Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, answered orally.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Data

Questions Nos. 8 to 12, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (7)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

7. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the payments made to date under the areas of natural constraints scheme by county. [51172/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The detailed county by county breakdown requested by the Deputy follows and will be entered into the record. To date in 2018, a total of €219.2 million has been paid to some 91,190 farmers.

The total allocation for Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme has been increased by €48million over the course of the last two Budgets, with the result that the allocation has been restored to pre-downturn levels. In 2018, payment levels across all categories of land in the Scheme were increased, with the highest level of increases being targeted at those areas faced with the highest levels of constraint.

For 2019, the Scheme is being redesigned in line with the requirements of the EU Regulations, and as part of this process payment rates across all categories of land will be increased again. This change requires a formal amendment to the Rural Development Programme (RDP), and I have now submitted the new payment rates to the Monitoring Committee for the RDP as part of this process. As with the 2018 increases, higher increases will be targeted at those areas facing the highest level of constraint on their land.

County

Num Applied

Num Eligible

Num Paid

Paid Amt

Carlow

1,080

735

681

1,624,068.94

Cavan

4,853

4,765

4,428

10,059,686.74

Clare

6,071

6,009

5,609

13,932,445.88

Cork

11,065

7,083

6,386

16,745,482.24

Donegal

8,907

8,669

7,557

20,405,572.49

Dublin

260

160

135

329,843.28

Galway

12,082

11,929

10,725

25,531,952.66

Kerry

7,791

7,630

6,857

18,796,102.39

Kildare

1,242

529

473

966,439.06

Kilkenny

2,849

1,724

1,577

3,692,511.95

Laois

2,462

1,685

1,537

3,377,373.79

Leitrim

3,462

3,421

3,126

7,838,645.24

Limerick

4,463

2,932

2,678

5,669,677.11

Longford

2,387

2,349

2,160

4,847,015.65

Louth

1,136

786

670

1,301,788.09

Mayo

11,444

11,353

10,224

24,931,023.97

Meath

2,579

1,332

1,215

2,380,619.53

Monaghan

4,138

4,035

3,693

7,593,697.32

Offaly

2,902

2,408

2,177

4,539,079.57

Roscommon

5,658

5,599

5,121

11,795,353.09

Sligo

3,984

3,935

3,550

8,459,942.28

Tipperary

6,202

4,452

4,043

9,439,741.43

Waterford

2,107

1,431

1,259

3,041,227.90

Westmeath

2,938

2,646

2,422

4,980,185.26

Wexford

3,075

1,501

1,274

2,582,489.29

Wicklow

2,026

1,806

1,616

4,410,591.20

Total

117,163

100,904

91,193

219,272,556.35

Questions Nos. 8 to 12, inclusive, answered orally.

Organic Farming Scheme

Question No. 14 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (13)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

13. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the arrangements for the reopening of the organic farming scheme; the primary areas of focus in this regard; the budget for the extended scheme; and the number of farmers that could apply. [51159/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The new Organic Farming Scheme under the current Rural Development Programme has proved extremely successful, attracting more new applicants than any scheme previously, and encouraging a significant number of Irish farmers to convert to organic farming systems. Latest figures indicate that there are now some 72,000 hectares under organic production, an increase of nearly 50% on the position at the start of the Programme in 2014.

The Organic Sector Strategy Group, which was established earlier this year, was tasked with developing a strategy for the development of the Organic Sector for the period up to 2025 and with assessing the justification for a targeted reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme, looking to best economic and environmental outcomes, in accordance with the Group’s terms of reference.

A public consultation process provided an opportunity for all interested parties to contribute to the development of the new strategic plan. This public consultation process combined with an Organic Processing Survey ensured that stakeholders had their views considered in building on the progress made and providing clear direction for further development of the Organic Sector for the next seven years.

According to 2017 Bord Bia research, categories with the greatest growth potential in the domestic market are fruit and vegetables, and dairy. Notwithstanding the fact that a large proportion of the total organic tillage crop is dedicated to oats, there is insufficient supply to meet demand. Furthermore, the insufficient supply of organic cereals and proteins is inhibiting the growth of the organic dairy, meat, and aquaculture sectors. This deficit in supply also necessitates importation which increases costs of production and therefore impacts competitiveness. The overriding challenge is to ensure that the development of production of organic food products is in line with market requirements and consumer demand. This will be the key to long term sustainable growth of the Irish Organic Food Sector.

Based on this assessment, the Group considered that there is sufficient market demand to justify the reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme on a targeted basis focussing on areas that are in deficit and where market demand is growing. In addition, the reopening of the Scheme is perceived as one of the most important steps in the future direction and development of the Sector. The Group unanimously agreed that the areas to be targeted should be organic horticulture, cereals and dairy.

Based on the recommendation of this Group, the Organic Farming Scheme was re-opened on 19 November, 2018. An allocation of €1.25m has been provided to facilitate the re-opening of this Scheme. Applications for the scheme must be made online, but there will be no requirement to use an Agricultural Advisor to make the applications. The closing date for submission of completed on-line applications is 19 December 2018.

All registered organic farmers are eligible to apply for the Organic Farming Scheme. Priority will be given to those areas deemed to be in deficit ie horticulture, tillage and dairy. The size of the holdings and the enterprise type in each case will determine the number of farmers accepted into the scheme.

Question No. 14 answered orally.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (15)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

15. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to ensure that the carbon footprint of the agriculture sector here is being reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51173/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Irish agricultural production is recognised by international independent analysis as having one of the lowest carbon-footprints internationally. The European Commission’s JRC Report of 2010 “Evaluation of the livestock sector's contribution to the EU greenhouse gas emissions (GGELS)” recognised that Ireland (with Austria) had the lowest cow milk emissions as well as the lowest emissions per kilo of pork. The FAO has also recognised the efficiency of our temperate grassland based production systems.

