Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Ceisteanna (445)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

445. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the concerns of councillors will be addressed (details supplied) in view of the severe income pressure on farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39885/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The beef sector is an important element of the Irish economy and I am conscious of the importance that this key sector plays in rural Ireland.

I am keenly aware that the past year has been very challenging for beef farmers, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since autumn 2018, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

Payments under the 2019 Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme will be delivered in two instalments, with 85% advance payments issued earlier this month. The 15% balancing payment will then commence issuing from early December. This is on foot of changes to EU regulations, and is in line with the phased payment approach in place for many other schemes at present.  As the ANC scheme is an EU co-funded scheme, my Department is obliged to ensure that it fully complies with the EU regulations governing the operation of all EU-funded schemes. 

Payments worth €168.5 million issued to almost 79,000 farmers in the first tranche of payment.  The 79,000 farmers being paid in this first tranche of 2019 payments is an increase from the 77,000 farmers paid at the same stage in 2018.  My Department will be running twice weekly payment runs to ensure that all cases that become cleared for payment will receive their payment as quickly as possible.  The total paid to-date for 2019 now stands at €172m paid to 80,466 farmers.

In addition to the above change, the total budget for the Scheme has been increased again this year to €250m.  For 2019, there are thus increased payment rates in place across the Scheme for the following categories of eligible land.

   

 

 

   Category     

   New Rates for     2019 Scheme  

   Old rates in place in 2018  

Category 1 land 1st 12 hectares

€148

Category 1 land was previously Mountain Type Land, with rates of €135 for the first 10 hectares and €112 for hectares 11 to 34

Category 1 land hectares 13 to 34

€112

Category 2 land 1st 10 hectares

€111

Category 2 land was previously More Severely Handicapped Land with one rate of €104

Category 2 land hectares 11 to 30

€104

Category 3 land 1st 8 hectares

€93

Category 3 land was previously Less Severely Handicapped Land with one rate of €88.25

Category 3 land hectares 9 to 30

€88.25

The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM), which recently closed for applications, will provide temporary exceptional adjustment aid to farmers in the beef sector in Ireland subject to the conditions set out in EU Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1132. BEAM is funded by a combination of EU aid and Exchequer support, provided in light of the difficult circumstances that Irish beef farmers have been facing as a result of the market volatility and uncertainty.  Over 34,500 farmers had applied for BEAM at its closing date of 20 September, representing potential commitments of almost €78 million.

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is currently the main support specifically targeted for the suckler sector, which provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current RDP period.

This year, I introduced the exchequer-funded Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), a €20 million scheme which will provide suckler farmers with valuable data on the weaning efficiency of their animals.  

The Deputy will also be aware that my Department has rolled out a range of schemes as part of the €4 billion Rural Development Programme (RDP), 2014 - 2020. 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.

In recognising the major challenges faced by the farming sector and the important role that various schemes operated by my Department play in underpinning the viability of many farms, last month I secured agreement from the European Commission that will allow for a higher rate of advance payments under the 2019 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and a number of Rural Development Schemes.

The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports is a constant and central component of the strategic development of the industry, as evidenced by its placement at the centre of Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development. Food Wise 2025 prioritises the potential for growth in new and emerging markets, particularly in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Gulf region.

I am strongly of the view that the current range of supports available to farmers, together with ensuring market access to as many markets as possible, are appropriate supports for the continued development of the sector. 

I will continue to argue for as strong a CAP budget as possible, post-2020.  In particular, I am committed to ensuring that beef and sheep farmers continue to receive strong support in the next CAP.  My view is that such payments should support and encourage farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve the economic and environmental efficiency, of their farming system.