——
——surrounded by timber plantations, the people are highly critical of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and because woods are left to deteriorate, with branches growing into streams which creates blockages leading to flooding during the winter months. The Department should provide increased upkeep for the plantations. I would urge the Minister to employ more people in the Glengarriff area if possible.
A few names, Deputy.
It would greatly benefit the area. I am highly critical of the amount of thinnings being exported from this country at a very low price. Would it be possible for those thinnings to be processed into wood pulp in this country rather than being exported to Sweden and Norway and imported back as wood pulp? Could the Minister elaborate on this?
In relation to subhead I.3, reference was made to the fact that £0.75 million was given to Bord na gCon to promote the greyhound industry and one or two contributors have already referred to the outstanding potential wihin that industry. I wish to ask the Minister if any of that money is expended to promote coursing? I suggest that the greyhound industry suffers enormously because the general public associates it with coursing which is one of the reasons for falling attendances at greyhound tracks.
These tracks are in a deplorable condition reflecting an industry which is in decline. This decline will be permanent unless the industry itself faces up to the issue of coursing and its effect, nationally, on those who wish to support this excellent pastime. I know enough about the greyhound industry to know that dogs pass from one pursuit to another, I am not naive in that regard, but I ask the Minister if his Department is promoting coursing in any way?
I have two brief questions the first of which is in regard to the early retirement scheme. The criteria are so restrictive that the £1 million will probably not be spent. Could the Minister explain how much enlargement will be involved and, regarding the length of lease, how long would be a recipient have to be in possession of land, either by lease or ownership, before the transferee would qualify? A retired farmer will not qualify if he divides his farm between two of his family, for example. There is now a number of shared ownership schemes. Will joint ownership of land preclude a farmer from qualifying for the retirement pension?
With regard to forestry, at present there is no grant aid scheme for Christmas trees or foliage. This is a part of the forestry industry which has great potential for growth, especially in terms of exports. However, there is no scheme operated either by Coillte or the Department to assist people who want to produce Christmas trees.
In relation to the INTERREG programme, what specifically will funding be available for and for which counties? With regard to subhead M. 14. — Farming in Environmentally Sensitive Areas — I realise that the Minister is having discussions at present in Europe in relation to funding for these areas of scientific interest and perhaps he could advise when the scheme will be available?
In relation to the Forestry Vote, I think it is a fallacy that forestry is a key development sector in our economy. What is the point of growing trees when not even a small sawmill can compete against the position in Northern Ireland. It has come to the stage of complete and utter frustration for people, especially in my county, where we had a huge input into forestry. I continue to hope that we can encourage a pulp manufacturing industry into the north-west region.
We must do something about the black economy, be it within Coillte or with the Northern Ireland people. I would ask the Minister to meet his counterparts in Northern Ireland and squeeze these people out. It is a ridiculous situation. People who had good jobs in the forestry service are being undermined. It is a fallacy that we have developments in forestry although there is huge potential.
I am being facetious but a psychiatrist should be appointed to Coillte because the people in that organisation are going crazy. They are being pressured into making commercial decisions against the will of many people. This is causing a public relations problem within the Forestry Service. There could be huge development and employment in forestry but we have to be rational and tough if we are going to realise the potential of the forestry sector in this country.
There are a number of questions about agriculture which I will have to leave for another day. I want to remark Chairman — and I mean no disrespect to you — that the Committee obviously has not left enough time to debate that Estimate. We, particularly those Deputies who are anxious about setting the agenda for this committee should bear this in mind in future. We should use and plan our time better.
In case I forget, Sir, and we come to the end of this discussion without concluding it, I am not agreeing to the Estimate for Agriculture and I want that put to a division, wherever the appropriate place for that is. I hope you will note that.
I want to ask the Minister a couple of specific questions on the Forestry Estimate. I agree with the general thrust of what Deputy Coughlan has said but I invite the Minister to consider whether the resolution of that problem does not lie in the hands of his colleague, the Minister for Finance, because the reason it is impossible for forestry and wood product operators in this country to compete with people in Northern Ireland is due almost exclusively to the operation of the tax system here. Until the State sorts out that problem it will be impossible to ensure that we get the level of employment from forest industries that we should have.
Could I also ask the Minister to engage in a deeper consultation on policy with Coillte? Throughout the country Coillte's plantation policy is doing the bare minimum to ensuring the presence of broad leaf species in plantations. In case after case there is simply a cosmetic screen of broad leaf species around the edge of a plantation. Broad leaf species should be a bigger part of our forest environment. If we had a suitable tax environment here to allow us to get more added value from our forests, it would enormously improve the economic viability of adding a greater proportion of broad leaf species to the current mix of trees. The issue is important. A higher proportion of broad leaf species in our forests will give us a far better mix commercially in the long term and improve in the short term the environment into which we can lure tourists.
