Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (495)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

495. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the projected increase in the gross capital expenditure ceiling applying to his Department in 2020 over 2019; and the projects this increase has been earmarked for. [37451/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Discussions on the 2020 Budget are currently underway between my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and all budget lines in the Vote are being examined as part of that process. My intention is to ensure that all resources made available to my Department, now and in the future, will be managed to advance Government priorities and provide optimum outcomes including in relation to the funding of schemes which underpin farm income and deliver environmental benefits.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (496)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

496. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37477/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

On foot of a Notice of Attachment received from the Revenue Commissioners in respect of payments arising to the person named, my Department is obliged to pay over all moneys to Revenue until the full amount of the Notice of Attachment is cleared.   

If the person named reaches a different agreement with Revenue, my Department will implement any such revised arrangement but this must be on instruction from Revenue.

Forestry Data

Ceisteanna (497)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

497. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the length of time it takes to process forestry applications within the Forest Service by longest, shortest and average for the past five years in tabular form; his plans to speed up the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37478/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is required to carefully vet all afforestation applications, with regard to their potential impact on the surrounding environment; on habitats; on archaeological monuments; on the social aspects of the proposal and to ensure that silviculturally, the proposal meets the required standards.  This detailed examination is carried out by district forestry inspectors, supported by experts in archaeology and ecology within my Department. 

Following the commencement of the Forestry Act in 2017, site notices must be erected at the entrance to the proposed site for afforestation and forest road works, to inform the public that an application has been submitted.  That site notice must remain in place for a period of five weeks.  Applications are open to public consultation, facilitated by the site notice and advertising on my Department’s website.  Interested parties may make a submission in writing on any application, within 30 days of it being advertised.  Certain public bodies may also be requested to provide an opinion on an application and up to eight weeks is provided for their response.  Therefore, since the commencement of the Act, a decision may not be issued within 30 days at a minimum.

In recent months, officials of my Department have engaged additional archaeological resources.  These inspectors have focused on afforestation applications and have worked to reduce the backlog in that area.  In addition to this, changes have been made to the online application system with regard to how applications near an archaeological monument are treated, to ensure that only applications in close proximity or surrounding such a feature are examined.  These changes have resulted in a reduction in the time taken to assess an application in respect of archaeology.

With regards to ecology, an additional inspector with ecological qualifications is now working on afforestation applications and further ecological resources will be obtained over the coming months. Officials of my Department have also been working to enhance the online application system, with regard to Appropriate Assessment procedures.  I am confident that these changes will enhance the afforestation application system.

Following receipt of an application, my Department conducts an initial check to ensure that all relevant details have been submitted as required.  The date an application is advertised on my Department’s website is the date that complete information has been received in relation to an application. The tables below indicate timeframes from the date advertised to the date of decision.  Accurate data is available and provided here since the start of the current Forestry Programme, when the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme commenced in January 2015.

The following table shows the shortest, longest and average time in days for a decision on an afforestation application. The Deputy should be aware that, in some cases, my Department requests further information from the applicant.  In the case below of the application that took 1,119 days for a decision, for example, the applicant was asked to provide further information, but despite numerous follow-up letters, did not respond for many months. 

Year

Shortest

Longest

Average

2015

5

522

74

2016

3

680

86

2017

3/30*

1,119

91

2018

30

959

124

2019 to 31st   August

30

826

139

* Note from the commencement of the Forestry Act, 2014, on 24th May, 2017, the shortest time before a decision is 30 days.  However, some applications would have been decided in a shorter timeframe from January to 23rd May that year.

Climate Change Advisory Council

Ceisteanna (498, 500)

Noel Rock

Ceist:

498. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has read the third Climate Change Advisory Council annual review (details supplied); the actions that will be implemented to address the concerns raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37480/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Noel Rock

Ceist:

500. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount by which the national cattle herd must be cut to reach emission reduction targets; if this is a policy option under consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37483/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 498 and 500 together.

The All-of-Government Plan to tackle climate breakdown identifies a series of actions for the agriculture, forestry and land-use sector that ensure a fair contribution from agriculture and land use to our transition to a low carbon economy and society. This reflects our three-pillar policy approach to achieving carbon neutrality without comprising sustainable food production.