Production efficiency improvements are a core part of the efforts being undertaken by the agricultural sector. Significant progress in production efficiency has already been achieved through the use of fertiliser and manure, grassland management, improved breeding and better fertility. At farm level, my Department and its agencies are actively engaged with the farming sector through initiatives such as the Origin Green Farm Sustainability and Quality Assurance schemes, Knowledge Transfer Schemes, Beef Data and Genomics Programmes, the Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) and the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS).

As an example of my continued focus on ensuring the lowering of the carbon footprint of the agriculture sector I have recently introduced a Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot scheme that builds on the success of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme. This new scheme is targeted at suckler farmers and is specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production.

Sequestration has also a key role to play in reducing the carbon footprint of the sector and my Department has made significant investment under the Forestry Programme. In 2018 €106 million has been made available by my Department to support afforestation and other forest initiatives with significant improvements in grant and premium rates under the agroforestry and forestry for fibre options.

Higher ambition on environmental and climate action are part of the new CAP, post 2020, and it is proposed that 40% of the overall CAP budget will contribute to climate action. This will require farmers to achieve a higher level of environmental ambition through both mandatory and incentive-based measures.

As we look towards defining measures and targets under the new CAP regime the recently published Teagasc report “An analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030” is key to informing the type of abatement measures we need to focus on to continue to reduce the carbon footprint of the sector.

My Department will continue to actively engage in the whole of government approach on climate policy to examine the best means of encouraging sustainable intensification of food production, while optimising the sectors contribution to greenhouse gas mitigation and sequestration including through afforestation and other forest sector activities.

Hen Harriers Threat Response Plan

Ceisteanna (16)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

16. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of discussions with his colleague in the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht regarding the timeline to complete the threat response plan for hen harrier areas; and his views on permitting afforestation in hen harrier areas. [51150/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The overall aim of the European Habitats Directive is to maintain or restore the favourable conservation status of habitats and species which are threatened throughout Europe and deemed highly sensitive to change. These habitats and species are listed in the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. Special Areas of Conservation, or SACs, and Special Protection Areas, or SPAs – also known as Natura sites – are designated to afford protection to the most vulnerable of these habitats and species. As such, SACs and SPAs are a key component in the protection of rare and endangered habitats and species, both in Ireland and at a European and international level.

To tackle the decline of Hen Harrier populations in Ireland, a process has been underway since 2015 to develop a Threat Response Plan. This process, led by Minister Madigan and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, focuses on the key land uses of agriculture, forestry and wind farm development. The Plan will address pressures facing populations within those SPAs designated for breeding Hen Harrier, and also issues facing the species within the wider countryside

I am informed that the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is currently finalising the draft Threat Response Plan for public consultation. This follows earlier consultation with the stakeholder representative Consultative Committee in May of this year, which generated considerable feedback regarding – among other issues – proposals for limited afforestation within the SPAs.

The timeline for the release of the draft Plan is a matter for the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. However, it should be noted that any afforestation within a Natura site must satisfy Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive, and must also be agreed to by National Parks & Wildlife Service. Until the Threat Response Plan is completed, my Department will not be in a position to approve afforestation projects within the SPAs.

In the overall context of my commitment to addressing the decline of the Hen Harrier, I would point out that I fully recognise the importance of the preservation and conservation of the Hen Harrier and other protected bird species. Under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, for instance , the Green Low-carbon, Agri-environment Scheme (GLAS) gives priority access to landowners in SPAs and supports them in adopting farming systems suitable to the protected species. 2,657 farmers currently have Hen Harrier actions under GLAS, covering 42,216 hectares of habitat. My Department is also funding a Hen Harrier Programme under the European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) measure. This particular programme, which has a budget of some €25 million, focuses specifically on farmers managing habitat in the six Hen Harrier SPAs.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (17)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

17. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of businesses in the food production sector that have availed of the Brexit loan scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51148/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Brexit Loan Scheme provides affordable working capital to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees that are or will be impacted by Brexit and meet the scheme criteria. The €23 million exchequer funding (€9 million from my Department and €14 million from the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation) has been leveraged to provide a fund of up to €300 million. The Scheme has been designed to assist eligible Irish businesses in the short-term to deal with the challenges of Brexit, which include the pressures of increased market instability and currency volatility.

The Scheme was launched in March this year and will remain open until 31st March 2020, or until it is fully subscribed. As of 3 December, there have been 312 applications received, with 274 deemed eligible. 55 have loans progressed to sanction at finance provider level with a value of €12.91 million. This equates to an average loan value of €235,000. These figures were issued as an interim update by the SBCI.

The SBCI issue a detailed report on a quarterly basis, which includes a sectoral breakdown. As per the last quarterly report, dated 2 October 2018, there were 26 food-related loan applications approved under the Scheme.

Antimicrobial Resistance

Question No. 19 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (18)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

18. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details of the joint approach to One Health being adopted by his Department and the Department of Health. [51038/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Antimicrobial Resistance or AMR is a major strategic global public health risk. Tackling AMR, specifically antibiotic resistance, across three sectors, human health, animal health and the environmental sector (i.e. a ‘One Health Approach’) is critically important to achieving sustainable development. This department has always recognised the need for a joined up approach.

My Department has been working collaboratively with the Department of Health since 2013, with the production of an initial interdepartmental discussion paper on an intersectoral response to the spread of AMR in the human and animal sectors.

