Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (420)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

420. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 348 and 364 of 8 October 2019, the status of an application for forest road works by a company (details supplied); the nature of the process for same; if each of the stakeholders has been consulted on the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46249/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As advised in response to previous Parliamentary Questions, the applicant in this case revised the application to shorten the length of the road. The application has since been reviewed by the District Inspector and, in accordance with internal screening procedures, has been referred to the Department's ecologist for Appropriate Assessment, as per the requirements of the Habitat Directive. Once ecological input is received, my Department will be in contact with the applicant and the registered forester.

Once a decision is made on this case, it will be advertised on my Department's website. If approval is given, construction of the road cannot begin until after 28 days from the date of the decision. This is to allow for any appeals from either the applicant or third parties.

Departmental Offices

Ceisteanna (421)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

421. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of vacant desk spaces available in accommodation allocated to his Department in Civil Service accommodation outside Dublin city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46286/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department works in cooperation with the Office of Public Works (and with other Departments and Offices) to maximise the use of office space in accordance with the OPW's Property Asset Management Delivery Plan, to ensure that optimal value for money is achieved in the management of the State's property portfolio.

In the main, desk spaces available in the Department's Regional Offices and District Veterinary Offices are at full capacity. The majority of these Department offices have a number of "hot desks" available for use by visiting Headquarters staff, or for outdoor staff who cover large and often remote geographic areas.

There is some office space available currently in the Drumshanbo RVO building, but this is under consideration to be allocated for use in the near future. Similarly, there is space available in the Department's offices at Johnstown Castle in Wexford. However, pending the outcome of the ongoing Brexit negotiations, some of that space is likely to used to accommodate staff engaged on Brexit-related work.

GLAS Issues

Ceisteanna (422)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

422. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a person (details supplied) will be permitted to withdraw from GLAS 1 without penalties on health grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46308/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 1 with a contract commencement date of 1 October 2015 and received all payments in respect of scheme years 2015 to 2018 as well as the 2019 advance payment.

The position is that there is no record of an application from the person named to withdraw from GLAS 1 under the provisions of force majeure. It is open to the person named to write directly to the GLAS Section in Johnstown Castle Wexford outlining their request to withdraw under section 20 of the terms and conditions of the scheme providing the full details and supporting documentation for their case.

Forestry Management

Ceisteanna (423)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

423. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of applications on hand for forestry felling, thinning permits and licences; the average time to process applications; the oldest application on file; the estimated amount of timber and logs covered by these applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46342/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department accepts and processes tree felling licences, which cover both tree felling and thinning. A valid tree felling licence must be in place before any forestry tree felling or thinning takes place. Applications for felling licences may be made by the applicant or their registered forester. All forestry licences issued by the Department undergo a legal consent process. Since 2017, all felling licence applications received have been subject to a statutory public notification system and all felling decisions issued are subject to a statutory appeal system operated by the Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC).

I acknowledge that changes made to internal Appropriate Assessment Procedures (AAP) in relation to the issuing of licences has resulted in delays to files. These are beyond my Department’s control as we are obliged to implement changes that were required following important Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decisions and their subsequent interpretation by the Forestry Appeals Committee and others.

Currently, we are amending the AA procedure in order to introduce a robust and workable system which will address the issues now faced. Introducing this system involves the recruitment of additional ecological expertise and changes in procedures for the forestry inspectorate. The Department has advertised for additional ecologists and we also have access to external ecological support, which will be supplemented in due course. Inspectors have already undergone training and will receive appropriate support in delivering these new procedures. A categorisation of files affected by these requirements is also underway in order to best assess further action needed and by whom. Notwithstanding recent delays, to the end of October, 3,866 tree felling licences have issued this year, which is 23% up on last year.

It should be noted that a tree felling licence is valid for up to 10 years and may cover several felling events, for example, thinning followed by clear-fell, and that volume estimates in support of these licences are for indicative purposes only. There are currently 1,983 felling licence applications on hand at various stages in the process, from data entry to ready for decision. Older files on hands are awaiting further information from applicants and not considered “live” until that information is received. To end October 2019, 71% of tree felling licences decisions issued this year were within four months of receipt of the application.

