Transfer of Entitlements

Ceisteanna (459)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

459. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter regarding the transfer of farm entitlements in relation to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21006/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am unable to comment on this ongoing legal issue that is before the Courts. Following the resolution of the legal issues my Department will ensure that it assists, to the extent that it is appropriate, in the administration of the estate.

Knowledge Transfer Programme

Ceisteanna (460)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

460. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to problems with issued knowledge transfer payments particularly for partnership farms; the steps he will take to rectify the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21042/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Knowledge Transfer (KT) 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.

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 payment 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 approximately €11 million has issued to over 15,300 farmers. Further pay runs are ongoing.

Officials in my Department are currently examining partnership cases involved in the Knowledge Transfer programme to ensure that all requirements of the programme have been completed in full and that the scheme requirements are fully verified for individual farmers within partnerships.

Every effort is being made to complete this process with a view to paying affected farmers as soon as possible.

Fodder Crisis

Ceisteanna (461)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

461. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has had discussions with the banks in relation to the need to introduce low-cost loans to assist farmers facing particular difficulties and additional costs due to the fodder crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21066/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am conscious that the prolonged winter will have put some individual farmers under pressure in terms of cash flow. In recognition of this, I met with the CEOs of the main banks and discussed the current cash flow and liquidity position of the primary sector. I emphasised to them that they should recognise the temporary and exceptional nature of the current situation and that they should be flexible and put in place measures to support their customers. They indicated to me that there are no signs that there is a liquidity issue across the sector as a whole, while acknowledging that there may be pressures in individual cases. They assured me that they will provide supports such as extended overdraft facilities and term loans to their customers and asked that those in difficulty should contact them as soon as possible.

One of my priorities is to improve access to finance for the agri-food sector. Food Wise 2025 identifies competiveness as a key theme and includes a recommendation that stakeholders work to “improve access to finance for agriculture, forestry and seafood producers and agri-food companies”.

Last year I introduced the Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme, developed in cooperation with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI). It provided low-cost, flexible working capital finance to farmers to address the impact of the change in the sterling exchange rate following the Brexit vote and lower commodity prices in some agriculture sectors in 2016/17. I was pleased at the very positive reaction by farmers to the Scheme, which was fully subscribed. The provisional drawdown totals are that there were 4,246 applications totalling €144,903,656, with an average loan size of €34,127 and an average loan period of 41 months.

I launched a new “Brexit Loan Scheme” on the 28th March in cooperation with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister for Finance, which will provide up to €300 million of affordable, flexible working capital finance to Irish businesses that are either currently impacted by Brexit or who will be in the future. The Scheme will be available to SMEs and mid-cap businesses. Given their unique exposure to the UK market, my Department’s funding ensures that at least 40% of the fund will be available to food businesses.

I announced in Budget 2018 that my Department is considering the development of potential Brexit response loan schemes for farmers, fishermen and for longer-term capital financing for food businesses. These schemes are developed and delivered in cooperation with the SBCI and take time to develop and operationalise. Consideration and discussions are ongoing in this regard and I will announce further details as they become available.

Basic Payment Scheme Appeals

Ceisteanna (462)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

462. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a decision has been made on appeals lodged by farmers on Killery mountain with respect to land eligibility and burnt land for the purpose of BPS payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21079/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department has been in contact with 33 farmers in relation to ineligible land due to burning on Killery mountain. 29 of these farmers have lodged an appeal with my Department on this issue.

In general terms, where the area determined to have been burned exceeds 3% of the eligible area declared, an administrative penalty of 1.5 times the area burned is applied. Where the applicant provides appropriate evidence that he/she was not involved in the burning of the effected lands, the administrative penalty may be waived. However, the burnt land remains ineligible for payment.

24 of the appeals have now been decided, and my Department has communicated these decisions directly to the farmers concerned and advised them of their right of appeal to the Agriculture Appeals Office. A further 5 cases remain under review.