This was followed in 2014, by the establishment of a ‘One Health’ National Interdepartmental AMR Consultative Committee as a whole of government approach to address the AMR threat. This Committee brings together many of the key stakeholders in human health, animal health and the environmental sectors to raising public and professional awareness across the sectors and provide guidance to ensure that AMR is addressed holistically and in a co-ordinated way at national level.

In 2017 both Departments jointly launched Irelands first ‘One Health’ national action plan on AMR, i NAP, which serves as the framework for cross-sectoral co-operation to tackle the challenge of AMR until 2020.

The development of Ireland’s first ‘One Health Report’ which examines the surveillance of AMR and usage of antibiotics across the human and animal health sectors was completed this year. This report, by Department of Health and my Department, will be published shortly.

Most recently, under the ‘One Health’ umbrella, my Department, along with the Department of Health and HSE, and supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, hosted Ireland’s first One Health Event to mark European and World Antibiotic Awareness Week. This event facilitated the sharing and learning of best practice amongst healthcare and veterinary professionals in relation to prescribing and use of antibiotics in human and animal health.

Question No. 19 answered orally.

Beef Exports

Ceisteanna (20)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

20. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the progress made by the agrifood sector here in developing a market for Irish beef in China. [51192/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My officials continue to work towards opening and enhancing access to as many markets as possible. This is a key part of our response to the challenges and uncertainty posed by Brexit, and in line with the market development theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy. The opening of the Chinese market for Irish beef earlier this year was the culmination of significant work, over a number of years, and I am delighted that 6 Irish beef plants are currently approved to export beef to China.

My officials are currently working towards progressing applications for additional beef plants approvals, in order to increase Ireland's ability to supply the market, and this was the subject of a bilateral technical meeting at Senior Officials level in Beijing at the start of November.

Total Irish agri-food trade exports to China were €974 million in 2017. China is now our third largest market overall for agri-food exports. Dairy exports reached €667 million and pigmeat exports were over €100 million in 2017. These were the two largest categories of food exported to China, and for both of these commodities China was Ireland's second largest destination market according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) trade data. China is also a growing market for seafood and other food and drink exports.

Last month, my colleague, Minister of State Andrew Doyle TD, had a series of political and promotional engagements at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai and at the Seafood Expo in Qingdao. This follows the trade mission I led to China in May, and an inward visit by the Chinese Minister for Agriculture in October, underlining our commitment to progressing key political and trade relationships with China.

By gaining access to China, we have opened a very significant beef market for Irish beef companies. It is up to the beef companies to avail of this opportunity. According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) by the end of August 2018, Irish beef exports to China were 260 tonnes or €432,000. I am reasonably pleased with this level of exports given that the trade only commenced during the Summer. It indicates that Irish beef companies are beginning to gain a foothold in the Chinese market.

On average Chinese beef consumption is now 4kg per person per year. While that may be considered low when compared to average Irish consumption of 19kg of beef per capita per year, it underlines the potential for further growth in consumer demand for beef, driven by increasing urbanisation and higher disposable incomes. Total beef imports to China were around 600,000 tonnes in 2016. That is more than Ireland’s total beef exports to all markets last year. I firmly believe that our beef industry can and will compete effectively in the Chinese market and I look forward to the opportunities that this access will bring.

Beef Industry

Ceisteanna (21)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

21. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the nature and level of discussions he has had with beef factories to ensure farm producers receive a reasonable price for beef; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51205/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, in accordance with competition law, neither I nor my Department have any role in determining market prices for any commodity, nor can I intervene in this process.

I am conscious that this has been a difficult year for the sector in terms of weather and the range of challenges associated with it. We have to acknowledge that input costs at farm level will be unexpectedly high this year as a result of fodder shortages.

At the last meeting of the Beef Roundtable on 3rd October I highlighted the need for stakeholders to recognise their inter-dependency. I urged processors to engage positively with their farmer suppliers to build the sustainability of the sector as a whole and to ensure a reasonable return for the farmers upon whom the sector relies for its development. It is essential that the position of the primary producer in the supply chain be improved if the industry is to build a sector for the future.

The Beef Roundtable also included discussions on the potential for producer organisations and the development of new technologies as ways of adding value along the whole supply chain though increased engagement in the bioeconmy. These discussions were aimed at highlighting available tools to build resilience in the sector.

I have also asked Bord Bia to conduct a detailed examination of market dynamics, with the cooperation of the industry, taking into account sales of particular cuts into particular segments of the market in order to improve price transparency.

One of the unique strengths of the agri-food sector has been the shared vision for the sustainable development of the sector in Food Wise 2025. I hope that this positive engagement will continue.

More generally in relation to the beef sector, I was pleased to secure in the recent Budget, €20 million for a new pilot scheme targeted at suckler farmers and specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production. The pilot will build on the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme.

My Department is examining all appropriate measures to support the different agri-food sectors, including the suckler sector in preparation for the next iteration of the CAP. I will continue to argue for as strong a CAP budget as possible, post-2020. In particular, I am committed to ensuring that suckler farmers continue to receive strong support in the next CAP. My view is that such payments should support and encourage suckler farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve the profitability, and the economic and environmental efficiency, of their farming system.

Finally, my Department is working with other Departments and Agencies to broaden the portfolio of markets available to the Irish beef sector. Live exports are also an important market outlet, and the volumes have increased by 30% in 2018.

I would urge the industry to reflect on the economic sustainability of its own supply base when considering the development of the sector into the future.

Invasive Plant Species

Ceisteanna (22)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

22. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures in place for tackling invasive species such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and gunnera tinctoria; and the role of his Department in managing the control of invasive species. [51156/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My colleague, Josepha Madigan TD, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is responsible for the enforcement of Irish legislation which deals with Invasive species. The Wildlife Act and The European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 477/2011), both prohibit the spreading of invasive species. The European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 contain important provisions to address the problem of invasive species and includes a list of approximately 70 plant and animal species considered to be the most harmful invasive alien species.

