Ministerial Communications

Ceisteanna (381)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

381. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health if there is a policy regarding ministerial use of private email for Government business in his Department; and if so, if it will be published. [41525/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

There is no specific policy regarding Ministerial use of private email for Government business in place in the Department. Such matters are pertinent to the office of the Taoiseach.

All users on the Department's network must adhere to the ICT acceptable usage policy document which states that “As there is no way of filtering the messages relayed by these providers, they pose a potential security threat. Users may not transmit sensitive or classified information using any 3rd party e-mail services.” Login access to webmail services are blocked from within the Department’s network.

Official Engagements

Ceisteanna (382)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

382. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health if he or officials in his Department attended the 2018 Ryder Cup; if so, the reason they attended; the days on which they attended; the officials they met from a Ryder Cup organisation or the European Tour; and the costs for each individual's attendance. [41537/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Neither I nor my junior Minister colleagues attended the Ryder Cup. I have surveyed the Department for details of any officials from the Department attending in an official capacity. I can confirm that no one has reported that they did so. The travel officer has also confirmed that no flights were booked in association with this tournament.

Meat Processing Plants

Ceisteanna (383, 409)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

383. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if information has been received or research completed on the meat-processing pilot scheme proposed by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41043/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

409. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if collaboration has taken place with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection as mentioned on 14 May 2018 with regard to the pilot scheme addressing labour shortages in the meat-processing sector proposed by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation; the details of meetings that have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41041/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 383 and 409 together.

Labour supply issues have arisen in various parts of the agri-food sector, but they have been most pronounced in the meat processing sector and on-farm horticulture and dairy sectors. While some potential exists to recruit labour from within the domestic and European labour markets, it became apparent in recent times that this would be insufficient to meet the demand and therefore, I and my officials worked with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, and her Department to introduce a pilot quota of employment permits for non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals for these three sub-sectors. So far, 750 permits have been allocated to meat processing, and of these, 448 have been issued (as of 05/10/18). Given the level of demand, it is anticipated that the full allocation will be used in the near future. A remuneration threshold of €22,000 was introduced for these permits, with employers obliged to ensure access to suitable accommodation and training, including language training.

I said at the time of the announcement of these permits that they were just one piece of the jigsaw in addressing labour supply and that the sector must also continue to intensify its efforts to source labour from both the domestic and EU markets. In this regard, my officials have worked closely with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) to assist in these efforts. In May 2018, that Department hosted an information session with representatives from across the agri-food sector, including representatives from the meat processing sector, as well as officials from my Department, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). This meeting provided information to the sectoral representatives on the range of employment initiatives and supports that DEASP can provide, from ‘Intreo’ to ‘EURES’ and more, while officials from DBEI and the WRC explained the employment permits system and obligations and responsibilities of employers. I understand the DEASP have continued and intensified their engagement with the agri-food sector since then, including the meat processing sector, with a range of different interactions including:

- Meetings with the meat, horticulture, pigs, poultry, forestry and horse racing employers and representative bodies.

- Job recruitment fairs, events, and course recruitment

- Future and ongoing recruitment campaigns both in Ireland and across Europe (EURES)

A further meeting was held in July with a range of industry bodies and individual employers (including the meat processing sector) to go through these initiatives and others in greater detail. The DEASP also held a dedicated information meeting with representatives of the meat industry and individual employers. Finally, I understand that DEASP officials have also had extensive engagement on a one-to-one basis with employers across the country.

Literacy Programmes

Ceisteanna (384)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

384. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the involvement of his Department in tackling adult literacy; if a financial allocation is provided for same; if so, the way in which it is utilised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40674/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department aims to ensure that the needs of all its customers are met and that rights to equal treatment are upheld in the delivery of services. However, it is also conscious that some of its customers may have literacy difficulties and cannot easily access, understand and/or use information on the Department's schemes and services. In this regard, my Department has a number of measures in place including a "BrowseAloud" facility on its website which reads web pages aloud for people with literacy and/or visual impairments.

In accordance with Section 26(2) of the Disability Act 2005, two Access Officers have been assigned to ensure, when requested, that material can be provided in a format more suitable to individual circumstances.

Bearing in mind the need to communicate clearly in both written and verbal communications, my Department also provides step by step guidelines, user friendly explanatory manuals, question and answer sheets and working examples for most schemes, as well as telephone help lines to deal with queries.