Nitrates Usage

Ceisteanna (463)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

463. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if contingency plans to address future shortages of phosphorus in view of Ireland’s dependence on mined and imported phosphorus to meet commercial fertiliser requirements have been examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21143/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Mineral phosphorous is a non-renewable resource and is mined from quarries of igneous and sedimentary rock. Over 95% of the remaining reserves are controlled by five countries, including Morocco, China, USA, South Africa and Jordan. Phosphorus is a limiting nutrient in crop growth and hence can limit global crop yields. It is included in a list of critical raw materials published by the European Commission in 2017. Critical raw materials are those raw materials which are economically and strategically important for the European economy, but have a high-risk associated with their supply.

Ireland imports all of its inorganic (chemical) phosphorous requirements. The main suppliers of phosphate fertilisers to Ireland are Morocco, Tunisia, and Russia. Morocco is one of the world’s main suppliers and holds the most important phosphate rock reserves in the world. The only commercially viable source of phosphate rock in the EU is located in Finland.

The quantity of inorganic phosphorous used by Irish farmers has decreased from a high of 50,000 tonnes in 1989 to a total of 41,893 tonnes in 2016/17. This reduction was as a result of improved nutrient management at farm level, more efficient use of organic manures (slurry) and a response to increased fertiliser prices.

The EU Nitrates Directive, introduced in 2006 set limits for Phosphorous use on farms. A new Nitrates Action Programme was agreed for Ireland for 2018 -2021 (S.I. No. 605/2017). This encourages the efficient use of Phosphorous fertiliser and maximises the Phosphorous contribution from animal manures.

Additionally, the re-use of natural raw materials, which currently go to waste, is one of the cornerstones of the Circular Economy Package, adopted in December 2015 by the EU Commission. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has supported the proposal for an EU Regulation on Fertilisers replacing Regulation No 2003/2003 whereby recycling of waste materials e.g. digestates, composts, food industry by-products and animal by-products can be transformed into organic fertilisers.

The EU Commission Regulatory Impact Assessment on the proposed Fertiliser Regulation reported that the use of recycled nutrients in the EU could replace up to 30% of the imported Phosphorous requirements.

Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (464)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

464. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the funding allocated to projects or initiatives (details supplied) in tabular form. [21150/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The funding allocated by Department for the projects concerned was as follows;

Project Acronym

Total Award

Institution 1

Institution 2

Institution 3

Teagasc

AgriFood and Biosciences Institute (AFBI)

UCD

SUDEN

€639,105

€381,829

€226,440

€30,836

Project Acronym

Total Award

Institution 1

Institution 2

Institution 3

Teagasc

UCD

AgriFood and Biosciences Institute (AFBI)

LowAmmo

€1,246,290

€833,745

€193,019

€219,526

Project Acronym

Total Award

Institution 1

Institution 2

Institution 3

Teagasc

NUIG

TCD

MINE

€964,710

€603,545

€218,593

€142,572

Teagasc Staff

Ceisteanna (465)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

465. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of full-time and part-time staff Teagasc has working on the agricultural catchments programme; and the annual running and staffing costs, respectively, for the programme. [21151/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Agricultural Catchments Programme is a large integrated research and advisory project that is fully funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and is now in its third four-year phase. It is delivered by Teagasc who have assigned 4 permanent and 12 part-time staff to work on the Programme. The total annual budget is €1.6m comprising €745,000 in salary costs and €855,000 for overheads, consumables, equipment, analytical services etc.

Beef Exports

Ceisteanna (466)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

466. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 376 of 8 May 2018, the qualifying countries referred to. [21154/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The autonomous beef quota that I outlined in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 376 of 8 May 2018, which was designed to allow the US to export hormone-free beef to the EU, also had to be made available to other countries who could satisfy the technical requirements, in accordance with WTO rules.

The other countries that can access this quota are Argentina, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Uruguay.

GLAS Payments

Ceisteanna (467)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

467. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a GLAS payment for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21167/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 3 with a contract commencement date of 1 January 2017.