My Department recognises the problem of Alien Invasive Species. Information sheets are available on the most important species in relation to agriculture on our Department Website. (https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmerschemespayments/glas/glastraining)

Under Cross Compliance measures the control of invasive species is implemented under Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC). GAEC 7 is the ‘Retention of Landscape Features & Designated Habitats and Controlling Invasive Species’. Under GAEC 7 Invasive Species must be controlled and failure to take appropriate measures to prevent the encroachment/proliferation of invasive species on to land may lead to a sanction on a farmers EU funded payments.

My Department have a representative on the National Invasive Species Working Group which is coordinated by Teagasc. This group meets regularly to discuss and progress issues on Invasive Species in Ireland, including legislation, funding and training.

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

Ceisteanna (23)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

23. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding discussions on the next CAP reform; and his priorities for the next CAP. [51198/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The new regulations for the CAP 2021-27 were launched on Friday 1 June 2018 by Commissioner Hogan. The proposals, as drafted, involve significant changes, including in relation to governance, the distribution of direct payments among farmers and the increasing environmental conditionality attaching to such payments.

Discussions on the CAP proposals commenced during the Bulgarian Presidency and have continued apace under the Austrian Presidency, with up to 20 Working Group meetings taken place so far. Further meetings are scheduled throughout the remainder of this month. The Presidency is currently working through the proposals with the Member States to try and identify areas of agreement.

The CAP Post 2020 has been discussed at the Special Committee of Agriculture meetings on a regular basis. CAP Post 2020 has also been a standing agenda item at every Agri-Fish Council meeting. I had the opportunity to discuss the CAP proposals at our last meeting on 19 November. The CAP proposals will also be discussed at the next Agri-Fish Council meeting on 17/18 December, where the Austrian Presidency will present its progress report on the CAP strategic plans; Financing, management and monitoring of the CAP, and, the common market organisation (CMO) of agricultural products.

In general, I have been supportive of the proposals and can in principle agree with the nine key objectives identified for the CAP post 2020. I subscribe to the general proposition that we should have a more modern and simpler CAP that has a strong environmental ambition and that Member States will have greater flexibility in designing measures that are best suited to their own needs.

I am also focused on the overall level of the CAP budget. Member States are facing a 3.9% cut to Pillar 1 Direct Payments funding, and a 15% cut to Pillar 2 Rural Development funding. This is unacceptable in my view. The retention of an adequate budget for the CAP post 2020 is a key priority for Ireland.

I have been advocating strongly amongst my agriculture counterparts to maintain a strong CAP budget. I co-signed a Joint Memorandum in Madrid in May this year, which calls for the CAP budget to be retained at current levels for the EU 27 post 2020. The memorandum has been supported by up to 20 other EU Agriculture Ministers. We will continue to work together on this issue as the negotiations for the CAP post 2020 and its budgetary allocations progress.

Agriculture Schemes

Ceisteanna (24)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

24. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the other schemes available to farmers to facilitate their transition towards a low carbon economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51119/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department has a number of schemes available to farmers to facilitate their transition towards a low carbon economy.

These include initiatives that address efficiency improvement and mitigation, sequestration of carbon and also the provision of biomass towards energy generation.

The Origin Green Farm Sustainability and Quality Assurance schemes have at their core an independent farm audit where the farmer receives a feedback report on his or her farm’s performance. This allows them to make informed decisions on improving the sustainability of their farms while also improving their efficiency and farm viability. Knowledge Transfer schemes, funded under the Rural Development Programme (RDP), are essential in facilitating the transfer of information from research and advisory services to farmer discussion group networks and cover a range of topics related to sustainability and climate mitigation.

Under the Rural Development Programme (RDP), supports are included to help farmers improve their farm’s environmental performance. The Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment scheme (GLAS) includes specific measures to support climate change objectives, whilst our Organic Farming scheme supports organic farming as an alternative farming system contributing to improving soil quality and mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Improving breeding and maintaining the health of livestock is also very important to achieving efficiency and managing emissions. This is actively supported through our Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP). This Programme ranks the efficiency of beef breeding animals on a star based system, with 5-star being the most efficient. Building on the success of this Programme I have just announced a new pilot scheme - The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) – which will be targeted at suckler farmers and specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production by measuring the weaning efficiency of suckler cows. Farmers will get detailed feedback on the performance of individual animals allowing them to identify the most productive cows in their herd. On the Dairy side, the Economic Breeding Index is identifying the most efficient animals for grass based production system.

I would also mention the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS). This scheme supports capital investment to promote sustainability such as low emissions slurry spreading equipment and energy efficiency support measures.

In terms of sequestration, or the capturing of carbon, our most significant intervention is the national afforestation programme. Afforestation and forests also play a key role in replacing energy intensive materials and providing sustainable renewable biomass to the energy sector. Since 1990 almost 312,000 hectares have been afforested primarily by farmers with supports from my Department, which represents a 40% increase in forest cover. It is intended to expand our overall forest estate from 11% to 18% by 2050. We are therefore investing heavily in the Afforestation Scheme to encourage landowners to establish forests on their land. The Government has recently approved significant improvements in grant and premium rates here under the agroforestry and forestry for fibre options.

My department continues to review the types of schemes that will enable our farmers to transition to a low carbon economy. Higher ambition on environmental and climate action are part of the new CAP, post 2020, and it is proposed that 40% of the overall CAP budget will contribute to climate action. This will require farmers to achieve a higher level of environmental ambition through both mandatory and incentive-based measures as part of their transition to a low carbon economy and society.

