Agrifood Sector

Ceisteanna (234)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

234. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to outline the outcome of recent discussions he had with the European Agriculture and Trade Commissioners on the need to protect the agrifood sector here in negotiations on a possible Mercosur trade deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5148/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Ireland's position is well-known as regards our opposition to any agreement that would have negative consequences for the Irish and EU agriculture sectors, and for the beef sector in particular. It has been reiterated many times, by myself at Council of Agriculture Ministers meetings and through direct contacts with Commissioners Hogan and Malmstroem, by other Ministers in the relevant EU Trade policy fora, and by the Taoiseach at European Council and through his own direct contacts, most recently with Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and French President Emmanuel Macron. Indeed my colleague, Minister of State Andrew Doyle, made a very strong intervention on this point at this week's Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting in Brussels, and spoke to Commissioner Hogan on the matter.

I have been very consistent in urging caution in the approach to these negotiations, and have expressed Ireland's very grave concerns about the offer of a beef tariff rate quota of 70,000 tonnes made by the EU to Mercosur last October, and our determination not to have this exceeded. Indeed it was as a result of the efforts of Ireland and a number of like minded member states that a draft EU offer of 78,000 tonnes in April 2017 was ultimately not tabled.

I believe there is a need for continued vigilance in relation to the conduct of these trade negotiations, and I will continue to insist that they are handled appropriately, and in a manner that safeguards the interests of the Irish and European beef sector. I will also continue to work very closely with Member State colleagues in this regard. In particular, I believe full account must be taken of the findings of the Commission’s own assessment of the cumulative impact of trade deals on the agrifood sector, and the potentially very damaging impact of Brexit on an already delicately balanced EU beef market.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (235)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

235. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to set out in tabular form the amount expended by his Department on information technology infrastructure by hardware and software in each of the years 2014 to 2017 relating to scheme payment systems; and the budget allocation for 2018. [5152/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

This Department makes extensive use of ICT systems and services to underpin all of its core activities; including areas such as animal health and welfare, food safety, fisheries and scheme payments.

Since 2015 the Department has introduced over 20 new Common Agriculture Policy Schemes and the vast bulk of these are now processed end to end by these digital systems. This transformative project has been achieved using the mix of internal staff and external support. The Department now has in place the necessary systems to ensure that it can deliver on its commitments over the coming years.

Ireland is to the fore in Europe in its delivery of Agriculture related systems to support payment of our varied schemes. This is evidenced by our ability to draw down CAP Pillar 2 funding at a rate that is 2nd only to Finland and this is facilitated by having the necessary ICT systems and supports in place. In addition we are consistently delivering EU schemes and payments in a more efficient manner than our EU paying agency peers.

The following Table 1 details the amount of expenditure incurred in the years 2014-2017 (2018 projected)  in relation to ICT systems and hardware to support the varying scheme payments (including but not limited to BPS, ANC, BGDP, TAMS, Sheep Welfare, GLAS, Forestry and Knowledge Transfer).

The increase in expenditure in 2018 includes the initiation of a new Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) Rebuild project. This project will be delivered in two years and plans to implement a new state of the art LPIS, using up-to-date technologies and providing for increased accuracy.

Table 1

Year

Infrastructure (*)

Software Development

2014

11,873,884

4,521,646

2015

11,500,845

8,531,665

2016

9,833,734

10,282,447

2017

12,865,714

11,011,050

2018 (projected)

14,500,000

15,987,400

(*)The Infrastructure expenditure relates to all of the ICT activities carried out by this department and includes, inter alia, communications (such as data lines and mobile), hardware (such as data centre, servers and endpoints), Internet Security and software (such as, desktop, servers, database and application support systems). In addition to scheme payments, it covers activities such as animal welfare, food safety, marine and desktop support for members of the Department, and also for other Department's on a shared service basis.