There is no specific financial allocation provided as customer needs are met from within existing resources as required. This may involve additional expenditure in response to specific requests for assistance. For instance, my Department has provided:

- a reprinted version of scheme Terms and Conditions booklets in large fonts, and

- an audio version of scheme Terms and Conditions.

In addition to the above and as part of its quality customer service, my Department has put in place a Farmers Charter which among other things is intended to provide information in relation to the delivery of services and implementation of schemes in a clear, simple and easily understood format.

My Department's officials are available at all times to assist persons with any issues and to discuss or answer questions they may have on any of our farming schemes and services.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (385)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

385. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of an areas of natural constraint scheme, ANC, payment for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40751/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named submitted a 2018 Basic Payment/Areas of Natural Constraint schemes application on the 27th February 2018. EU Regulations governing the administration of these schemes require that full and comprehensive administrative checks, including in some cases remote sensing (i.e. satellite) inspections, be completed before any payments issue.

The application of the person named was selected for a Remote Sensing eligibility inspection. Processing of this inspection necessitated the verification of the position on the ground by means of a field visit. This field visit has now been completed and the results are currently being processed to finalisation with the intention of issuing any payments due to the nominated bank account of the person named as soon as possible. In the event that any queries arise officials in my Department will be in contact with the person named.

Aquaculture Licence Applications

Ceisteanna (386)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

386. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding an aquaculture licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40758/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department considers all applications for aquaculture licences in accordance with the provisions of the 1997 Fisheries (Amendment) Act, the 1933 Foreshore Act and applicable EU legislation. The licensing process involves consultation with a wide range of scientific and technical advisers as well as various Statutory Consultees. The legislation also provides for a period of public consultation.

In addition, the legislation governing aquaculture licensing provides for an appeals mechanism. Appeals against licence decisions are a matter for the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB) which is an independent statutory body. Full details of the appeals process can be obtained at: http://www.alab.ie/appealsprocess/

In accordance with the applicable legislation, the Statutory and Public Consultation phase in respect of these applications has concluded. As some applications for aquaculture and foreshore licences in Castlemaine Harbour are still under active consideration by my Department, and the period which allows for an appeal of a decision has not yet concluded for applications which have been determined, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the matter at this time.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (387)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

387. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a payment under the areas of natural constraint scheme, ANC, scheme will be made available to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40760/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The processing of the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme application by the person named has now been completed and payment has issued to his nominated bank account.

Forestry Management

Ceisteanna (388)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

388. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to introduce a moratorium on forestry development in County Leitrim and a rebalancing of the focus on forestry throughout other counties to include regulations that will require full planning permission for the planting of forestry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40797/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The planting targets under the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 are national targets and aim to establish almost 44,000 hectares of new forests during the lifetime of the programme, and there are no county or regional specific targets within the programme. The Forestry Scheme is of course a voluntary scheme for all landowners and it is a matter for them as to whether they wish to choose forestry as a land use option and avail of the grants and premiums available to support them in that enterprise.

In Leitrim, some 380 farmers have made this choice by converting parts of their farms to forestry resulting in forestry payments to them worth over €2.3m from my Department in 2017. In addition timber sales in the country were valued at €1.2m in 2017 and 565 people are employed in the forestry sector in County Leitrim which is a valuable contribution to the local economy. In fact this employment rate in the forestry sector is the highest by far of any county in Ireland. I intend to continue making this option available to other farmers in Leitrim so that they have the opportunity to avail of the scheme and complement their farm income if they so wish.

In terms of permission for the planting of forestry my Department is the designated planning authority for forestry in Ireland. Forest planning under the afforestation schemes takes account of a number of factors including local concerns, environmental guidelines and site conditions. Proposals to plant trees under this programme are subject to rigorous checks and undergo careful planning by professional foresters which must comply with the Department's requirements as set out in the Forestry Standards Manual, Scheme Documents, Code of Best Practice – Ireland and a suite of environmental guidelines including the Environmental Requirements for Afforestation and the Land Types for Afforestation. There are also a number of statutory consultees who are consulted on individual applications where relevant and these include the Environmental Protection Agency, NPWS and Inland Fisheries Ireland amongst others. I am satisfied that this planning process is fit for purpose and that it ensures that the establishment of new forests in Ireland is compatible with the protection and enhancement of our environment, particularly in relation to water, biodiversity, archaeology, soil type and the landscape.