Beef Industry Irregularities

Ceisteanna (25)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

25. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of times to date in 2018 that beef processing factories have been fined for breaching EU carcass trimming rules; the range of fines imposed; the maximum level that can be imposed; the number of inspections by officials in 2018 in such factories to check that grading and trimming is in compliance with regulations; and if will he consider publishing the names of factories fined in 2018. [51167/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

To date in 2018 there were fines applied to a total of 19 carcases that were non compliant with the EU reference carcase trimming specification. Under legislation (SI 363/2010), non-compliance with the carcase trim specification attracts a maximum on the spot fine of €200 per carcase.

Regarding the maximum level that can be imposed, any person who commits an offence under the current Regulations is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or to both. Recourse to this approach would preclude the possibility of an on the spot fine and conviction would require proof of intention beyond a reasonable doubt.

Carcase classification and carcase presentation controls in slaughter plants are carried out by a dedicated team of specialist staff in the Beef Carcase Classification Section within my Department.

To date there have been 44,332 carcasses inspected in 2018.

As part of on-going dialogue with the industry both within the Beef Forum and directly with Meat Industry Ireland, I have stressed the need for positive engagement between suppliers and processors and I understand that Meat Industry Ireland has accepted that no individual farmer should be at a loss from a mistake made in a factory in relation to the application of carcase dressing procedures. There are commercial considerations to be taken into account in terms of publishing incidences of non-compliance, however, I understand that processors will introduce a payment to the farmer supplier to reflect any loss in each case where my Department has applied a trim fine on a particular carcase. Such payment will be identified on the payment remittance docket, so that farmers will be aware of the penalty.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme

Ceisteanna (26)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

26. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to change the rates of payment from 2019 in the ANC scheme so that these rates reflect more the natural constraint of the land farmers are farming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50978/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under the current Rural Development Regulation (and subsequent amendments under the Omnibus Regulation) Member States are required to change the approach to the designation of land under the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme. To date my Department had been identifying eligible areas using a range of socio economic indicators such as family farm income, population density, percentage of working population engaged in agriculture, and stocking density.

From 2019, eligible areas must instead be designated using the following list of bio-physical criteria:

- Low temperature

- Dryness

- Excess soil moisture

- Limited soil drainage

- Unfavourable texture and stoniness

- Shallow rooting depth

- Poor chemical properties

- Steep slope

This process has now been completed and in recent weeks I have published details in relation to the outcome and have completed a series of consultation meetings with key stakeholders.

In parallel to these changes to the 2019 Scheme, an additional €23m has been added to the Scheme budget for 2019. Approximately €12m of this money will be allocated to newly eligible lands in 2019, with approximately €1m being allocated to the phasing out payments in respect of lands no longer eligible from 2019. The remaining approximately €10m will be allocated as increased payment rates across all categories of land in the scheme. These increases will be targeted so as to deliver higher increases to those lands with the highest level of constraint.

All these changes require a formal amendment to the Rural Development Programme, and this process is now underway to ensure that the Scheme can open for application early in 2019.

Agriculture Schemes

Ceisteanna (27)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

27. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress to date on the roll-out of the agricultural sustainability support and advisory programme with particular reference to the ongoing need to encourage sustainable farming whilst at the same time meeting water quality requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51155/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Agricultural Sustainability Support & Advisory Programme (ASSAP) is an innovative Government/industry initiative running from 2018 to 2021 and involves a well structured collaborative initiative involving all stakeholders, including the wider community, to facilitate improvements in water quality. The ASSAP involves a resource of 30 Agricultural Sustainability Advisors, 20 of whom are funded by Government and 10 by the Dairy Industry. These Advisors will promote on-farm best practice to farmers in 190 ‘Areas for Action’, which have been identified by the EPA where the status of the water is at risk of regressing. Farmers can avail of this service within the ‘Areas for Action’ on a voluntary basis. The initial focus for the Sustainability Advisors is on water quality, this will be broadened over time to other sustainability issues.

Advisors have now received comprehensive training to ensure a common approach. The process of engagement with both the wider communities and with farmers in these areas is now underway. Community meetings are taking place in the ‘Areas-for-Action’ to update the wider communities on developments in the local areas; 15 such community meetings will take place before the year end. Furthermore farmer focused meetings will take place providing the opportunity for engagement with farmers in these areas. It is important to note the very strong support from all those involved in farming for the programme; this support is crucial in communicating and informing farmers about the ASSAP programme and facilitating farmer engagement.

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

Ceisteanna (28)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

28. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the engagement his Department has with the revision of the Common Agricultural Policy; and the process by which the EU Council of Ministers will address the design of the new CAP system. [51157/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The new regulations for the CAP 2021-27 were launched on Friday 1 June 2018 by Commissioner Hogan. The proposals, as drafted, involve significant changes, including in relation to governance, the distribution of direct payments among farmers and the increasing environmental conditionality attaching to such payments. Ireland will work constructively on the CAP proposals with the European Commission and other EU Member States in an effort to reach agreement on the proposals.

These are complex proposals and an intensive and challenging negotiation is underway. In preparing for these negotiations I have undertaken a number of actions in considering the CAP proposals to date.

These actions include:-

- an eight week public consultation process on the future of the CAP post 2020 which took place earlier this year. As part of that process, I along with Minister Doyle attended a total of six public meetings held in various locations around the country. One of the most common themes emerging from the consultation process was the need for a strong CAP budget.

- In July, I also hosted a seminar on the new CAP legislative proposals for interested stakeholders, including farm bodies, state agencies and the environmental pillar. The outcome from the public consultation process and the stakeholder conference is feeding into the Department’s on-going analysis and policy response to the proposals.