My Department acknowledges that the target set for the sector to reduce emissions from 20.2 Mt CO2eq to less than 19 Mt CO2 eq by 2030 is extremely ambitious and not without its challenges but the Teagasc MACC illustrates a suite of actions that provide opportunity for emissions reductions. These include both efficiency measures such as the Dairy EBI programme and technical measures such as changes in fertiliser type or low emissions slurry spreading as well as a series of forestry and bioeceonomy measures.

To reach the target of 19 Mt CO2 eq in 2030 will require us to manage the emissions profile from the sector between now and then through mobilisation of as many of these actions as possible as early as possible with high rates of adoption across our 139,000 farms.

The Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) report further highlights the importance of early adoption by farmers of the measures outlined in the Climate Action Plan and illustrates the exposure that livestock numbers are open to if implementation of the Teagasc MACC is not achieved at a sufficient pace. Any hesitancy in take up of these actions will jeopardise our delivery on our committed targets and effectively bring the size of the national herd into focus. However, mechanisms such as the CAP reform, market incentives and regulation are all been investigated in full by all the relevant stakeholders, including industry, to mobilise the necessary actions as swiftly as possible.

The next Common Agriculture Policy will be fully aligned with this need to prioritise climate action. There will be a step up in environmental and climate delivery in the next CAP. The development of our CAP strategic plan will ensure the delivery of this target. A consultation process on the next CAP has already started and negotiations on CAP policy will intensify over the coming months.

We are also committed to developing opportunities for agriculture to provide bio-materials to replace high carbon products such as bioplastics, biopharma, biomass etc. In the future, farmers and fishermen will not only be suppliers of food but will also directly or indirectly through co-products or waste streams supply the building blocks for the bioeconomy.

Through a combination of these measures the agri-food sector will contribute significantly to the national ambition.

Ireland has an opportunity to become a global leader in actions on climate change. If we succeed in our ambition in this area, we will create a progressive and sustainable society that is not only economically successful but also offers an enhanced quality of lifestyle to society as a whole.

Agriculture Industry

Question No. 500 answered with Question No. 498.

Ceisteanna (499)

Noel Rock

Ceist:

499. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the assertion being expressed by Bord Bia that farming systems here are very sustainable mainly based on grazed grass; the reason agricultural emissions are rising if that is the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37482/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The potential to achieve high levels of productivity from grazed grass gives Irish farmers a major competitive advantage over many of their European and global counterparts. Ireland has a comparative advantage in grass-based carbon efficient livestock production.

The EU Commission JRC report (2010) found that Ireland is the most carbon efficient producer in the EU per unit of dairy production, and the 5th most carbon efficient producer of beef per kg. Notwithstanding this, inherent challenges remain for the sector in terms of contributing to Ireland’s climate change and renewable energy targets. Throughout Europe, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture has proven difficult, with only a 1% reduction across the EU since 2005. While Irish agriculture emissions fell during the period 2005 to 2011, they have since risen, driven by larger herds and rising milk production reflecting the removal of milk quotas in 2015. However, while agriculture is contributing to emissions, it should also be seen part of the solution.

The Government’s policy position for the agriculture sector is an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. There are three strands to my Department’s approach to carbon neutrality:

1. reducing agricultural emissions;

2. increasing carbon sequestration; and

3. displacing and substituting fossil fuel and energy intensive materials.

The All-of-Government Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Disruption sets a series of step-up measures and underpinning actions and proposed targets for all sectors including the agriculture, forestry and land use sector. To achieve these challenging targets, it will require immediate action through early adoption and high levels of take-up of the identified actions across our 139,000 plus family farms.

Furthermore, Ireland is a world leader in areas such as sustainable auditing and carbon foot-printing under the Origin Green programme. In total, Bord Bia has cumulatively undertaken over 200,000 carbon footprint assessments on a national scale to date, a world first. The Teagasc Sustainability Survey shows that the top performing third of farms emitted, on average, 9.6 kg CO2 equivalent per kg beef, compared with 14.9 kg for the bottom performing third of cattle farms. Reducing this variability is a real opportunity to make progress in reducing emissions from cattle production in Ireland. Therefore, the well-established and proven QA framework encompassing 33,000 farm visits per year offers huge potential to scale efforts to meet our climate challenges at farm level in particular with the implementation of the MACC measures.