I ask the Minister if he and his colleague, the Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy McCreevy, would both bring pressure to bear on Coillte to do more to ensure access to forests for amenity and recreation purposes. I have been told — I have not been there myself since last year — that probably the most famous forest in the country, Dún an Rí, the one we all sing about, is impossible to enter. The potholes there are worse than in any of the other county roads in Cavan, putting people off visiting it. There are forest estates all around the country which, without any great inconvenience to anyone, could be resorts for tourists, but there is no proper access to them. It is not too costly to provide access. There are forest estates which could make money for Coillte on a fee paying basis if they agreed to allow in people who are organising walking tours.
Could I draw your attention to the fact that you had an opportunity to make an opening statement? We are now taking questions. Would you confine your remarks to questions to the Minister, please?
I had almost concluded, Sir, and I was coming to my final point. I would ask you to consider the fact that you did stunt my growth earlier.
You could have fooled me in that regard.
I wanted to ask the Minister if he will encourage Coillte to be more open in there approach to people who want to use forest plantations for recreational and tourism purposes. There would be a lot of benefit to be got from that.
When we put forward the original programme for this meeting we allowed time for an overrun, but unfortunately that was rejected and as a result we have to curtail our discussion today. Incidentally, on a technical point, Votes are not formally moved here. That is done in the House. I now call the Minister to respond.
Can I ask you, Chairman how much time we have to respond?
I would say ten minutes. Perhaps you could communicate with the committee by way of memorandum at a later date on the outstanding points.
As long as it takes to satisfy Deputy Byrne and Deputy Coughlan.
Would it be possible Minister — before you are distracted by Deputy Dukes — to respond to us by way of memorandum at a later stage on points you are unable to deal with here today?
There will be no difficulty at all about that. Deputies know that Question Time is coming up on 25 May and I will be able to elaborate on individual questions there as well. I want to allow my colleagues——
Is that decided? Will the Minister respond to us by way of memorandum to matters he is unable to respond to now? Is that agreed?
I am prepared to allow the Minister to go on until 8 o'clock if he so desires. How much time do you want?
You misunderstand me. I agree with the suggestion. I would just like to make sure it is confirmed and will be acted on. I will be quite happy to accept the response by way of memorandum to any matter the Minister has not dealt with.
I have no difficulty whatsoever with that.
I think you have confirmation from the Minister, Deputy.
There are many unanswered questions and if the Minister gives the Committee a memorandum dealing with the issues you have not time to address——
I have no difficulty with that, but I would like to allow my colleagues and Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea and Deputy Hyland, to respond specifically to areas for which they are responsible. You will be glad to know that the partnership and cohesion of this Administration is alive and well in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea, will deal with the greyhound industry which was raised by a number of Deputies.
Deputies Fitzgerald, MacDaid and Flood made specific references to greyhound racing. Deputy Flood asked whether the Department of Agriculture was promoting coursing in any way. The answer to that is no. It pays a grant — as you can see here — of £750,000 through Bord na gCon for the promotion of the industry.
A task force was set up by the Minister, Deputy Walsh, and its report is now with the Department. The report deals with three main areas: declining attendances at tracks, controlling greyhound racing, and coursing. Proposals on these areas will be going to Government, along with proposals on the new arrangements for the horse racing industry in a month or two. The Government is determined to arrest the decline in greyhound racing, an important industry for this country which it generates income earnings. The matter is being addressed quickly and I thank the Deputies concerned for raising the matter.
The matter of aid for Donegal potato growers is well advanced with the EC Commission. The suggestion made by Deputy McDaid is a good one. If the Deputies in the area affected wish to discuss it with the Department, we can bring them up to date. I am addressing a question on the Adjournment in the Dáil later tonight on that issue.
The matter of rural development was raised. I would like to thank the Deputies who spoke in relation to the rural development programme. The Department has a total and positive commitment to expanding the rural development programme; you will note from the Estimate that the Department has increased its funding from £10.731 million to £12.8 million for 1993. In addition to that, there is the farm diversification scheme and, quite recently, the re-introduction of the scheme for the control of farmyard pollution. The Leader programme is an experimental — pilot — programme operating in 17 areas, with funding to the amount of £35 million. I thank Deputies for their favourable comments in relation to Leader and I can assure the members of this committee that we will be endeavouring to negotiate a new Leader programme post-1993. In addition to that, everything possible will be done to ensure that the maximum amount of money is channelled from Structural Funds into our development programmes.