Consideration of the CAP proposals is ongoing at EU level. The Austrian Presidency outlined an intensive programme of Working Party meetings to discuss specific aspects of the CAP proposals for the duration of its Presidency. To date more than 20 Working Group meetings have taken place with further meetings scheduled into the middle of December. This process will support the Presidency to find areas of agreement amongst the Member States.

The CAP Post 2020 proposals are discussed at the Special Committee of Agriculture meetings on a regular basis. In addition, CAP post 2020 has also been a standing agenda item at every Agri-Fish Council meeting. I have discussed the CAP proposals extensively with my Agriculture Ministerial colleagues at Council, most recently on 19 November.

The negotiations for the CAP post 2020 are still ongoing and I will continue to seek to secure the best possible outcome for the Irish agri-food sector.

Beef Industry

Ceisteanna (29)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

29. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address the crisis in the beef industry; the measures he plans to introduce to alleviate the near collapse of the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50976/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department has consistently provided significant support for the suckler sector and will continue to do so, in preparation for the next iteration of the CAP.

Earlier this year I was pleased to secure an allocation of €20 million in the 2019 Budget for a new pilot scheme for suckler farmers, specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production. The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) will target the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves - measuring the liveweight of the calf at weaning as a percentage of the cow's liveweight. This data will be used to target improvements on a herd basis by giving the farmer detailed feedback on the performance of individual animals. The data collected will also be a valuable addition to Ireland's already impressive database on cattle genomics. Details of the scheme will be announced shortly.

I am also confident that suckler farmers will be significant beneficiaries of the additional €23 million in funding announced for the Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme.

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) period. This will improve the environmental sustainability of the national suckler herd by increasing genetic merit.

In addition to the BDGP, other supports which are available for beef farmers under Pillar II of the CAP include GLAS, ANCs and Knowledge Transfer Groups. Suckler farmers also benefit from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening payments under CAP Pillar I.

I am conscious that this has been a difficult year for the sector in terms of weather and the range of challenges associated with it. My department has made up to €7m available to assist farmers with fodder shortages. At the last meeting of the Beef Roundtable on 3 October, I highlighted the need for stakeholders to recognise their inter-dependency. I urged processors to engage positively with their farmer suppliers to build the sustainability of the sector as a whole and to ensure a reasonable return for the farmers upon whom the sector relies for its development. It is essential that the position of the primary producer in the supply chain be secured if we are to build a sector for the future.

Agriculture Schemes

Ceisteanna (30)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

30. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details of the €20 million beef environmental efficiency pilot scheme introduced in budget 2019; the maximum payment per cow and weanling; when the scheme will open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51169/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department has provided €20 million in budget 2019 for a new pilot scheme for suckler farmers, specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production. The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) will target the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves - measuring the liveweight of the calf at weaning as a percentage of the cow's liveweight.

Building on the success of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme, the data collected will also be a valuable addition to Ireland's already impressive database on cattle genomics.

Stakeholder consultation is on-going at present and details of the pilot will be announced in early 2019 once this consultation has concluded.

The pilot will open in early spring 2019. The payment per cow is expected to be €40 but will be determined by the number of applicants; the overall budget for the scheme is €20 million.

Commonage Framework Plans

Ceisteanna (31)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

31. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of commonage framework plans outstanding under the GLAS programme; the number of payments to farmers delayed as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51162/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The commencement of the 2018 advance payments in respect of the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) was announced on 14 November 2018. The first payrun saw over €116m paid to over 33,000 participants under the scheme. In the two payruns since we have p[aid an additional 6,500 participants. These payments commenced two weeks earlier than last year and saw an additional 7,000 participants paid in the initial tranche compared to last year.

The payment of €116m was also significantly higher than last year. For 2018 I secured the agreement of the EU Commission for a higher advance payment rate of 85% for 2018. These payments are a valuable support for farmers across Ireland and are a welcome boost to the wider rural economy.

The commencement of GLAS payments in November when added to the advance BPS payment and the ANC payments brought the total issued to Irish farmers since September to some €1.1 billion. This represented a significant boost to on-farm cash flows and once again sees Ireland at the forefront of EU member states in making advance payments on this scale.

All GLAS participants who have selected the Commonage action are required to have a Commonage Management Plan, or a Commonage Farm Plan where the commonage is less than 10ha. These plans must be submitted to the online system on their behalf by their advisor. Currently Commonage Management Plans have been submitted for 3,653 GLAS commonages and plans are outstanding for 291 commonages.

My Department has issued regular reminders to both shareholders and advisors emphasising the need to have this work completed so that GLAS payments can be made for the outstanding cases.

GLAS payments can only issue once all validations have been passed - even where a Commonage Management Plan has been submitted, all other scheme requirements must also be met in order for payment to be processed.

I would urge all participants with outstanding Commonage Management Plans to contact their advisors to ensure that their application can pass through the validation process. GLAS payments continue to issue on a weekly basis. I would also urge GLAS participants with any other outstanding documentation such as Rare Breed or Low Emission Slurry Spreading forms outstanding Nutrient Management Plans to ensure that these requirements are met without delay to allow for the early issue of payments. Participants who have not yet done so are also reminded of the need to complete a one day GLAS Training Course.

To date, I am pleased to say that 39,665 GLAS participants have received their 2018 advance payment which equates to 96% of eligible cases paid. This amounts to a total of just under €140m paid since the 2018 GLAS advance payments commenced on 14 November last. .

Animal Identification Schemes

Ceisteanna (32)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

32. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will consider developing an application that could be linked to Agfood.ie and would be accessible on smartphones in order that farmers can record births and animal movements more easily; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51164/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is at an advanced stage of development to provide a calf birth registration application that will be accessible on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets for farmers who are already registered for Agfood.ie services. In the initial phase farmers will be able to register calf birth details directly with the Department’s Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) system using this app. This service will be more convenient and time efficient for farmers in registering calf birth details. It will help to minimise errors in calf birth details submitted and avoid duplication of records on the farm.

