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Thursday, 17 Nov 2016

Written Answers Nos. 229-241

Young Farmers Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (229)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

229. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the criteria for the young farmers scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35550/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

EU Regulations governing the operation of the Young Farmers Scheme set down the definition of a young farmer for the purposes of eligibility under the Scheme. This definition applies to all Member States and my Department has no discretion with regard to its implementation in Ireland. The status of ‘young farmer’ introduced under the reformed Common Agricultural Policy is designed specifically to assist young farmers in the initial stages of establishing a farming enterprise. For this reason payment is confined to young farmers for a period not exceeding the first five years following commencement of their agricultural activity.

Fish Landings

Ceisteanna (230)

Jim Daly

Ceist:

230. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 331 of 6 April 2016, if he will provide an updated reply noting that new information has been received by his Department regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35555/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) is the agency with responsibility for recording landings of fish (excluding farmed fish) into Irish ports. I am informed by the SFPA that landings of fish (excluding farmed fish) into Castletownbere Fishery Harbour Centre in 2015 amounted to a total of 45,762 tonnes with a value of €112.7 million. This shows a significant increase on 2014 figures which stood at 35,004 tonnes valued at €82.1m.

Additionally 3,027 tonnes of farmed salmon were landed into Castletownbere in 2015 which is the first year we have these statistics available. I do not have accurate figures for the value of the farmed salmon landed into Castletownbere.

Dairy Sector

Ceisteanna (231, 232)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

231. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there is dedicated funding that does not involved taking out finance available to dairy farmers in counties Cavan and Monaghan who are struggling to pay their bills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35561/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

232. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason there is no monetary incentive for farmers who comply with the Bord Bia dairy inspection similar to the premiums offered in the beef sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35577/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 and 232 together.

As Minister for Agriculture, I am concerned with the livelihoods of farmers in all sectors in each of the 26 counties. I am acutely conscious of the pressure farmers are under at present, and I can assure the Deputy that I am committed to exploring all of the appropriate options for providing assistance to the farm sector through current difficulties.

After a prolonged period of price volatility in dairy markets, there are some tentative signs of recovery. However, volatility will continue to be a feature of global dairy markets. There has been significant progress in terms of responses from all stakeholders across a number of areas, with EU measures, initiatives by processors and a new flexible loan fund for dairy and other farmers announced in Budget 2017.

On the market front, since taking office I have led trade missions to Asia and to North Africa, with a view to increasing the profile of Ireland as a producer of quality food products, particularly dairy products. This work on market diversification is a critically important element in mitigating market volatility and is particularly important in the context of Brexit.

On-going efforts within industry to move dairy production up the value chain wherever possible are also critically important and continue to be supported by Government. These efforts are supported by investment by my Department and its agencies in research and innovation. By providing financial support for Teagasc, ICBF and Animal Health Ireland, and for knowledge transfer groups, we continually invest in the provision of advice and education to farmers, which facilitates technology adoption and improves profitability at farm level. My Department is also providing support for investment at farm level through the TAMS scheme.

The Dairy Quality Assurance Scheme is also critically important in developing a unique selling point for Irish dairy products on EU and international markets. Dairy processors make a substantial contribution to cover some of the costs of audits under the scheme, but of course the question of price incentives for participation is a matter for the industry.

Where appropriate, we must continue to focus on appropriate national and EU measures that can play a role in supporting the sector. It is vital that we continue to work closely with the Commission and all other key stakeholders in this regard.

The Commission, in many instances based on suggestions from Ireland and other like minded Member States, has already deployed a range of market supports including intervention and Aids to Private Storage, and a financial package of €500 million for liquidity assistance was agreed at the Agriculture council in September 2016, with Ireland topping up its allocation to provide a total assistance package of approaching €27M to Irish farmers in late 2015 and early 2016.