Live Exports

Ceisteanna (424)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

424. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details in respect of calf exports (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46347/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Live exports are a critical part of Ireland’s livestock industry. They play a significant role in stimulating price competition and providing an alternative market outlet for farmers. My Department facilitates this trade, recognising its importance to the agri-food sector, while placing a strong emphasis on the welfare of all animals being transported. The Department continues to strictly enforce the transport of livestock rules as laid down in Council Regulation 1/2005. The age requirement in respect of long journeys is set out in Chapter VI of the Regulation; i.e. older than 14 days.

In 2017, my Department reduced the veterinary inspection fee payable on live exports of calves under three months of age to €1.20 per animal, from €4.80. This gave an important boost to the trade in calves.

The available compiled statistics relating to calves exported refer to those under 3 months. In 2018, this amounted to 157,417, and to date in 2019, this has amounted to 192,844.

Farm Data

Ceisteanna (425)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

425. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide information in respect of calves (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46349/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department does not collect data regarding calf euthanasia on Irish farms.

With regards to on farm deaths, 2.5 % of calves were registered as dead before they attained six weeks of age in 2018. These data compare very favourably with other livestock rearing countries in the EU and Worldwide.

Beef Industry Irregularities

Ceisteanna (426, 427, 428)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

426. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason he has failed to publish the conformation and fat score data from all cattle from both the old and new machines in the carcase classification trial; if he will now publish the data in view of the urgent need to restore confidence in the beef grading system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46401/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

427. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of instances in which mechanical grading was suspended in meat plants in cases in which a machine was found to be working outside of tolerance and manual grading is instigated to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46402/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

428. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the instances of non-compliance with the carcase trim specifications his inspectors have identified in beef plants each month in 2019; the plants involved; the payments made to the farmer supplier to reflect loss; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46403/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 426 to 428, inclusive, together.

To date in 2019, there have been 508 unannounced inspections by my Department’s classification officers and over 44,000 carcasses checked for classification and carcase presentation. During this period, mechanical classification machines were turned off on 6 occasions and factories instigated manual grading of carcasses.

In 2019, one factory has been fined for excess carcase trimming of three carcasses. It is intended to publish the names of all factories that have been fined in 2019 on my Department’s website in due course.

Regarding the carcase classification trial, I have published the resultant report entitled ‘Independent Report on the modification trial of the Mechanical Beef Classification System currently in use in Ireland’. The trial was facilitated by my Department and carried out in Slaney Foods. The trial which was also supervised by an Independent Expert clearly shows that the modified technology will bring about increased accuracy over current systems.

The methodology and data comparisons to be used in such trials are defined in EU legislation. When evaluating the performance of machines in this regard, the machines’ grades are compared against expert classification officer grades. For transparency purposes, in the report, the results of both technologies are presented although not required by legislation for the authorisation of new equipment.

The Independent Expert and author of the report concluded that the results are beyond what is required in the EU legislation to approve such modifications and he confirmed that this trial significantly exceeds what is required where classification equipment is being modified rather than being authorised for the first time.

It is now a matter for industry to consider the implementation of this new technology.

Freedom of Information Data

Ceisteanna (429)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

429. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the disclosures log made by his Department under freedom of information was last updated; if this is in line with the disclosure policy of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46460/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department last updated its FOI Disclosure Log on 8 November 2019. Disclosures relating to the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and the first three quarters of 2019 are available on the DAFM website at https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/customerservice/freedomofinformation/.

The Department's policy is to update the Disclosure Log on a quarterly basis. However, from January 2020, it is intended to update the Log on a monthly basis.

Trade Missions

Ceisteanna (430)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

430. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for a food-related trade mission to South Korea before the end of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46484/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Trade Missions play an important role in promoting the Irish agri-food sector and in market development, and I have been very active on this front in recent years as we strive to gain and develop a presence in as many global markets as possible.

As part of my 2019 Trade Mission schedule, I led an agri-food trade mission to the Republic of Korea in June 2019. I used the visit to build on and promote Ireland's image in the Republic of Korea at the Korea Ireland Sustainable Dairy Forum, and at an EU Pork and Beef Seminar organised by Bord Bia. I also took the opportunity to provide assurances on Ireland's status as a safe, secure and sustainable source of agri-food products at Government-to-Government meetings as part of our determined effort to secure market access for Irish beef.