I am confident that the agriculture sector as a whole will contribute significantly to Ireland’s decarbonisation.

Question No. 500 answered with Question No. 498.

Beef Environmental Efficiency Scheme Pilot

Ceisteanna (501)

Noel Rock

Ceist:

501. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which the beef environment efficiency pilot scheme is compatible with recommendations of the report from the Climate Change Advisory Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37484/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) is a one year pilot to further increase economic and environmental efficiency in the suckler herd through better quality data on herd performance, specifically as it relates to weaning efficiency of the cow, supporting decision making on farm. There are currently 19,131 participants in BEEP.

The BEEP scheme builds on the success of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) with a funding provision of €20m in 2019. This pilot scheme is targeted at suckler farmers and specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production.

The Government’s policy position for the agriculture sector is an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise our capacity for sustainable food production, but is also cognisant of the important economical contribution agriculture makes to our economy and to the economy of rural Ireland.

There are three strands to my Department’s approach to carbon neutrality:

i. reducing agricultural emissions;

ii. increasing carbon sequestration and

iii. displacing and substituting fossil fuel and energy intensive materials.

Measures such as BEEP, BDGP, refining Economic Breeding Indexes (EBIs) for our dairy animals, producing Carbon Navigators for our dairy, beef and sheep farms, the Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme, the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) and initiatives such as Origin Green, Quality Assurance schemes and Knowledge Transfer Schemes all contribute to lowering the carbon footprint of the sector.

My Department continues to review options that will enable our farmers to transition to a low carbon economy while also being aware of the need to maintain economic competitiveness and increase our agricultural output.

GLAS Establishment

Ceisteanna (502)

Noel Rock

Ceist:

502. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason he has made much of the success of GLAS participations levels (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37485/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) is a measure funded by the Rural Development Programme (2014-2020). GLAS promotes practices to assist the preservation of habitats and species as well as addressing the issues of climate change mitigation and water quality, in support of sustainable Irish agriculture.

Since the launch of GLAS tranche 1 in 2015, the Scheme has been extremely successful in terms of uptake with in excess of 50,000 farmers approved into the GLAS scheme over the first three tranches. The Rural Development Programme participation target of 50,000 was exceeded almost two years ahead of schedule.  

GLAS is a voluntary Scheme where participants opt to carry out specific environmental commitments for a minimum period of five years. A wide range of actions were available under the scheme, including actions to address climate change and reduce emissions, providing the scope for farmers across all types of farming systems to submit applications and maximise their payment under the scheme. Among the achievements under GLAS are 7,500 hectares of minimum tillage, the planting of 1.6m trees and the planting of 11,000 new hedgerows. It is important to remember, however, that GLAS is not just a climate scheme but has other environmental benefits also in areas such as biodiversity and water quality.

The 2017 Rural Development Programme Evaluation Report  found from a baseline counterfactual analysis using Teagasc National Farm Survey data, that GLAS beneficiaries had a lower than average nitrogen surplus and lower level of greenhouse gas emissions than farms outside of the scheme. The high levels of participation have delivered significant benefits that continue to be delivered by GLAS participant farmers.

Improving the environmental status of dairy farms is not just a matter for the GLAS scheme, of course, and there are a range of policies which are playing a role here. For example, dairy farmers as higher users of chemical fertiliser will be influenced by wider policies including new measures proposed for farmers availing of the Nitrates Derogation that are aimed at further strengthening the protection of water and attaining optimum soil fertility consistent with both carbon efficient agricultural production and effective water quality protection.  Furthermore, sustainability auditing such as the dairy quality assurance scheme which encompasses almost all dairy farms provides an opportunity to leverage greater action from these farms through market encouragement for evidence of better practice. It is important to consider the full range of levers as well as GLAS that are available to encourage better practice.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (503)

Noel Rock

Ceist:

503. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his planned policy action to achieve the Climate Action Plan 2019 target for annual afforestation rates of 6,500 hectares by 2025, increasing to 10,000 hectares by 2030 in view of recent trends; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37486/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Climate Action Plan is a comprehensive Government  response to the risks associated with climate change and outlines actions and strategies to reduce and manage those risks through a combination of mitigation and adaptation responses.  The Plan recognises that afforestation has a significant role to play in mitigation, particularly through carbon sequestration and sets a target of 8,000 hectares per annum of new planting.  While this is a challenging target, our aim is to progress towards it through engaging with a range of landowners, from farmers through to State Bodies and Local Authorities. We will be building on current planting levels and working closely with all stakeholders to achieve the new target.