The Commission also announced a further €500m support package for EU farmers in July 2016. The first €150m was reserved for an EU-wide scheme compensating farmers who reduce their milk output over certain reference periods towards the end of 2016. This was very well subscribed to in Ireland and, should the commitments for reduction be adhered to, will be worth over €10M to Irish dairy farmers in 2017.

For the other element of the Commission package, €350m is set aside for Member State initiatives with fixed allocations per MS. Ireland’s allocation under this scheme is €11m. I have decided to provide an additional €13 million national aid in that in order to optimise the effectiveness of this measure and to use it to support  the development of a €150 million fund for low interest loans for farmers.

A further measure that has assisted in reducing the burden on all farmers, including those in the dairy sector, was the negotiation and agreement of advanced payments for the Basic Payment and the RDP schemes, allowing us to pay out 70% and 85% respectively from 16th October.

I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to work closely with the dairy sector, with EU colleagues and International counterparts to ensure the development and maintenance of a sustainable dairy sector in Cavan, Monaghan and elsewhere.

Animal Welfare

Ceisteanna (233)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

233. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to ban wild animal circuses here on the basis of cruelty to animals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35657/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The conditions under which circus animals are kept and managed come under the scope of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, which contains rules relating to the welfare of all animals and requires a person having an animal under his or her control to safeguard and not endanger the health and welfare of the animal. My Department continues to engage with stakeholders, including circus groups, animal welfare organisations, in relation to the welfare of wild animals in circuses. According to the information available to my Department, there are in fact very few wild animals currently performing in Irish circuses.  I have no plans at this juncture to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

Forestry Premium Payments

Ceisteanna (234)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

234. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of withheld premiums in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35659/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

There are no forestry premiums being withheld in respect of the person named.

The application under the reference number quoted  was approved for payment of the 1st grant and premium on 26 April 2016 with the 2 premium paid on 08 June 2016.

The person named queried the area approved for payment of 9.47 hectares as it is less than the area of 9.54 hectares submitted for payment by his registered forester. The reason for the reduction is attributable to two factors. The first is that the Department, under the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme rules, pays on the lesser of the area claimed and the area of the claim as digitised by the Department. In addition the area of biodiversity enhancement is limited to 15% of the area determined for payment.  When the necessary adjustments were made in accordance with the Scheme rules this resulted in a slightly reduced payable area to that claimed on behalf of the person named.

Ash Dieback Threat

Ceisteanna (235)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

235. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress to date in dealing with ash dieback disease; the number of confirmed findings of this disease in each of the years 2012 to date in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35661/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I would advise the Deputy that on the Department’s website  there is a dedicated section on Ash Dieback disease. It gives a comprehensive account of all the work by my Department to date to try to curtail and eradicate the disease on a national basis and the findings from each of the targeted and systematic surveys undertaken from 2012 to 2016. The website also provides information on the Reconstitution Scheme (Chalara Ash Dieback) which is available to assist owners of forests planted under the Afforestation Scheme which have suffered from the disease to restore those forests, as well as information on research projects into the control and management of the disease, in particular projects to identify trees that show strong tolerance and or resistance to the disease. There is also a national distribution map and summary table of all confirmed findings up to the second quarter of 2016 (i.e. 30 June this year). This table and map will be updated with the figures for third quarter of 2016 in the coming days.

To summarise the current situation and to speak to the long term outlook, at this juncture it is important to note that notwithstanding the positive effects at local level of the eradication actions undertaken to date, both by affected landowners supported by the Reconstitution Scheme or directly by the Department itself, the annual systematic surveys and targeted surveys as well as follow up inspections by Department Inspectors have indicated year on year that there is a continuing rise in the number and geographic distribution of confirmed findings nationally. By June of this year, at a time when the targeted and systematic summer surveys were still underway, the initial results were already such as to confirm the presence to a greater or lesser extent of the disease in all 26 counties.