Live Exports

Ceisteanna (236)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

236. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to set out the number of live cattle exports per head to each country in 2016 and 2017; the WTO tariff that would apply for live cattle exports to the UK in the absence of a trade agreement being formalised between the UK and EU if Britain decides to leave the Single Market and customs union. [5153/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Live cattle exports per head to each country in 2016 & 2017 were as follows:

-

2017

 -

-

2016

Spain

50705

 -

Spain

37006

Netherlands

41630

 -

Netherlands

27036

Turkey

30568

 -

North Ireland

24739

Northern Ireland

26073

 -

Turkey

19262

Italy

19401

 -

Italy

18237

Britain

5789

 -

Britain

6666

Belgium

5525

 -

France

5933

France

2778

 -

Libya

2162

Libya

1832

 -

Greece

1449

Romania

986

 -

Romania

605

Greece

1093

 -

Slovakia

531

Germany

469

 -

Belgium

433

Russia

451

 -

Hungary

361

Slovakia

298

 -

Portugal

200

Hungary

80

 -

Morocco

180

Bulgaria

57

 -

Montenegro

154

Rwanda

54

 -

Kosovo

66

Albania

52

 -

Germany

65

Kosovo

35

 -

Czech Republic

41

Czech Republic

9

 -

Rwanda

39

Austria

4

 -

Bulgaria

35

Total

187889

 -

 -

145200

The WTO does not set tariffs; it obliges members to offer the same trade advantages to all WTO members (Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status) unless the members are a party to a Regional Trade Agreement.

If the UK leaves the EU without a trade agreement, it may choose to set tariffs on imported live animals. The tariff rate, if any, is a matter for the UK.

My Department's approach in relation to the future trade relationship between the EU and UK will be to ensure that this is as close to the current arrangements as possible, thereby minimising the potential impact on the Irish live export sector.

Fish Exports

Ceisteanna (237)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

237. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to set out the WTO tariff that would apply to seafood exports to the UK in the absence of a trade agreement being formalised between the UK and EU if Britain decides to leave the Single Market and customs union. [5154/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with special responsibility for Brexit, Minister Coveney has responsibility for coordinating the whole-of-Government response to Brexit. In this capacity, he is working closely with his colleagues across Government and state agencies to address the many challenges resulting from Brexit, providing their research, analysis and overall policy input to the Government’s wider response to Brexit, including its priorities for the ongoing Article 50 negotiations between the EU and the UK.

However, every effort will continue to be made to ensure that the implications for the agrifood and fisheries sectors are fully taken account of, and that there will be as close alignment as possible with the current trade models. Ireland’s key tasks in this regard will continue to be: continued free access to the UK market, without tariffs and with minimal additional customs and administrative procedures; minimisation of the risk from UK trade agreements with third countries; and maintenance of current access to fishing grounds in the UK zone in the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and north of Donegal and protection of Ireland’s quota shares.

As the outcome of the negotiations is not yet known, an important focus of the planning and preparation being undertaken through these structures is on deepening the Government’s analysis and understanding of the exact consequences of a range of different possible scenarios. This represents an intensification of efforts to build on the Government‘s contingency planning.

In line with this whole-of-Government work, my Department has conducted a range of analysis and research activities in relation to Brexit. This work is ongoing, and is primarily concerned with the implications of Brexit for agrifood trade with the UK across different sectors.

For example, both internally and in consultation with the relevant stakeholders through the Brexit Stakeholder Consultative Committee and the All-Island Civic Dialogue process, my Department has established the extent of the seafood industry’s reliance on the UK market, the potential implications of Brexit and the possible responses to the challenges presented. It has also been analysing the potential practical impact on the day-to-day functioning of trade flows, as well as potential WTO tariffs that might be applied to Ireland's seafood exports to the UK in the event of a 'hard' Brexit. The WTO tariffs for our top 18 seafood exports to the UK range from 2% to 25% with an average of approximately 12%. However, it is important to remember that the UK only accounted for 13% of Ireland’s seafood exports in 2016 and an estimated 10% of Ireland’s seafood exports in 2017.