In pursuit of this aim, we will continue to offer generous grants and premiums for afforestation under the national forestry programme and to fund promotional and communication campaigns which highlight the multi-functional benefits of forestry. We will also be continuing to support forest-owners in the sustainable management of their asset through knowledge transfer groups.

We will, of course, also be examining ways in which farm forestry can be better integrated into the new CAP which is currently under discussion.

Horse Sport Ireland

Ceisteanna (504)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

504. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to implement a review by a company (details supplied) of Horse Sport Ireland; his views on the recommendation in the report of the additional resource requirements of Horse Sport Ireland to support the expansion of the sector in view of a series of recent reports on the need for diversification in agriculture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37500/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In 2016, my Department commissioned Indecon International Consultants to undertake a review of Horse Sport Ireland.  The report was published in 2017. My Department continues to work closely with Horse Sport Ireland on the implementation of the recommendations. Much progress has been made in this regard. Notable is the progress made regarding the proposal to rationalise the board. This is close to finality with only the Northern representative outstanding.  A recruitment process through the Public Appointments Service was undertaken to select a new chairperson and three board members. These members are in place alongside the four industry representatives.

Regarding additional resource requirements for Horse Sport Ireland to support the expansion of the sector, I have increased the budget allocated to Horse Sport Ireland from €2.0m in 2017 to €2.5m in 2018 and I have approved a further increase of €500,000 to €3.0m in 2019.  This is an increase of 50% on the 2017 allocation.   

My Department is clearly fully committed to maximising the potential of the Sport Horse industry and continues to provide support to it both financially and with policy initiatives.  I have recently received a funding submission for 2020, the detail of which will be considered in the context of the 2020 budget negotiations.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (505)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

505. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the natural regeneration of the biodiversity on a bog will supersede the requirement to replant forestry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37542/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

It may not always be the case that natural regeneration is the best option on a particular site, this depends on the management objectives of the forest to be established and any environmental sensitivities that may need to be taken into consideration.  In time, pioneer species such as willow and birch will establish themselves on bogs - however, afforestation of these site types may offer an opportunity to introduce trees of superior genetic quality in a shorter space of time.

For these reasons, the suitability of natural regeneration on reforestation sites is made by my Department on a case-by-case basis.

Teagasc Administration

Ceisteanna (506)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

506. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if Teagasc is in talks with the IDA with a view to Teagasc occupying part of the IDA lands at a location (details supplied). [37550/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am advised by Teagasc that they are not in any talks with the IDA with a view to occupying any part of the IDA lands in the location mentioned.

Agriculture Scheme Appeals

Ceisteanna (507)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

507. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37585/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

A report detailing findings of an inspection on the holding of the person named, and carried out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, was referred to my Department’s Cross Compliance Unit for attention. This report detailed breaches relating to the cross-compliance requirements under the Habitats Directive, resulting in a 20% penalty being applied against the 2017 Direct Payment Schemes. The person named was notified of this decision on 13 December 2017.  

A Department review of this decision was sought, the outcome of which was to uphold the inspection findings.  The person named appealed this decision to the independent Agriculture Appeals Office and the outcome was unsuccessful. I understand that the person named has submitted a further appeal request to the AAO which is currently being examined. Officials in my Department will continue to liaise with the Agricultural Advisor of the person named. 

In the event that the person named is dissatisfied with the outcome of this process, it is open to them to refer the matter further to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (508)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

508. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his emissions budget for methane and nitrous oxide for 2020 to 2030; the emission budget cumulatively for the same period; the specific emissions reduction measures he plans to implement; and the planned reduction amount of each in order to meet emissions reduction obligations under the EU Effort Sharing Regulation. [37594/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The All-of Government Climate Action Plan to tackle climate breakdown sets out a target for emissions from the sector in 2030 to be between 17.5 and 19 Mt CO2 eq. by achieving between 16.5 and 18.5 Mt CO2 eq. cumulative abatement over the period 2021 to 2030 for the agriculture sector. In addition, the sector will also deliver an additional 26.8 Mt CO2 eq. through better land use management such as afforestation and improved management of peaty grasslands. 