Another factor is that initially the findings were in imported ash trees. Later  the disease was found in native hedgerows beside infected imported ash trees. The Department is now finding the disease in native hedgerows where there is no obvious introduced source of infection nearby. In addition over half the recent findings in forest plantations are in ash trees of native Irish origin. It is also worth noting that in  Britain the disease has spread quickly and widely in the natural environment over the same time period.

As already noted, the Department is actively supporting a number of research projects into disease, in particular projects with a key long-term focus of developing an ash tree breeding programme to identify trees that show strong tolerance and or resistance to the disease and the genetic basis for tolerance. It is through such programmes that a long term strategy for ash can be identified and supported.

Ash Dieback Threat

Ceisteanna (236)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

236. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the average length of time it takes to respond to reports of possible ash dieback disease; the average time it takes to complete appropriate investigations and determine a positive or negative finding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35662/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Department, in line with the commitments given in the Customer Charter and Customer Action Plan 2015-2020 endeavours to acknowledge reports of possible ash dieback disease received by email within 1 working day and in the case of reports received by letter within 3 working days. The Department will endeavour to issue a more comprehensive reply within 20 working days thereafter. Receipt of all reports successfully submitted using the TreeCheck App are also automatically acknowledged.

The time taken to complete field investigations and testing can vary greatly depending on the individual circumstances of the case reported. The time taken to complete this work and inform the forest owner of the outcome is dependent on the following factors:

- the level of detail initially supplied by a reporting party;

- assessment by the Department’s Inspectors as to whether ash dieback disease is actually involved and an evaluation of the potential risk associated with the report;

- the need in terms of the efficient and prudent use of public resources to schedule follow-up visits on such reports with other already planned survey work or inspections, and

- the need for both the Department’s Inspectors and its laboratory scientists to prioritise different bodies of work at different times of the year.

Depending on the above factors, the time taken to report the final outcome to forest owners could be anything between three weeks and three months.

In terms of calculating the average time taken to reply to reported cases it is not practical to do so given that there are now 255 confirmed cases of ash dieback disease in forest plantations. The number of cases that would have to be revisited to calculate this figure is much greater than this figure if sites with negative test results are taken into account. Furthermore, an average figure would be a poor indicator of how long an individual forest owner could expect to wait for a reply from the Department given the significant range that exists between the shortest response time and the longest.

Agriculture Schemes

Ceisteanna (237)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

237. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will make an allocation for 2016 and 2017 for young farmers under the national reserve scheme; when he will announce the conditions for such a scheme for 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35693/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In 2015 the National Reserve fund was based on a 3% cut to the Basic Payment Scheme financial ceiling and provided some €24.7 million in funding which was the maximum financing rate available under the relevant EU Regulations. There were some 6,260 successful applicants under the 2015 National Reserve. The EU Regulations governing the operation of the National Reserve set down that the two priority categories of ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant to farming’ have priority access to the Reserve.

There was no National Reserve in 2016 as all available funding has been utilised under the 2015 scheme. In order to provide for a National Reserve in 2017 funding is required to replenish the Reserve. EU Regulations governing the scheme provide that funding for the replenishment of the National Reserve may be obtained by means of surrender of entitlements that remain unused by farmers for two consecutive years and by claw-back derived following the sale of entitlements without land. It is envisaged that funding derived from these two sources in 2017 will be very limited. The Regulations also provide for the application of a linear cut to the value of all farmers’ entitlements to replenish the National Reserve. Decisions in relation to the National Reserve for 2017 will be considered once the position on potential funding has been established.

Basic Payment Scheme

Ceisteanna (238)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

238. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total number of participants under the national reserve scheme in each year to date in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35694/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Basic Payment Scheme National Reserve was introduced in 2015. In 2015 the National Reserve fund was based on a 3% cut to the Basic Payment Scheme financial ceiling and provided some €24.7 million in funding. This was the maximum financing rate available under the relevant EU Regulations.  The total number of beneficiaries under the National Reserve in 2015 is detailed in the following table.

