Afforestation Programme

Ceisteanna (169)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

169. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department has examined the potential for strategic afforestation to maximise carbon sequestration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18321/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The National Mitigation Plan (July 2017) states that “...the forest sector, through afforestation and the use of forest-based biomass and wood products offers considerable scope for climate change mitigation, equivalent to 20-22% of agricultural emissions.” In this context afforestation is a key land use strategy for my Department supported through the €0.5billion Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020. The afforestation scheme itself is voluntary and operates at a national level rather than targeting certain counties or regions. Therefore, in terms of maximising the potential of forestry to sequester carbon this very much depends on the willingness of landowners to participate in the scheme.

Strategic afforestation operates at scheme level where the programme aims to encourage landowners to consider planting trees on their farms. Agro forestry for example allows for forestry and grazing on the same land at the same while the forestry for fibre planting category can be clearfelled after 15 years and not 35-40 which is the case for more traditional forestry. So far over 18,000 hectares of new forests have been established during the first three years of the programme. The midterm review of this plan, completed in February 2018, improved the rates available for all planting categories.

Central to my Department’s approach to increasing forest cover is the promotion of “Farm Forestry” where farmers are encouraged to include afforestation as part of their overall farming mix. Land which is underutilised and perhaps more difficult to work on could be planted with trees, while moving livestock onto the dryer and more productive fields. In this way a new income is created while maintaining overall herd size.

In December 2016 Minister Doyle announced funding of over €1.3m for developing the “Irish Land Use Emission and Sequestration Support Tool”. This project will develop modelling capacity to examine future scenarios for agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration by forestry in Ireland. Other projects recently funded by my Department include research on biomass and renewable energy from Short Rotation Forestry which explores the potential of short rotation forestry (SRF) to contribute to biomass production and renewable energy targets in Ireland.

Afforestation Programme

Ceisteanna (170)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

170. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if consideration will be given to planting species of trees with a high carbon sequestration capacity in view of the fact that some species can absorb up to four times the amount of carbon that others can; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18322/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department’s policy is to increase species diversity within the national forest estate; to this end increasing afforestation levels across all planting categories is supported with higher rates reserved for broadleaf species. Under the current forestry programme new species have been added to the mix to create more diversity and to target climate change mitigation. Under the forestry for fibre scheme, eucalyptus and poplar have been introduced. These species have a much shorter rotation than traditional forestry where clearfell can take place after 15 years as opposed to between 35 and 40 for more traditional forestry. As a renewable energy source material wood can help to displace fossil fuels as a source of heating in local markets and can help meet demand created by the recently launched SSRH scheme.  

As one of our fastest growing tree species, Sitka spruce has an important role to play in carbon sequestration. It grows well in Ireland because it is suited to our soils and climate. It has been grown successfully for over 80 years and it has proven itself to be one of the most productive coniferous species grown in Ireland and as such has become the industry’s mainstay in terms of timber processing and end markets. My Department’s recent publication “Forest Statistics – Ireland 2017” states that Sitka spruce is the most common species, occupying 52.4% of the forest area. There are twelve different planting categories within the Department’s afforestation scheme and the most popular, known as GPC 3 is made up of Sitka spruce planted with a second species. In fact almost 80% of total planting in 2017 was GPC 3.

A typical productive plantation of Sitka spruce will result in removals of 10 tonnes of CO2e per annum per hectare on average over a full rotation. In some individual years this figure may fluctuate. It is therefore important to look at changes in carbon across the whole forest estate, which was a sink of -3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2015.

Inshore Fisheries

Ceisteanna (171)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

171. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 1069 of 17 April 2018, when the consultation document which is under preparation regarding inshore waters is likely to be published and made publicly available. [18116/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I hope to make this consultation paper available within the coming days.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (172)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

172. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the members of the forestry appeals committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18132/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC) was established, under the Agriculture Appeals Act, 2001, as amended, to hear appeals against decisions on forestry licences. It is based in the Agriculture Appeals Office in Portlaoise, Co. Laois. In February, I appointed Mr. Bart Brady as Chairperson of the FAC.  Mr. Brady is a former Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

In addition to Mr. Brady as Chair, the other members of the Committee are drawn from officers of the existing Agriculture Appeals Office.