The plan identifies 34 actions for the sector that will contribute to our transition to a low carbon economy and society across abatement measures, carbon sequestration measures and displacement of fossil fuels and reflects our three-pillar policy approach to achieving carbon neutrality without comprising sustainable food production of:

1. Reducing agricultural emissions;

2. Increasing carbon sequestration; and

3. Displacing and substituting fossil fuel and energy intensive materials.

The actions in this plan are informed by the recent Teagasc Marginal Cost Abatement Curve report (MACC) - An Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030 as an identifiable suite of actions for delivery. These actions include both efficiency measures such as the Dairy EBI programme and technical measures such as changes in fertiliser type or low emissions slurry spreading as well as a series of forestry and bioeceonomy measures. In order to achieve our 2030 emissions reduction target without impacting our current national herd, the agriculture sector will need to achieve the full abatement potential of all actions identified in the Teagasc report. This will require early adoption and high levels of take-up of all measures across all our 139,000 farms.

Through a combination of these measures the agri-food sector will contribute significantly to the national ambition of transitioning to a low-carbon economy and society. Co-operation, collaboration and collective responsibility is necessary, and I can assure you that the sector can and will play its part.

EU Regulations

Ceisteanna (509)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

509. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the implications of the proposed EU regulation 2017/2403 for marine conservation and the preservation and sustainable management of fish stocks in Irish waters; the impact on proposed marine protection areas or Natura 2000 sites; the way in which he plans to manage additional vessels fishing in Irish waters to ensure that fish stocks are conserved and managed sustainably; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37595/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Regulation (EU) 2019/498, amending Regulation (EU) 2017/2403 on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets, was introduced by the EU in March 2019.  The 2019 Regulation provides a legal framework to allow the authorisation of EU and UK vessels to continue to fish in each other's waters until 31 December 2019, if agreement is reached between the UK and the EU on such access.  The European Commission has put forward a proposal to extend this temporary framework to 31 December 2020, if a Withdrawal Agreement is not in place.   

The purpose of these regulations is to provide for the necessary legal framework which would allow the continuation of existing fishing activities, by enabling the EU and the UK to grant access for each other’s fleets.  This would only apply if the UK withdraw from the EU on 1 November 2019 without a Withdrawal Agreement in place and if the EU and the UK  agree on continuation of access.  The Regulation does not provide a commitment of ongoing reciprocal access – it simply creates the necessary legal framework to allow for the possibility of such access. 

Both my officials and I have had intensive discussions with the European Commission, other relevant Member States and stakeholders regarding the potential negative impacts of displacement of vessels into the Irish EEZ due to Brexit on the Irish fishing industry and the wider sector as whole.  These discussions intensified in recent months and were based on preparatory work already done.  

The outcome of these discussions can be seen in the EU Brexit Contingency plan that was published on the 10th of April.  This highlights fisheries as one of the most immediately critical issues facing the EU in a no-deal Brexit. 

Throughout the discussions around Brexit, I emphasised the necessity for a coordinated European response to ensure that there would be proportionate and equitable use of mitigation measures overseen by the Commission.  As I have stated previously, I am seeking additional EU funds to support these mitigation measures if they become necessary.

My Department, along with the SFPA, Marine Institute and BIM, will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that Ireland's marine area is managed sustainably.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (510, 518)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

510. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures he plans to take to ensure that Ireland is not a net emitter of GHGs once the LULUCF regulation takes effect; and the measures he plans to increase the level of reafforestation to ensure that soil carbon and sequestration from forestry is maintained. [37596/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

518. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures he plans to take to persuade farmers to engage in afforestation programmes under the recent Climate Action Plan 2019. [37604/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 510 and 518 together.

The Climate Action Plan is a comprehensive government response to the risks associated with climate change and outlines actions and strategies to reduce and manage those risks through a combination of mitigation and adaptation responses. The Plan recognises that afforestation has a significant role to play in mitigation, particularly through carbon sequestration and sets a target of 8,000 hectares per annum of new planting. Achieving this target will be challenging, as recent trends have not delivered planting at this rate. It is the case that farm forestry is key to increasing our planting rates, and it is of note that the majority of planting in recent years has been on farms, where forestry complements the farming enterprise and provides the farmer with an additional income source and a long-term asset.