Forestry Management

Ceisteanna (389)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

389. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether the concerns of the farming community in County Leitrim should be addressed and as a result new forestry licence applications in the county should be denied in view of the fact that it has reached the national per county target for forestry of 18.9%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40827/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am very conscious of concerns expressed about planting in Co. Leitrim and I want to reiterate that there are no county or regional specific targets for forestry planting in Ireland. The planting targets under the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 are national targets and aim to establish almost 44,000 hectares of new forests during the lifetime of the programme.

The Forestry Scheme is voluntary for all landowners and it is a matter for them as to whether they wish to choose forestry as a land use option and avail of the grants and premiums available to support them in that enterprise. Afforestation as a land use can work for farmers by supporting existing agricultural activity. For example it is an option for farmers who wish to diversify their income stream or increase profitability while maintaining their agricultural output.

Forestry does not necessarily mean a reduction in agricultural output nor does it mean converting the entire farm to forestry.Instead where land is underutilised, it allows for a more efficient use of land bringing the entire farm closer to its productive potential. Most importantly this approach introduces a stable and additional income into the farm. This new income stream can be used to develop the farm business as part of the overall plan for the farm. It is worth noting that 380 farmers in Leitrim have recognised this by converting parts of their farms to forestry resulting in forestry payments worth over €2.3m from my Department in 2017. In addition, timber sales in the county were valued at €1.2m in 2017 and 565 people are employed in the forestry sector in County Leitrim which is a valuable contribution to the local economy.

Agrifood Sector

Ceisteanna (390)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

390. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether suckler cow farmers from counties Sligo and Leitrim will benefit from an increased price for their animals if the growing international trend of food being classified as carbon-neutral food arrives here in view of the high level of forestry and carbon reduction plants in the counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40831/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

It should be noted, that in accordance with competition law, neither I, nor my Department, have a role in determining prices for any commodity including suckler beef.

However, I am keenly aware of the importance of the suckler sector to Ireland's rural economy and the wider agri-food industry. The sector is an integral component to the overall vitality and continued strength of beef farming in rural Ireland. My Department currently provides a range of income and investment supports to suckler farmers, including direct payments and grant schemes such as BPS, ANC, GLAS and TAMS, as well as the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), many of which have also significant benefits in terms of environmental sustainability.

Origin Green is the world's first national food and drink sustainability programme, bring together all actors in the food supply chain – from farmers to food producers, retailers to food service operators – with the common goal of achieving more sustainable food production. Bord Bia's consumer insight research has established that such sustainability credentials are increasingly important for both consumers and retail customers world-wide.

My Department continues to actively engage in the whole of government approach on carbon neutral initiatives to examine the best means of encouraging sustainable development of Irish food production systems, while optimising the sectors contribution to greenhouse gas mitigation and sequestration including through afforestation and other forest sector activities.

Forestry Grants

Ceisteanna (391)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

391. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to introduce a scheme that encourages landowners to plant trees into hedgerows in order to increase the levels of forestry that does not require prime agricultural land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40833/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Department's Afforestation Grant and Premium scheme is the States principal measure for increasing national forest cover. Under the current Forestry Programme 2014 -2020, the aim is establish 44,000 hectares of new forests. The Department encourages farmers to incorporate forestry into their farming mix so that agricultural production can continue alongside timber production.

In doing so the Department has introduced planting types that may be more suitable to farmers such as agroforestry and forestry for fibre. Agroforestry allows farmers to plant trees and allow their animals graze this land at the same time. Forestry for fibre supports the growing of trees such as eucalyptus and poplar that can be harvested for firewood after just 15 years, much shorter than traditional forestry which has a rotation of 35 - 40 years. There are no plans under the afforestation scheme to plant trees into hedgerows.

It is worth noting that the Department implemented two targeted Agri-Environment schemes since 2010 which included the planting of new hedgerows and native trees. Under the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS), which opened in 2010, some 581,000 trees were planted under the Broadleaved Tree Planting measure and circa 1,653,000 metres of hedgerow established under the Planting New Hedgerows measure. Under the current Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) some 1,661,000 trees have been planted under the Planting a Grove of Native Trees measure and circa 1,201,000 metres of hedgerow established under the Planting a New Hedgerow measure.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (392)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

392. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an area of natural constraints application by a person (details supplied) will be accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40857/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The processing of the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme application by the person named has now been completed and payment has issued to his nominated bank account.