The FAC is available as an appeals body to applicants or third parties who are dissatisfied with decisions made by the Department on applications for licences for afforestation, tree felling, forest road works and aerial fertilisation. It is fully operational and has already completed its first appeal hearing. The appeals process is now independent of the Department. 

GLAS Payments

Ceisteanna (173)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

173. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a 2017 GLAS payment for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18136/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

This person is fully up to date with their GLAS payments.

TAMS Payments

Ceisteanna (174)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

174. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a TAMS payment for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18137/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named submitted an application for grant-aid under the Animal Welfare, Safety and Nutrient Storage Scheme of TAMS II.  Payment in respect of the investments issued on the 19th April 2018.

National Mitigation Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (175)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

175. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the implementation of action 92 proposed in the national mitigation plan, namely, the improvement of farm sustainability through GLAS and the origin green programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18153/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Work is on-going in the implementation of the National Mitigation Plan. Action 92 refers to the proposal to continue to improve farm sustainability through GLAS and the Origin Green Programme.

In relation to GLAS over 50,000 farmers joined GLAS, which has a range of actions to address climate change and reduce emissions.

Among the actions undertaken under the scheme are almost 5,000 farmers who have committed to the Low Emission Slurry Spreading techniques action within GLAS, with consequent reductions in CO2 and Ammonia. Approximately 2,400 farmers are planting 26,000 hectares of catch crops annually which prevents soil erosion and absorbs nutrients. A further approximately 300 farmers have signed up to Minimum Tillage which reduces damage to soil and the breakdown of soil structure.

To date under the Origin Green Programme, over 170,000 carbon assessments have been carried out across beef and dairy farms. While previous targets focused primarily on greenhouse gas emissions, a new more detailed individual Sustainability Report will be sent to farmers in 2018. Primary focus areas will include GHGs; Water Quality and Consumption; Animal Health and Welfare; Biodiversity; Soil Quality and Grassland Management; Farm Health and Safety; and General Farm Management.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (176)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

176. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the 29 adaptation options included in his Department’s "Adaptation Planning - Developing Resilience to Climate Change in the Irish Agriculture and Forest Sector" report: the status of the implementation of the six recommendations for the monitoring, review and evaluation of the adapted options included in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18154/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The non-statutory adaptation planning document entitled Adaptation Planning - Developing Resilience to Climate Change in the Irish Agriculture and Forest Sector was prepared by my Department under the 2012 National Climate Change Adaptation Framework.  This document represents a first step by my Department in developing a climate change adaptation approach for the agriculture and forest sectors. This will be developed further under the new National Adaptation Framework now in place.

The following are some of the high level adaptation option categories outlined in the document.

A key adaptation option identified is the need to ensure that all policies, strategies, plans and measures for the agriculture and forest sector be informed of the need to adapt to the potential impacts of climate change.  In order to ensure effective adaptation planning across the Department an internal stakeholder group was established at the outset of the adaptation planning process.  Personnel from across the key areas of the Department were represented on this group and involved in, and engaged with, the adaptation planning process.  There is ongoing communication with this group on issues related to adaptation planning.  This group will be engaged in reviewing and the development of the statutory plan my Department is required to deliver under the new National Adaptation Framework (NAF).

In terms of interagency co-operation this is something that my Department engages in on an ongoing basis.  In particular my Department has been to the forefront in engaging with Met Eireann and the Office of Emergency Planning, as evidenced during the recent storm events.

My Department is engaged with a number of initiatives involving knowledge transfer and communication, the Knowledge Transfer Programme supported under the Rural Development Programme being one such example.  On the international front officials are also actively involved in a range of fora.