I would like to take up the point made by Deputy Molloy in relation to the Forestry brief. I will respond by way of a briefing note to the Deputy in relation to the various points he raised. It is my intention as Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry to maximise the potential of the forest industry for two reasons. First, to supplement farm incomes and, second, to create the maximum number of jobs because this is an area which is of tremendous concern to everybody. We propose to do that by increasing our planting programme. It is our intention to reach our set target of 30,000 hectares. We are well on the way to achieving that objective within the overall timescale of our programme. In addition to that, we propose to add the maximum value to the produce of our national forest through processing.
Deputy Dukes referred to the potential that forestry offers in terms of tourism development. We are developing an integrated programme which will incorporate the expansion of our growing programme, an escalation in the processing and the introduction of amenity forestry development, which will be of benefit to tourism.
While it may be true that Coillte Teoranta, which is responsible for our national forests, is not creating direct employment in jobs in forestry, nonetheless the contract programme which it is operating is providing a sizeable number of jobs. With an increase in that planting programme there will be a corresponding increase in employment generally in the forest area. In addition to that, in relation to processing, most members are aware that we are close to bringing on stream the OSB Mill which will add considerable value to the produce of our forests. It is hoped to create 125 jobs directly within that mill, with an increase of 375 jobs in harvesting and haulage. The resin industry will create approximately 30 jobs in addition to that. The solution to job creation within the overall national forestry programme is in adding value and in processing. It is also hoped to expand the Medite plant. An additional 30 jobs will be created in that plant with a further 150 jobs in the future.
I assure the members of this Committee that I agree fully with the views which have been expressed that forestry does offer tremendous potential in terms of our national development programme. It offers potential in terms of job creation and in terms of exports.
With all due respect, that was not the view of some of our colleagues who spoke here from the Minister's side of the House.
In relation to?
In relation to the job creation potential.
The Minister, without interruption.
All I can say is that we have to organise the forest industry in a manner in which it will become efficient, in a manner which will enable us to be competitive on the export market. Only by doing that can we create jobs. We are moving steadily in that direction in terms of increasing the planting programme and very positively moving towards adding value to two processing industries which I have identified. It may take time but it has the potential and we will certainly work hard at it.
We will send a detailed memorandum to each member of the Committee to cover any points which we have not dealt with specifically. First, there was a question about additional staff. It would not have been possible to do the additional work without additional staff. The existing staff have coped extremely well under the circumstances. They have been stretched to breaking point over the past six to seven months. The decision to put special beef premium staff in Portlaoise is correct. It will improve efficiency all round. I want to allay fears in relation to staffing and resources in local offices. There will be no diminution of staff or resources in local offices; in fact, they will be increased. Over the past decade the staff in the Department have actually been reduced by 1,600. Deputy Crawford raised a question about computerisation. There was a drop in the provision for computerisation. That was because of cyclical arrangements where purchases are bought and the service goes on andit is some time before additional equipment is required. The Deputy may rest assured that there will be a computerisation and information technology programme available in the Department at the earliest possible date and at the latest within two years.
Deputy Molloy raised a question about which Department should have responsibility for food. It makes a lot of sense and is certainly logical to have the whole food chain from farm production to marketing and promotion within the one Department. That is where it is going to be.
A question was asked about aid area application forms. Deputy Ó Cuív raised the matter of commonage. The position regarding that is that people have to state what proportion of commonage they own.
CAP controls and the Beef Tribunal were raised. It was impossible to state when the Estimates were being prepared, and it is still impossible to know, when the tribunal is going to end. There are a number of lessons to be learned from the tribunal. Already a number of additional controls have been put in place. A single intervention unit has been created. A new contractual control system has been set up for intervention arrangements within this unit. Systematic surprise inspections have been implemented. New and more comprehensive penalties have been introduced and new and much tighter contractual arrangements governing intervention and de-boning are now in place. Additional staff have been deployed at factory level.
The question of the couch in the foyer of Agriculture House has been raised. Deputy Coughlan made an emotional appeal to me to do something about the couch in the foyer of Agriculture House.
Tell us more.
It would be a pleasure for me to invite Deputy Coughlan to Agriculture House.
That concludes the consideration of Votes 31 and 32.
The Select Committee adjourned until Friday, 21 May 1993.