This applicant has not yet submitted the required Nutrient Management Plan and the Commonage Management Plan and is therefore ineligible for payments. Both the participant and their advisor have been advised of the requirement to submit both Plans immediately to ensure further payments and indeed participation in the scheme.

TAMS Payments

Ceisteanna (468)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

468. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the penalty for an overclaim on a TAMS payment for a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21244/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named made an application under the Dairy Equipment Scheme of TAMS II in 27 July 2015 and a payment claim was subsequently submitted on 16 December 2016.

This application was the subject of an on-farm inspection. It is a requirement that the payments claimed be verified as part of such an inspection. In this case an issue arose in relation to an over claim on the receipt for the Milking Machine resulting in penalties and reductions being applied to the payment in respect of the investments.

A written request for a review of this decision has been received from the applicant. The case is currently being reviewed by the Department and the applicant will be advised in writing of the outcome shortly. Should the applicant remain dissatisfied with the outcome of this review it will remain open to them to submit an appeal to the Agriculture Appeals Office.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (469)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

469. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of staff in his Department assigned solely or primarily to work on North-South issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21256/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Officials in my Department are directly involved in ongoing and frequent North-South engagement on a range of issues. This involves having extensive contact between officials in my Department and the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and interested parties in the food, agriculture and fishing sectors in both jurisdictions. This work is undertaken in the context of advancing our priorities in relation to the agreed areas of co-operation under the North South Ministerial Council:

- the development of an All-Island Animal Health Strategy for control of animal movements and the prevention, containment and eradication of epizootic diseases in Ireland;

- the development of an All-Island Plant Health and Research Strategy including co-operation between both jurisdictions in relation to plant protection products; and

- liaison on a range of international issues including trade and the Common Agriculture Policy.

Officials also co-operate in other areas of common interest as specific matters arise, including Brexit, farm safety, EU funding and joint research projects, cross-border laboratory collaboration and the outbreak of the Chalara Fraxinea disease commonly known as ash dieback.

As engagement in North-South issues are managed as part of the general responsibilities of the many Divisions concerned, it is not possible to identify the specific share of staff time assigned solely or primarily to work on such issues.

Agriculture Scheme Appeals

Ceisteanna (470)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

470. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to debate the findings of the review of the appeals procedure further to the completion of the review; his plans to implement its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21318/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

On 12 February 2018, I published the Report of the Review of the Agriculture Appeals Act, 2001 and operations of the Agriculture Appeals Office.

The Report’s recommendations are currently under consideration by my Department, particularly with regard to legislative changes that may be required to give effect to them.

Special Protection Areas

Ceisteanna (471)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

471. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if it is technically feasible to introduce a new forestry management protocol covering special protection areas important to the hen harrier which would permit an annual quota of new plantings based on the areas identified as available for planting; and the barriers that remain from pursuing this policy as previously existed. [21326/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Issues concerning the designation of Special Protection Areas (or SPAs) and the setting of conservation objectives are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. I understand that Minister Madigan provided the Deputy with a response on the issue the subject of this question on the 8 May 2018.

As previously outlined by Minister Madigan, the issue of afforestation within SPAs important to breeding hen harrier is an ongoing issue, and a previous protocol on the issue was discontinued as the European Commission considered it non-compliant with the EU Birds Directive.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has prepared a draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan in cooperation with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and with my own Department. The draft Threat Response Plan was discussed on the 8th May 2018 at a meeting of the Consultative Committee, established as part of the process to represent the agriculture, forestry, wind farm and NGO sectors. Committee members will be reviewing the draft and inputting feedback over the coming weeks. Subsequently, the draft Threat Response Plan must also undergo public consultation.

The Deputy will be aware that as regards the issuing of afforestation licences, under the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011, any Minister considering a plan or project in a Special Protection Area (SPA) shall give consent for such a plan or project only after having determined that the plan or project shall not adversely affect the integrity of a European site. A series of judgements issued by the Court of Justice of the EU have stressed that there must be no doubt about possible adverse impacts in such decisions. In addition, under the European Union guidelines for State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas, within Natura sites (i.e. SPAs and Special Areas of Conservation, or SACs), only afforestation consistent with the management objectives of the sites concerned, and agreed with the Member State’s authority in charge of implementing Natura 2000 (in Ireland’s case, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht), shall be allowed.