Additionally, strong support is made available for climate change research relevant to the Irish agri-food sector.  Most recently my Department has agreed to co-fund two projects related to climate and water, included in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently opened research call.

My Department is continuing measures related to the protection of our forests from biotic and abiotic threats, including pests and diseases and fire. The environmental requirements for afforestation and land types for afforestation documents and the related industry focused training will ensure that forest planting occurs on the most suitable sites and helps to ensure the productivity and health of forests into the future. Initiatives to support the felling decision of land owners, management plans and certification in the private estate, which complement existing forest adaptation software and reports have been also developed. These measures will help to ensure that our forests continue to be managed sustainably and can adapt to the changing climate.

There are also a number of ongoing locally led agri-environment and climate schemes, including the  Hen Harrier and Burren Programmes. Animal health and welfare issues continue to be a priority for my Department, we have a range of codes of practices and controls in place to support the sector in ensuring highest standards are maintained. The National Farmed Animal Health Strategy 2017-2022 launched in 2017 sets out a comprehensive set of actions for all stakeholders in the agri-food industry to work in partnership to achieve optimal animal health in Ireland. 

Regarding the status of the six recommendations for the monitoring, review and evaluation of the options included in the report, these recommendations form part of my Department’s current work with respect to developing new plans under the NAF. The NAF was published in January of this year by the Minister Communications, Climate Action and Environment and is the framework by which sectors will develop sectoral adaptation plans - as required under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. The NAF identifies twelve key sectors under the remit of seven Government Ministers where sectoral adaptation plans are to be prepared.  My Department is the lead Department for three of these key sectors: agriculture, forestry and seafood.

The published Adaptation Planning document and the current work being carried out under the adaptation option headings are forming the basis upon which my Department will develop the new statutory sectoral adaptation plan under the NAF.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (177, 186)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

177. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount his Department has spent on social media training and consultancy in each of the years 2011 to 2016. [18157/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

186. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if training has been delivered in his Department on the use of social media; the frequency and cost of this training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18193/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 and 186 together.

My Department's social media presence is managed by the Press and Information Office of my Department. Since 2011, staff members from the Press and Information Office and I.T. sections have attended 3 training courses on the use of social media, at a total cost of €475. Separate to these courses, a member of my Department's staff attended Social Media Dublin 2017, a conference on the topic of social media, in January 2017, and 3 staff members attended the same conference in 2018. Total expenditure by my Department for attendance at these events was approximately €1,000.

Organic Farming Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (178)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

178. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of organic farming payments for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18174/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named is a participant in the Organic Farming Scheme.  The checks and validations in respect of their 2017 advance payment have now been completed and payment in respect of their 2017 claim will issue shortly.

Greyhound Industry

Ceisteanna (179)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

179. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on allocating inspectors from his Department to monitor the welfare of greyhounds; his views on the fact that many animal welfare organisations do not accept the Irish Greyhound Board as an impartial inspector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18180/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The process whereby I have the power under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 to authorise members of other organisations is one that was debated in detail during the passage of that legislation through the Oireachtas. Many deputies had concerns about possible biases in such organisations, in particular animal welfare organisations. In response to this the legislation was drafted in such a way as to ensure there is adequate probity and oversight of the process by my Department. In particular prosecutions can only be taken through my Department.  

Since commencement of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 the system authorising officers from outside my Department has worked well. All those who have been authorised have had their fitness and ability to operate examined. Authorisation has been done only where my Department has been given credible evidence about the relevant experience, training and bona fides of the proposed officers.

In addition to the authorised officers from the ISPCA and DSPCA I have recently appointed two officers of Bord na gCon  to give assistance to my Department in the area of welfare.

The Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 also gives powers to both Local Authorities, to the Coursing club and to Bord na gCon to appoint Welfare Officers. This system is also seen to be working well.