Successive national programmes have supported afforestation and I will continue to support farmers to plant trees through the provision of generous grants and 15 year premiums under the current Forestry Programme 2014 -2020. These grants and premiums were significantly increased in 2018, with a view to encouraging greater uptake, and this has had some impact, particularly in terms of broadleaf planting.

A greater awareness of the multi-functional benefits of forestry will make afforestation a more attractive proposition for all land-owners, including farmers. That is why I have funded 15 promotional projects, at a cost of nearly €1million to raise awareness of the environmental, recreational and social benefits of forestry. These projects, which run to end 2020, have a regional spread and cover a range of activities from educational to community-based initiatives to forest management and open days on woodland establishment. This is in addition to the Teagasc Forestry Promotion Campaign 2018 – 2020 which has an important focus on educating the next generation of young farmers in forestry as they pass through the Teagasc third level college system. The campaign also includes promotion activities at farming events across the country such as the Dairy Open Day and Crops and Cultivation Open Day targeting farmers who may not have considered forestry as an option.

Current farm forestry owners can encourage others to plant or even increase the level of planting on their own farms. These forest-owners are receiving assistance in understanding and managing their forest asset through Knowledge Transfer groups, where peer-to-peer learning and trained advisors disseminate information over a series of meetings. My Department funds these groups with 37 new groups approved this year. The message that needs to be more widely understood is that a valuable income can be secured from a forestry crop and this may go some way towards addressing the reluctance to plant.

We will of course also be examining ways in which farm forestry can be better integrated into the new CAP. This is to ensure that there are no barriers to planting while also providing for possible tree-planting measures under the new CAP through, for example, new agri-environment schemes.

Diplomatic Representation

Ceisteanna (511)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

511. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the instructions given to agriculture and food attachés to embassies that have such officials in respect of climate change commitments in the agrifood sector; and the job descriptions of each. [37597/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The role of the Agriculture Attaché is wide and varied and depends on the location of the posting.  The main functions of the post include gathering and dissemination of information, including in respect of climate change, in both directions to and from the host country and to and from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  Other functions include trade assistance, development and facilitation in co-operation with Team Ireland and representation of Ireland’s interests at EU and international level.  All Agriculture Attaché roles include the development of relationships at both political and official level to ensure the positive representation of Ireland’s interests overseas and my experience is that such contacts are crucial.

My Department, including our overseas Attachés, is acutely aware of challenges we face as a society regarding Climate Change and is actively engaged as part of the whole of Government approach in how we must go further in transitioning to a low-carbon, competitive, sustainable and climate resilient economy and society.

The recent All-of-Government Climate Plan to tackle Climate Change sets out over 180 actions to meet Ireland’s EU targets for 2030 (i.e. 30% reduction on GHG emissions based on 2005 levels) and sets an ambition of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 while acknowledging the national policy position of an approach to carbon neutrality within the agriculture and land-use sector.

Our Agriculture Attachés have a unique opportunity in their roles to disseminate Irish Government Climate Change Policy while also acting as a conduit for the learning and exchanging of international best practice to inform and update our own approach.

Teagasc Activities

Ceisteanna (512)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

512. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has requested Teagasc to develop a new MACC analysis for climate mitigation that includes scenarios with a smaller national herd as per the advice of the Climate Change Advisory Council in its 2019 Annual Review. [37598/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department has noted the Climate Change Advisory Council`s Annual Review 2019 which sets out several different scenarios whereby methane emissions from the national herd can be reduced. The CCAC report is a useful supplement to the Teagasc GHG Marginal Abatement Cost Curve which sets out a range of available mitigation tools based on efficiencies and technologies which can reduce emissions without reducing numbers.

It is important to recognise that Teagasc also prepared a parallel analysis of six scenarios illustrating a range of activity levels and associated GHG emissions for the sector. This scenario analysis informed the Teagasc MACC curve on which the agricultural actions within the All-of-Government Climate Action Plan are based.