Beef Data and Genomics Programme

Ceisteanna (238)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

238. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to set out the number of herdowners who have outstanding genomic samples to submit under the beef data and genomics scheme. [5155/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme provides for six years of payments to farmers for completion of actions which deliver accelerated genetic improvement in the Irish national herd and improvement of its environmental sustainability.

To date, 306,000 samples have been returned for the 2017 Programme year. Of the 24,800 active participants in the Programme, 1,017 applicants have not returned 6,955 genomic samples.

The submission of genomic samples is a fundamental aspect of the Programme. Payments continue to issue as applicants become compliant.

TAMS Expenditure

Ceisteanna (239)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

239. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to outline the outcome for the Exchequer and European funds committed to the TAMS 2 scheme, whereby approved applications that have yet to be drawn down will have expired by end of 2019 but which were approved in 2016 (details supplied); and whether it is the case that, if drawdown and expenditure do not meet expected levels, scheme funding cannot be automatically carried forward to the following year. [5156/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The seven measures under TAMS II are co-funded under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 and is subject to the usual capital investment financial provisions. The level of approvals that have issued to date under the Scheme, which now stand at 12,758, are a testament to the success of the online application system which facilitates a far speedier turnaround of applications than under a manual based system.

However, the approvals have not as yet translated into a substantial level of claim activity. The funding committed to the TAMS II Schemes is €395m over the course of RDP. All approved participants who have completed their approved works are urged to submit a payment claim to draw down the available funding.

If an applicant has an approval which expires it is open to him/her under the Terms and Conditions of the TAMS Schemes to submit a new application. The situation as regards the later years of the scheme will be kept under review. Priority for now is to maximise expenditure for eligible applications for payment.

TAMS Administration

Ceisteanna (240)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

240. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to outline his views on the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's spending review of the TAMS 2 scheme (details supplied) relating to underspend. [5157/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The seven measures under TAMS II are co- funded under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. The level of approvals that have issued to date under the Scheme now stand at 12,758.

However, the approvals have not as yet translated into a substantial level of claim activity. The funding committed to the TAMS II Scheme is €395m over the course of RDP. All approved participants who have completed their approved works are urged to submit a payment claim to draw down the available funding.

The comments included in the spending review are noted. It is also worth noting that the timing of the review was at an earlier point in the programme and there has been significant activity in terms of approvals and payments subsequently. My Department has spent €11m on the TAMs in the last two months as there has been a noticeable pick up in submitted claims.

GLAS Expenditure

Ceisteanna (241)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

241. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to outline the budget allocation for GLAS in 2017; the amount of funding expended; and the budget allocation for 2018. [5158/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

€213 million was allocated to GLAS in 2017 with €195.6 million of this expended. As per the Deputy's parliamentary question of 13th December last, €203 million has been allocated for 2018.

GLAS funding is fully committed for the duration of the scheme and payments in individual years may vary but will balance out over the lifetime of the scheme.

Knowledge Transfer Programme

Ceisteanna (242)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

242. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to outline his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding a farm scheme. [5159/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Knowledge Transfer is one of a suite of measures included under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 and involves the formation of knowledge transfer groups across the beef, dairy, equine, sheep, tillage and poultry sectors. Farmer participants attend group meetings and produce a Farm Improvement Plan in consultation with their KT Facilitator. For each year of the three year programme participants receive a reimbursement in the amount of €750 for a primary sector and €375 for a secondary sector where all requirements of the programme have been met.

Payments under the programme commenced in late October 2017. To date circa €10.1 million has issued to 13,700 farmers. Officials in my Department are currently examining a number of partnership cases to ensure that there is a data match between individual Farm Improvement Plans and the individual farmer within the Register of Farm Partnerships. Every effort is being made to complete this process with a view to paying affected farmers as soon as possible.