Animal Welfare

Ceisteanna (180)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

180. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 73 of 3 October 2017, his views on whether animal welfare inspectors should be present on all transports of live animals as opposed to being present occasionally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18181/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Live exports continue to be an important component of Ireland’s livestock industry and my Department promotes and maintains an environment in which live exports take place with a strong emphasis on the welfare of all animals being exported.

There is a very detailed and comprehensive inspection regime in place and officials of my Department perform mandatory, random and risk-based inspections on all vehicles involved in live animal transport. In Ireland in the vast majority of cases the loading of vehicles for export is supervised by an Official Veterinarian from DAFM - as the point of loading is considered a critical control point in relation to welfare during transport. The inspection regime in Ireland goes above and beyond the requirements of EU legislation in this regard, highlighting the importance placed on welfare during transport. I am satisfied that the current inspection system offers good safeguards in relation to animal welfare and at this time it would be unnecessary to have inspectors on all transports.

Animal Welfare

Ceisteanna (181)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

181. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which he is addressing the continued transport of Irish greyhounds for commercial purposes to countries in Asia and elsewhere that have no animal welfare standards. [18182/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The position with regard to export is that the vast majority of dogs that are moved from Ireland go to the UK.  Trade within the EU of dogs, including greyhounds, is governed by EU law.  Any dogs moved to another EU country from Ireland must be accompanied by an EU pet passport, be microchipped, and have a valid rabies vaccination. 

The premises exporting dogs must be registered with my Department in advance of the export.  Before travel, dogs must undergo a clinical examination by an authorised veterinarian, who must verify that the animals show no obvious signs of disease and are fit to be transported.  Dogs must also have a health certificate issued by a Department veterinarian.  These procedures, including vaccination, ensure that only healthy dogs, over the age of 15 weeks, are allowed to be exported. 

Exporters must also comply with EU law on the protection of animals during transport, while the transport of animals by air is also governed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations.  In this context, I am aware that a number of airlines do not transport commercial consignments of greyhounds. 

Bord na gCon, which is responsible for the governance, regulation and development of the greyhound industry in Ireland, has stated that it does not support the export of greyhounds to destinations which do not conform with the standards in the Animal Health and Welfare Act, the Welfare of Greyhounds Act or its own Code of Practice and standards. I fully endorse this view. 

My Department has a close working relationship with animal welfare charities on all aspects of animal welfare. Officials of my Department have met with the welfare members of the International Greyhound Forum, which includes the Dogs Trust, the ISPCA and Bord na gCon, to consider issues surrounding the export of greyhounds.

Fur Farming

Ceisteanna (182)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

182. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is satisfied with the standards of fur farms here in view of inspectors' reports (details supplied); his views on abolishing fur farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18183/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Deputy is referring to information released on foot of a Freedom of Information request processed in 2017.  In that request an individual sought all inspection reports for fur farms in 2016. 

The inspections reports did not highlight any issues of concern in relation to the standards prevailing on the Fur Farms in question.

Policy in this area is guided by the review which my Department conducted in 2011. The Terms of Reference of the Review Group were:

(i) To review fur farming in Ireland taking into account existing legislative provisions for the licensing of mink farming;  

(ii) To comment on the economic benefits of the sector;

(iii) To consider the effectiveness of existing welfare controls, and

(iv) To make appropriate recommendations

The Review Group invited submissions from the public and interested parties and considered over four hundred submissions which were received.

The Group concluded that it did not find the arguments in favour of banning the farming of fur animals in Ireland compelling and recommended that instead, fur farming be allowed continue under licence and subject to official control.

On foot of the Review Group’s deliberations, my Department introduced more rigorous controls on licence holders in the areas of animal welfare, animal accommodation, security and nutrient management. Licensees are subject to regular inspections, including unannounced inspections by Department officials. 

Also, my Department has statutory responsibility for the welfare and protection of farmed animals under the European Communities (Welfare of Farmed Animals) Regulations, 2010 (Statutory Instrument No 311/2010) and the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.  Irish fur farmers are, in this regard, subject to the same animal welfare legislation as other livestock farmers.