Based on the Teagasc MACC curve, provided we implement all of the mitigation actions identified early and to the highest feasible level of adoption, the comprehensive targets set for the sector across emission reductions, sequestration and contributing to energy production are achievable. This target in the climate plan is committing us to managing our methane emissions without comprising our ability to sustainably produce food.

As technology and markets evolve, the actions for emissions reduction will be kept under review.

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

Ceisteanna (513)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

513. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to develop rewilding and peatland restoration projects on blanket bogland designated for agricultural purposes; his further plans in regard to a budget for such schemes under the revised CAP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37599/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Projects in respect of designated Boglands would primarily be a matter for the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in the first instance.

As regards the Common Agricultural Policy 2021-2027, the Deputy will be aware that draft proposals were launched by Commissioner Hogan on 1 June 2018 and negotiations on the draft proposals are continuing at EU level. While significant progress has been made in the negotiation process to date, decisions on key issues have still to be agreed upon at EU level. 

The shape of the next CAP will be very much determined by its budgetary allocation for the same period.  Funding for the next CAP is part of a broader discussion on the EU budget, which is negotiated by EU Finance Ministers and then agreed by the European Council and European Parliament.

Negotiations on the EU budgetary proposals are continuing in parallel with the CAP post-2020 negotiation process.  Decisions on all aspects will be informed by the final outcome of CAP negotiations and the available budget.   I would like to reassure the deputy that I will continue to fight for a strong CAP budget and secure the best possible outcome for the Irish agri-food sector.

Following on from the last meeting of the CAP Stakeholder Consultative committee which took place on the 4th September, an open call for submissions on the CAP Strategic Plan – Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat Analysis (SWOT) has been launched as part of the CAP post 2020 consultation process. The Open Call for submissions runs for a five week period from 9th September to 11th October 2019.  Full details of how interested parties and stakeholders can respond to the Open Call for submissions are available on the Department website.

Agriculture Scheme Payments

Ceisteanna (514)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

514. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to include a requirement that existing hedgerows are maintained and improved as part of dairy expansion projects that receive funding from his Department; and the information supplied to farmers regarding the importance of hedgerows via direct payments under pillar I of CAP. [37600/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under the standards for Good Agricultural & Environmental Condition (GAEC) of Cross Compliance, hedgerows (including gappy hedges), trees in a line and drains/ditches are designated as Landscape Features. This designation means that all areas under these features are eligible for payment under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and other area-based schemes. Regardless of the purpose of funding from my Department, landscape features are protected under the requirements of GAEC meaning that, in general, they cannot be removed, damaged or interfered with.

 Where, in exceptional circumstances, it is necessary to remove a hedgerow, remove a line of trees or fill in a drain for good reasons such as farmyard expansion, farmers may do so provided a new hedgerow, new line of trees or drain of equal length is planted/dug in advance of the removal of the old hedgerow, line of trees or drain on the holding. Farmers can only replace like-with-like, for example you cannot replace a length of hedgerow with a line of trees. When replacing a hedgerow, the species used must be traditional to the area and the replacement hedge cannot be for amenity purposes, e.g. around a farmyard or driveway. In the case of land designated as SAC or SPA, hedgerows or drains cannot be removed without the prior approval of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Hedgerows must be maintained and encroachment into a field must be avoided.

To ensure compliance with these requirements, the Department uses a combination of ortho photography/satellite imagery and ground checks to confirm the presence and maintenance of landscape features. If an applicant is found to be in breach of the requirements, a sanction may apply under all area-based schemes and, in all cases, the removed landscaped feature must be reinstated.

Field boundaries such as hedgerows, stone walls and clay banks are also afforded protection under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) Regulations (EIA) S.I. 456 of 2011 (as amended by S.I. No. 142 of 2013 and S.I. No. 407 of 2017).

The EIA Regulations set down clear requirements in respect of screening and approval of certain works on farms. These Regulations apply to three different types of activities;

- Restructuring of rural land holdings i.e. removal of field boundaries

- Commencing to use uncultivated land or semi natural areas for intensive agriculture

- Land drainage works on land used for agriculture

Should a farmer intend to undertake any of these activities, screening and approval by my Department may be required under the EIA Regulations. An EIA Guidance document is available on my Department’s website.