Fodder Crisis

Ceisteanna (393)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

393. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will consider introducing a voucher-based meal subsidy as a part of a future fodder support scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40861/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

A survey of Fodder supplies in September indicated that the potential national fodder deficit has reduced from 18% this summer to 11%,with further reductions anticipated since this survey was conducted, as farmers continue to harvest fodder.

My priority is to support the conservation of as much fodder for the coming winter as possible from our own resources, and to supplement this with necessary imports as required. To achieve this I introduced a number of targeted measures:

I introduced a €2.75 million Fodder Production Incentive for Tillage Farmers to encourage tillage growers to actively engage in the fodder market and there has been positive engagement with this measure.

I announced a €4.25 million Fodder Import Support Measure for autumn 2018. The measure seeks to reduce the cost to farmers of imported forage. While the measure will operate through the Co-operatives/registered importers, the actual beneficiaries will be farmers who need supplies of fodder.

Additionally, I also secured agreement from Commissioner Hogan to pay higher advance Pillar 1 and 2 payments which will be increased to 70% and 85% respectively, resulting in €260 million in additional cash flow for farmers at a vital time of the year.

Furthermore, following consultation with the EU Commission, my Department made some temporary adjustments to the GLAS scheme for this year and in consultation with my ministerial colleague Mr. Eoghan Murphy T.D., a two week extension of the closed period for the spreading of chemical and organic fertilisers was announced and has allowed farmers capitalise on autumn grass growth for fodder production.

I am confident that the range of measures introduced by me to date, taken together and targeted at producing as much fodder as possible from our own land, is the most effective response to ensuring adequate supplies ahead of the coming winter and I have no plans to introduce a meal voucher subsidy. However I can assure you that I will continue to closely monitor and engage on this significant challenge during the coming period.

Basic Payment Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (394)

Pat Breen

Ceist:

394. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payments will issue to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40864/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named submitted an application under the Basic Payment Scheme and the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme on 15 May 2018.

This application is currently undergoing a number of administrative checks concerning eligibility and payment cannot issue until these checks are completed.

An official from my Department has contacted the person named directly regarding this matter.

Fishery Harbour Centres

Ceisteanna (395)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

395. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will bring forward the fishery harbour centre (rates of charges) order Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40883/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department owns, manages and maintains the six State-owned Fishery Harbour Centres, located at Castletownbere, Dingle, Dunmore East, Howth, Killybegs and Ros An Mhíl.

I would advise the Deputy that charges for the use of the facilities at each of the six Fishery Harbour Centres is set out in secondary legislation by means of Statutory Instrument. Currently, the Fishery Harbour Centres (Rates and Charges) Order 2012 (S.I. No. 214 of 2012) which came into effect on the 1st July 2012 sets out the fee schedule applicable at the six Fishery Harbour Centres.

My Department is currently undertaking a review of the 2012 order and expects to engage in a Public Consultation on the matter in early 2019 as part of the review process, as required by legislation.

Basic Payment Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (396)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

396. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the single farm payment will be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40897/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Advance payments under the BPS are due to start from October 16th. This is the earliest possible date on which advance payments can be made. For 2018, the Department has made arrangements to set the BPS advance payment at 70%, rather than the standard 50%.

Advance payments will continue on a rolling basis after the 16th October in order to ensure that cases are paid once they are cleared. The balancing payments due under the BPS (30%) will then commence from the start of December 2018. As usual, the BPS payment will also include the payment under the Greening Scheme.

GLAS Eligibility

Ceisteanna (397)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

397. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the GLAS section will accept a review of the decision to exclude a person (details supplied) from the GLAS scheme on medical grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40899/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am advised that there is no record of a GLAS contract in place for the applicant referred to. Department officials have been in direct contact with the Deputy's office to obtain a herd number, which is the primary GLAS identifier, for the person named. When this information is received, my officials will provide a reply directly to the Deputy concerned.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (398)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

398. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of an ANC payment for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40900/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The processing of the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme application by the person named has been completed and payment has issued to his nominated bank account.