Greyhound Industry

Ceisteanna (183)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

183. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the fact that a greyhound that tested positive for cocaine on three occasions has been nominated for the greyhound of the year award; his further views on whether doping is a significant problem in the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18184/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial State Body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.

Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Bord na gCon has informed me that all nominations for the annual awards are decided on by an independent panel comprising of ten industry representatives. The selection for each category is made by secret ballot with the three top voted greyhounds being selected for consideration.

Bord na gCon has an intensive testing regime in place across race meetings, sales trials and at owners' kennels. For the first quarter of 2018, there have been two adverse analytical findings from 1,095 samples. From a total of 5,294 samples in 2017, there were 29 adverse findings. Every adverse finding is published on the Bord na gCon website.

In 2017 Bord na gCon invested €400,000 in a new analytical machine that can measure substances in parts per trillion, which allows for detection sometime after they may have been administered. Three individuals have been banned for doping or welfare offences. These individuals are disqualified from owning, training or managing a racing greyhound.

In relation to the matter referred to in the Deputy's question, Bord na gCon has stated that in accordance with regulations, the subsequent investigation into the three adverse analytical findings is a matter for the Control Committee which is independent of Bord na gCon. This investigation was due for hearing by the Control Committee in December 2017 but is currently on hold due to a High Court injunction. Until the Control Committee has concluded its investigation, the prize money is withheld and no assumptions can be made beyond the status of an adverse analytical finding. In accordance with regulations, any greyhound that returns an adverse finding is immediately disqualified from further racing or trialling until a further sample returns free from prohibited substances.

Control of Dogs

Ceisteanna (184)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

184. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is satisfied with the condition of dog pounds here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18185/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The control and management of pounds is, in accordance with the Pounds (Provision and Maintenance)  Act 1935, an operational matter within the remit of each local authority within  its functional area and is recorded in the county registrar. My Department works closely with local authorities to ensure that optimum animal welfare standards are maintained.  Should there be concerns regarding a particular establishment, it is recommended that contact to be made with my Department’s Animal Welfare Helpline on Call Save 0761064408; phone 016072379; Email animalwelfare@agriculture.gov.ie.

Food Imports

Question No. 186 answered with Question No. 177.

Ceisteanna (185)

James Browne

Ceist:

185. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to develop an alternative cold storage inspection facility at Rosslare Europort in view of the fact there is only one cold storage inspection facility in the country located in Dublin Port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18190/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

There are currently two entry points to Ireland that have EU Border Inspection Posts which are approved for the import of products of animal origin from 3rd Countries into the European Union, and which have freezer storage facilities – namely Shannon Airport and Dublin Port. The decision to seek approval as a Border Inspection Point is a commercial decision for port and airport authorities. The provision of appropriate facilities for the inspection and storage of goods requires detailed planning, the assistance of the Office of Public Works, compliance with the statutory planning requirements and the approval of the audit unit of the European Commission DG SANTE. My department is always available for discussions with any port or airport authority interested in having an approved Border Inspection Post.

Question No. 186 answered with Question No. 177.

Horse Racing Industry

Ceisteanna (187)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

187. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of horses injured and killed at racecourses and point-to-point events here in each of the past ten years. [18236/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Horse Racing Ireland is a commercial State Body responsible for the overall administration, promotion and development of the horse racing industry.

The question raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for Horse Racing Ireland.

I will request officials in my Department to refer the question to Horse Racing Ireland for direct reply to the Deputy.

Greyhound Industry Data

Ceisteanna (188)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

188. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of the dogs rehomed directly by an organisation (details supplied) that are unnamed or unregistered. [18240/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial State Body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry.

Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The question raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for Bord na gCon.

I will request officials in my Department to refer the question to Bord na gCon for direct reply to the Deputy.