Farmers are made aware of their responsibilities regarding Landscape Features and other Cross Compliance requirements through a number of channels. My Department’s website provides information on all aspects of Cross Compliance and inspections. In 2016, an ‘Explanatory Handbook for Cross Compliance Requirements’ was issued to all herd owners.

Staff of my Department, in conjunction with Teagasc, held a series of Cross Compliance events throughout the country during 2018 and 2019. These events afforded Department staff an opportunity to engage directly with farmers and assist them in furthering their knowledge and understanding of the Cross Compliance requirements including those surrounding hedgerows.

Teagasc Funding

Ceisteanna (515)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

515. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures he plans to take to improve the accessibility and affordability of farm advisory services to farmers from Teagasc under the next CAP. [37601/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The CAP post-2020 proposals, launched by Commissioner Hogan on 1 June 2018, make it compulsory for Member States to provide farm advisory services on land and farm management to farmers and other beneficiaries of CAP support. The farm advisory services are expected to cover, at a minimum, the requirements and standards under conditionality, conditions for support schemes, information on financial instruments and business plans, farm practices that prevent the development of antimicrobial resistance, risk management, innovative support and the development of digital technologies in agriculture and rural areas.

Teagasc advisory services make an important contribution to the provision of advice and support to farm families. My Department provides Teagasc with significant exchequer funding each year in order to support the delivery of these education, research and advisory services. In excess of €135m was provided in Grant Aid in 2019, an increase of €2.7m on 2018. The allocation of that funding between the various services is an operational matter for Teagasc and its governing Authority.

The fee structure for Teagasc advisory services is structured to ensure that the service is accessible to all farmers by having a range of services that farmers can avail of with different fees. The current fee schedule and methodology is open and transparent and available on the Teagasc website.

As regards the Common Agricultural Policy 2021-2027, negotiations on the draft proposals are continuing at EU level. While significant progress has been made to date, decisions on key issues have still to be agreed upon at EU level,  including those relating to Farm Advisory Services.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (516)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

516. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department has made calculations of the land that is not under grass that might be available for conversion to tillage or agroforestry without the loss of soil carbon. [37602/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is committed to mobilising the LULUCF credits as outlined in the All-of-Government Action Plan for Climate Change. These credits provide a means to assist the agricultural sector to contribute to Ireland's ambition on climate action. This flexibility should not be seen as an offsetting proposal but rather, as an effort to broaden the “toolbox” of abatement options available to achieve targets, in particular for Ireland where existing abatement measures are costly and action in the LULUCF sector, that encourages removals and limits emissions, presents a more cost effective option.

Mobilising these credits will require the combined efforts of forest, cropland and grassland management. The Teagasc MACC outlines the specific types of actions explored to date and this does not presently include agro forestry options or cropping options on ‘new’ agricultural areas.  The forestry analysis carried out in support of the MACC was based on trees planted at conventional stocking i.e. lands converted to 100% forestry.

Agroforestry is defined as widely spaced trees on grassland or cropland and my Department provides funding for agroforestry under the afforestation scheme as one of a suite of options but take up by landowners has been limited to date.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (517)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

517. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he will take in relation to the new advice from Teagasc that under no circumstances should peaty soils be drained; the way in which the information will be conveyed to farmers; and the measures that will be put in place to ensure that this advice is heeded. [37603/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) should not be interpreted as new advice but rather as a suite of measures that require careful consideration as to how the targets of the All-of-Government Climate Action Plan can be achieved.  Like all suggested measures, my Department will engage with farmers as to how to implement and understand best management practice.  In this respect, the Climate Action Plan sets out a target of at least 40,000 ha of reduced management intensity of grasslands on drained organic soils to 2030.   This will contribute 4.4 Mt CO2 eq cumulative abatement of the overall target of 26.8 Mt CO2 eq abatement through Land Use, Land Use Change and forestry actions over the period 2021 to 2030.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the current EIA (Agriculture) Regulations require that land drainage activities above certain thresholds, must go through a process of application for screening or approval of the works proposed.  Similarly, if the drainage works does not exceed the size thresholds but is identified as ‘requiring consent’ or is a ‘notifiable action’ in a European site (e.g. SAC or SPA), or an NHA,  screening by my Department may also be necessary under these regulations.