Scheme Year

Total Number of Beneficiaries

2015

6,260

There was no National Reserve in 2016 as all available funding has been utilised under the 2015 scheme.  In order to provide for a National Reserve in 2017 funding is required to replenish the Reserve.  EU Regulations governing the scheme provide that funding for the replenishment of the National Reserve may be obtained by means of surrender of entitlements that remain unused by farmers for two consecutive years and by claw-back derived following the sale of entitlements without land. It is envisaged that funding derived from these two sources in 2017 will be very limited. The EU Regulations also provide for the option for Member States to apply a linear cut to all farmers’ entitlements in order to replenish the National Reserve. Decisions in relation to the National Reserve for 2017 will be considered once the position on potential funding has been established

Young Farmers Scheme

Ceisteanna (239)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

239. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total budget allocation for each year under CAP pillar 1 2014 to 2020 for young farmers under the national reserve scheme in tabular form; the total amount drawn down in each year and to date in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35695/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In 2015 the National Reserve fund was based on a 3% cut to the Basic Payment Scheme financial ceiling and provided some €24.7 million in funding which was the maximum financing rate available under the relevant EU Regulations. The EU regulations governing the National Reserve provide that priority under the National Reserve must be given to ‘young farmers’ and to ‘new entrants to farming’. There was no National Reserve in 2016 as all available funding has been utilised under the 2015 scheme.  There were 6,260 beneficiaries under the 2015 National Reserve of which 5,567 were successful applicants under the ‘young farmer’ priority category. Details are set out in the following table.

Scheme Year

Total Number of beneficiaries under the National Reserve

Number of beneficiaries under the Young Farmer priority Category

2015

6,260

5,567

In order to provide for a National Reserve in 2017 funding is required to replenish the Reserve.  EU Regulations governing the scheme provide that funding for the replenishment of the National Reserve may be obtained by means of surrender of entitlements that remain unused by farmers for two consecutive years and by claw-back derived following the sale of entitlements without land. It is envisaged that funding derived from these two sources in 2017 will be very limited. The Regulations also provide for the application of a linear cut to the value of all farmers’ entitlements to replenish the National Reserve. Decisions in relation to the National Reserve for 2017 will be considered once the position on potential funding has been established.

Young Farmers Scheme

Ceisteanna (240)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

240. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total number of participants under the young farmers scheme in each of the years 2014 to date in 2016, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35696/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Young Farmers Scheme was introduced in 2015 as a measure to support young farmers under the reformed Common Agricultural Policy. In 2015 there were 8,170 successful applicants under the Young Farmers Scheme.  For 2016 my Department has received some 8,600 applications for funding under the scheme and processing of these applications is currently being finalised in advance of payments issuing under the Scheme in early December.

Scheme Year

Number

2015

8,170 successful applicants.

2016

8,600 applications received.

Young Farmers Scheme

Ceisteanna (241)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

241. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total budget allocation for each year under CAP pillar 1 2014 to 2020 for participants under the young farmers scheme in tabular form; the total amount drawn down in each year and to date in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35697/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Young Farmers Scheme was introduced in 2015 as a measure to support young farmers under the reformed Common Agricultural Policy. Ireland has allocated 2% of the national ceiling to the Scheme each year from 2015 to 2019. Payments under the 2016 Young Farmers Scheme are due to issue after payment of the Basic Payment Scheme balancing payment on 1 December 2016.

The following table sets out the total budget allocation for each year 2015-2019 for the Young Farmers Scheme and details of the amount paid under the Scheme for 2015.

Year

Annual National Ceiling 2015-2019

YFS  fund - 2% of National Ceiling

Total Paid under YFS

2015

€1,215,003,000.00

€24,300,000.00

€18,774,796.09

2016

€1,213,470,000.00

€24,269,400.00

Payments commencing early December 2016

2017

€1,211,899,000.00

€24,237,980.00

N/A

2018

€1,211,482,000.00

€24,229,640.00

N/A

2019

€1,211,066,000.00

€24,221,320.00

N/A

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