An enhancement to help farmers process farm to farm movements for bovine animals (cattle) more easily will be included in subsequent phase which will be available later in 2019. Further enhancements will be released on an on-going basis.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme

Ceisteanna (33)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

33. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to increase the maximum area on which a farmer can receive payment under the ANC scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50979/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under the current Rural Development Regulation (and subsequent amendments under the Omnibus Regulation) Member States are required to change the approach to the designation of land under the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme. To date my Department had been identifying eligible areas using a range of socio economic indicators such as family farm income, population density, percentage of working population engaged in agriculture, and stocking density.

From 2019, eligible areas must instead be designated using the following list of bio-physical criteria:

- Low temperature

- Dryness

- Excess soil moisture

- Limited soil drainage

- Unfavourable texture and stoniness

- Shallow rooting depth

- Poor chemical properties

- Steep slope

This process has now been completed and in recent weeks I have published details in relation to the outcome and have completed a series of consultation meetings with key stakeholders.

In parallel to these changes to the 2019 Scheme, an additional €23m has been added to the Scheme budget for 2019. Approximately €12m of this money will be allocated to newly eligible lands in 2019, with approximately €1m being allocated to the phasing out payments in respect of lands no longer eligible from 2019. The remaining approximately €10m will be allocated as increased payment rates across all categories of land in the scheme. These increases will be targeted so as to deliver higher increases to those lands with the highest level of constraint.

Rather than introducing changes to the maximum payable areas under the Scheme, these payment increases will be delivered as follows. The rate for Category 1 land (previously mountain type land) will increase to €148 per hectare for the first 12 hectares, with a rate of €112 for hectares 13 to 34. The rate for Category 2 land (previously more severe) will increase to €111 per hectare for the first 10 hectares, with a rate of €104 for hectares 11 to 30. The rate for Category 3 land (previously less severe) will increase to €93 per hectare for the first 8 hectares, with a rate of €88.25 for hectares 9 to 30.

Taking this increases together with the increases in place in 2018, the maximum annual payment under the Scheme will have increased from €3,400 in 2017 to €4,240 in 2019 for the farmers with the poorest land.

All these changes require a formal amendment to the Rural Development Programme, and this process is now underway to ensure that the Scheme can open for application early in 2019.

Beef Industry

Ceisteanna (34)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

34. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether beef farmers are receiving a fair price for their produce from factories; the course of action he will take with factories following the reports of fines being imposed for excessive carcase trimming in 2018; the level of fines imposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51184/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The quality payment system for beef was introduced a number of years ago following intensive negotiations between Meat Industry Ireland and the farmers representatives. The payment system makes use of Carcase Grade sub-classes to determine the price paid, with the aim of rewarding farmers for producing the better quality and higher value carcases. The question of the price paid for particular grades is, of course, a matter for the producers and processors.

Carcase classification and carcase presentation controls in slaughter plants are carried out by a dedicated team of specialist staff in the Beef Carcase Classification Section within my Department. Additional monitoring of carcase presentation by my Department’s veterinary public health inspection staff (VPHIS) in the factories is currently being implemented. This will provide further assurance to stakeholders that the appropriate dressing specification is being applied. These staff will provide a supporting role for the Beef Carcase Classification staff.

Up-skilling of my Department’s VPHIS staff has occurred at regional seminars and local training of officers is being provided. Furthermore information seminars were held for both industry and farm representative bodies regarding the enhanced controls. Phased roll-out is happening at a number of plants currently.

To date there have been 44,332 carcasses inspected in 2018. A total of 19 carcases were fined for non compliance with the EU reference carcase trimming specification which is 0.05% of the number inspected. Non-compliance with the carcase trim specification attracts a maximum on the spot fine of €200 per carcase.

As part of on-going dialogue with the industry both within the Beef Forum and directly with Meat Industry Ireland, I have stressed the need for positive engagement between suppliers and processors and I understand that Meat Industry Ireland has accepted that no individual farmer should be at a loss from a mistake made in a factory in relation to the application of carcase dressing procedures. I understand that processors will introduce a payment to the farmer supplier to reflect any loss, in each case where my Department has applied a trim fine on a particular carcase. Such payment will be identified on the payment remittance docket, so that farmers will be aware of the penalty.

Milk Supply Regulation

Ceisteanna (35)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

35. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of developments regarding SMP intervention at EU level; the details of data on sales; the plans the EU Commission has for SMP intervention tendering in 2019; and the position of Ireland on same. [51185/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As the Deputy is aware, in recent years the EU has accumulated large amounts of public intervention stocks of skimmed milk powder (SMP), which are overhanging the dairy market and providing negative effects on wider dairy markets and market sentiment. In the 2015-2017 period a total of 405,478 tonnes of SMP were bought in to public intervention. The sale of intervention SMP stocks is held through public tenders managed by the EU Commission and voted on by Member States through the CMO Management Committee for Animal Products.

There were approx. 378,000 tonnes of SMP held in public intervention stocks on 1st January this year. After the most recent tender on 20th November, there are approximately 165,000 tonnes remaining in public intervention stocks - representing a reduction of approximately one half of total public intervention stocks since the start of 2018. This is a very significant reduction in intervention stocks and underlines the effectiveness of the approach taken thus far.

Tenders have been held fortnightly for October and November, with one tender in December, and will be held fortnightly from January 2019, which it is hoped will further boost the sale of stocks held in public intervention.