GLAS Payments

Ceisteanna (472)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

472. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there will be no 15% balancing payments for GLAS issuing until all management plans are completed for all participants in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21353/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The requirement to prepare a Commonage Management Plan (CMP) is an essential component of the GLAS scheme. A complete CMP is required for each commonage over 10 hectares. The facility to submit CMP's has been available since October of last year and completed CMPs continue to be submitted on an ongoing basis.

In addition the Farm Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) is one of the four core management requirements of the scheme. The terms and conditions set out the requirements regarding the submission of NMPs including the requirement for all GLAS III participants to submit an NMP by 31 March 2018.

The Department has regularly highlighted the importance of these requirements with regard to potential impact on GLAS payments. Where an NMP or a CMP is outstanding a balancing payment cannot issue for the case concerned until these requirements have been met.

Commonage Management Plans

Ceisteanna (473)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

473. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if staff will be put in place to complete the commonage management plans under the GLAS scheme in circumstances in which the existing planner is overloaded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21354/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The requirement to prepare a Commonage Management Plan (CMP) is and has always been an essential component of the GLAS scheme. A complete CMP is required for each commonage over 10 hectares. The facility to submit CMP's has been available since October of last year and completed CMPs continue to be submitted on an ongoing basis. The completion and submission of these is a matter between the GLAS participant and his or her planner.

The Department has regularly highlighted the importance of the CMP requirements with regard to potential impact on GLAS payments. The requirement is to submit a complete CMP. Failure to submit will prevent further payments, including balancing payments. The Department will continue to bring this requirement to the attention of GLAS participants.

Agriculture Scheme Administration

Ceisteanna (474)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

474. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there are circumstances which apply if a farmer must retire from farming due to ill-health and, with no possible succession available, can be removed without large penalties under the BDGP and GLAS schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21419/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The GLAS terms and conditions provide for force majeure provisions where a beneficiary is unable to continue complying with their commitments under the Scheme for reasons beyond their control. Long term professional incapacity of the participant is one of the categories specifically listed.

In applying to participate in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) applicants commit to undertake the requirements for the full 6 years of the Programme. However the Terms and Conditions of the BDGP do provide that a participant may withdraw from the Programme, without recovery of payments previously made, on force majeure grounds which includes the long term incapacity of the beneficiary.

Each application for force majeure is examined individually under the relevant Scheme provisions.

Electricity Grid

Ceisteanna (475)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

475. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of pedestrian crossings in counties Westmeath and Longford that remain to be connected to the ESB network. [21295/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I have no function in the matter raised by the Deputy. The planning, design and construction of pedestrian crossings is a matter for local authorities while the connection of such crossings to the electricity grid is an operational matter for ESB Networks, working in liaison with relevant local authorities.

Better Energy Homes Scheme

Ceisteanna (476)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

476. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding SEAI grants for solar panels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20801/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Better Energy Homes scheme is funded by my Department and administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. The scheme provides grant supports for energy efficiency upgrades for homeowners whose homes were built before 2006. Grants are available for attic and wall insulation, heating controls, solar thermal technology, heat pumps and getting a Building Energy Rating.

To be eligible for grant support these works must be carried out by an SEAI Registered Contractor, who is registered for the type of work that they are carrying out.

When it comes to installing renewable technologies, it is essential that it is done properly and safely, to the required standard, by qualified experts. For this reason, the specific FETAC/QQI Level 6 certificate is required in order to register with SEAI as a contractor for the domestic Solar Thermal measure. I can confirm that this course is being run in Ireland by at least one training organisation, the City of Dublin Education and Training Board. Contractors may also appoint another contractor who does have the necessary qualifications.

Further information for contractors on how to register with SEAI is available on SEAI's website: https://www.seai.ie/energy-in-business/register-with-seai/contractor/.