EU Directives

Ceisteanna (243)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

243. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to outline his views on the conditions and criteria associated with the renewal of Ireland's nitrates derogation 2018 to 2021; and the steps he will take to help persons meet these conditions. [5160/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In December 2017, Ireland secured a renewal of our nitrates derogation for the period 2018 – 2021 on the basis of strengthened water protection measures. This contrasts with other EU member states which have had severe difficulties in negotiating successful renewals of their derogations.

The achievement of securing the renewal of the derogation is a significant milestone in the context of an expanding dairy herd and increasing milk production. While there are some additional stipulations attached to the derogation, these are the outcome of a year long negotiations with the Commission and two separate public consultations. It was important when seeking the renewal that Ireland demonstrated commitment to tackling agricultural impacts on water.

The measures in Ireland’s derogation take account of the growing numbers of derogation farmers who are farming at intensive stocking rates, and also environmental objectives for water, climate change and ammonia which Ireland must achieve. Furthermore, opportunities for large savings on farms through better grassland management and improved timing and application of fertiliser have been taken into account.

Agriculture is responsible for 98% of ammonia emissions and under the National Emissions Ceiling Directive, Ireland must reduce its ammonia emissions by 5%, by 2030 compared to 2005. Ammonia losses from slurry are significantly reduced by slurry application in the springtime and also by using low emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment.

It is now required that 50% of slurry produced on a derogation farm must be applied by 15th June and after that date it may only be applied by LESS equipment. Furthermore derogation farmers must have adequate manure storage for their animals. These new measures will assist farmers to deliver their production targets, reduce their greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions and reduce the risk of runoff to water quality.

In order to help farmers with the purchase of LESS equipment, support is provided under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme known as TAMS II is, subject to the terms and conditions of the Scheme, at a general grant rate of 40% rising to 60% for qualifying Young Farmers. The maximum amount of investment eligible for grant aid under the LESS measure is generally €40,000 per holding. It is also worth noting that the investment ceiling under this measure is, uniquely among all TAMS II measures, not subject to the overall TAMS II investment ceiling of €80,000 per holding.

Agriculture Schemes

Ceisteanna (244)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

244. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to outline his views on having a yellow card approach for cross-compliance inspections as pertains with land eligibility checks. [5161/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The EU regulations governing the Cross Compliance regime provides that where a breach of any of the requirements is deemed to be minor and remedial action is taken within a specified period, no monetary sanction will apply.

The "Yellow Card" provision in relation to land eligibility checks applies to those cases where a determined over-declaration in area is greater than 3% or 2 hectares, but does not exceed 10%. For such cases the penalty will be further reduced by 50%, subject to specific additional criteria.

My Department applies both of these provisions.

Forestry Data

Ceisteanna (245)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

245. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to set out in tabular form the percentage of agricultural land in each county that has been planted with forestry to date. [5162/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Forestry is one of the many land use options available to farmers and land owners and the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme is one of a wide range of supports provided by my Department. In 2017, 5,536 hectares of new forestry was planted nationally.

My Department compiles a number of different afforestation statistics annually, which are made available on my Department's website. The National Forest Inventory and the Ireland’s Forests - Annual Statistics 2016 are available on the website and are invaluable sources of statistical information on Ireland’s forest estate.

The area of land afforested in each county is indicated in the following table, which is taken from the National Forest Inventory. The area of forest is estimated to be 731,650 ha or 10.5% of the total land area of Ireland (NFI 2012).

It is not possible to provide the percentage of agricultural land afforested in each county as there is no information available on the total agricultural area in each county.

County

% Area

Carlow

9.4

Cavan

8.7

Clare

16.4

Cork

11.2

Donegal

11.6

Dublin

5.7

Galway

9.7

Kerry

11.2

Kildare

6.1

Kilkenny

9.2

Laois

14.7

Leitrim

16.7

Limerick

9.8

Longford

7.7

Louth

2.9

Mayo

9.2

Meath

5.3

Monaghan

4.3

Offaly

12.2

Roscommon

10.2

Sligo

11.2

Tipperary

11.2

Waterford

14.4

Westmeath

7.2

Wexford

5.9

Wicklow

17.7

Total

10.5