The most recent tender on 20th November was for the sale of 26,082 tonnes at €131.30/100kg. The increase in the price of accepted bids from the previous tender is a welcome development and bodes well for future upcoming tenders.

Forestry Grants

Ceisteanna (36)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

36. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of grants for forestry development awarded to entities here over the past five years; the size of forestry development for each grant awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51120/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme is a voluntary State-funded programme which supports and attracts a wide range of recipients; farmers, non-farmers, partnerships and companies annually. The vast majority however of forest owners are farmers and there is no distinction in terms of payment rates between farmers and non-farmers. The profile of non-farmers also includes retired farmers or their family members who wish to maintain a continuing connection to the land. For this reason, it is clear that the annual premiums received by beneficiaries largely stay within rural communities and are an important contribution to the economic vitality of these communities.

The average size of plantation in 2018 is just over 6 hectares and is around 9 hectares since 1980. Obviously there are variations from plantation to plantation and it very much depends on the wishes of the landowner at the time. The number of newly established forestry plantations, for a single entity, that received grants under the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme from 2013-2017 are as follows:

Year

Number of entities

Total Area

2013

889

6251.92

2014

933

6155.78

2015

919

6292.65

2016

951

6499.28

2017

817

5535.59

The Government is committed to afforestation and the Forestry Programme 2014 -2020 is 100% exchequer funded. It represents a State investment in the forestry sector of some €482m over the duration of the Programme. The Programme is a major contributor to climate change mitigation and to Government rural development policy, and makes an important contribution to the economy. This contribution to the national economy is currently estimated at €2.3 billion annually after both direct and induced effects are taken into account, and it provides sustainable rural employment for up to 12,000 jobs.

Animal Welfare

Ceisteanna (37)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

37. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has met or discussed with an association (details supplied) regarding concerns about an increase in illegal hunting with dogs in north County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51075/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Minister has not met the organisation in question to discuss this issue. Matters of this nature should be reported to An Garda Siochana and to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (38)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

38. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the operational details of the long-term Brexit loan scheme announced in budget 2019 for farmers, fishermen and food businesses in 2019; when it will open for applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51170/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

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”.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme is being developed by my Department and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in partnership with the Department of Finance, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and the European Investment Fund (EIF). It will be delivered through participating finance providers and make up to €300 million of long-term investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including the primary agriculture, agri-food & seafood sectors. The loans will be competitively priced and will be for terms of 8-10 years.

This is a long-awaited source of finance for young and new entrant farmers, especially the cohort who do not have high levels of security. It will also serve smaller-scale farmers, who often do not have the leverage to negotiate for more favourable terms with their banking institution.

Food companies have identified long-term investment finance of up to ten years as a critical need which is currently unavailable in Ireland. The delivery of this product and its effects will be felt all along the food production chain.

The fund is leveraged by exchequer funding of €62 million, of which 40% or some €25million will be provided by my Department. My Department’s contribution was announced as part of Budget 2018 and will be paid to the Scheme by the end of 2018.

Arrangements are currently being finalised to have the Scheme in place and ready to launch in early 2019. The Scheme will run for three years from its launch date and further announcements in this regard will be made shortly.

Beef Industry

Ceisteanna (39)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

39. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the price beef farmers are receiving for their produce from factories; the details of discussions at the recent beef forum meeting; the actions and deadlines agreed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51171/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, in accordance with competition law, neither I nor my Department have any role in determining market prices for any commodity, nor can I intervene in this process.

I am conscious that this has been a difficult year for the sector in terms of weather and the range of challenges associated with it. We have to acknowledge that input costs at farm level will be unexpectedly high this year as a result of fodder shortages.

At the last meeting of the Beef Roundtable on 3rd October I highlighted the need for stakeholders to recognise their inter-dependency. I urged processors to engage positively with their farmer suppliers to build the sustainability of the sector as a whole and to ensure a reasonable return for the farmers upon whom the sector relies for its development. It is essential that the position of the primary producer in the supply chain be improved if the industry is to build a sector for the future.

Agriculture Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (40)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

40. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the supports available to farmers in view of the challenging circumstances encountered in 2018 including fodder shortages, increased input costs and decline in prices; and if all payments will be made before the end of 2018 according to the timeline set out in the farmers charter. [51151/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am very aware of the significance to farmers and the wider rural economy of the payments that issue to farmers from my Department under a range of schemes. With this in mind, my Department continues to issue payments under these schemes as a matter of priority.

Payments under the 2018 Areas of Natural Constraint scheme commenced, on schedule, during the week commencing 17th September and to date over €219m has issued to 91,190 farmers. Advance payments under the Basic Payment Scheme also commenced on schedule in mid October, and balancing payments commenced on schedule this week. To date a total of €1.12bn has issued to almost 121,000 farmers under the 2018 Scheme. At the end of October, payments commenced under Year 2 of the Knowledge Transfer Programme, and to date some €10 million has issued to over 15,000 farmers.

In November, 2018 advance payments for GLAS commenced. To date, 39,665 GLAS participants have received their 2018 advance payment. This amounts to almost €140m paid since payments commenced on 14 November and equates to 96% of eligible cases paid. Advance payment for the Sheep Welfare Scheme also issued on time at the end of November with €15.1 million paid to 18,600 participants.

In December, further payments will commence on schedule under the Beef Data and Genomics Programme, the Organic Farming Scheme and the Protein Aid scheme. Payments under the TAMS II capital investment scheme are also continuing, with €94.8m paid in respect of 6,503 claims to date.

During the course of the year, my Department also put in place a number of targeted schemes in response to weather conditions and the associated fodder situation.

My Department continues to process payments under these schemes as a matter of priority, to ensure that these vital supports are delivered to farmers in the most timely and efficient manner possible.