In response to the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 initiative, and in keeping with my Department’s efforts to help the agri-food sector to diversify its export markets, my Department is expanding its staffing in international locations over the period to 2025. Under this initiative, it is also intended that an attaché post will be established in Seoul in 2020.

Agriculture Scheme Appeals

Ceisteanna (431)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

431. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a matter will be addressed regarding the case of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46564/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

There has been some recent correspondence between the persons named and my Department about this long running case. The matter was examined previously by both the Agriculture Appeals Office and the Office of the Ombudsman where the original decision made by the Department was upheld in both cases. Furthermore, a petition was submitted to the Committee of Petitions of the EU Parliament in 2016. My Department provided comments to the Committee of Petitions in July 2018 and, since then, there has been no further correspondence on the case.

The persons named were recently advised to forward any new information in relation to their case to the Agriculture Appeals Office to seek a review of their earlier decision in accordance with section 10(1) of the 2001 Agriculture Appeals Act.

Departmental Advertising Campaigns

Ceisteanna (432)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

432. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the role his Department is playing in the winter ready campaign; the expenditure his Department will incur in this campaign; and the details of expenditure on external consultancy and advertising or communication. [46621/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is represented on both the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning and on its sub-group which designs the Be Winter Ready campaign. In particular, the Department contributes information for the farming community on preparing for, and working in, adverse weather conditions.

To support the campaign, all Departmental staff were emailed with information about the campaign and each public office will display posters and make the campaign leaflets available to visitors.

The campaign is also prominently advertised on the front page of the Department's website and is promoted through our social media channels. The Department does not incur any of the direct costs involved in the Be Winter Ready campaign.

GLAS Issues

Ceisteanna (433)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

433. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be permitted to withdraw from GLAS 1 without penalties on health grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46670/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 1 with a contract commencement date of 1 October 2015 and received all payments in respect of scheme years 2015 to 2018.

The position is that there is no record of an application from the person named to withdraw from GLAS 1 under the provisions of force majeure. It is open to the person named to write directly to the GLAS Section in Johnstown Castle Wexford outlining their request to withdraw under section 20 of the terms and conditions of the scheme providing the full details and supporting documentation for their case.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (434, 449)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

434. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on whether it would be fiscally responsible to sign the national broadband plan contract without European Commission approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46385/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

449. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will sign the national broadband plan contract without European Commission approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46384/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 434 and 449 together.

As a State intervention, the NBP must comply with the requirements of the European Commission’s Guidelines on the application of the State aid rules on broadband. The Guidelines require, amongst other things, that Member States carry out a detailed mapping exercise to identify as far as reasonably possible those areas where intervention is required.

My Department recently conducted a public consultation to close the ongoing mapping exercise, seeking submissions from operators who wish to have their existing high speed broadband networks, or who have developed plans to invest in high speed broadband networks over the next 7 years, to be included on the Department’s High Speed Broadband Map. That consultation was extended twice at the request of operators, resulting in a total nine week period for submissions, and it closed on 30th September 2019.

As part of the consultation, over 180 submissions were received from a variety of stakeholders, including 30 from large and small commercial telecommunications operators, with the remainder from local authority broadband officers and members of the public.

Operator submissions are assessed against the Department’s published assessment criteria. Operators submitting planned investments are required to sign a declaration that they will enter into a Commitment Agreement with the Department if their plans satisfy the assessment criteria and are accepted by the Department as being concrete and credible.

The findings of the consultation, which will be available in the coming weeks, will ensure that the State Intervention Area is up to date and that it reflects commercial operators’ plans and the responses from householders and businesses, in advance of a contract being signed later this year. This will be an important element in concluding the State Aid approval process with the European Commission.

Landfill Sites

Ceisteanna (435)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

435. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 533 of 17 September 2019, if tenders have now been invited for the project; if so, the closing date for receipt of tenders; the number of contractors invited to tender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46034/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I refer to the reply to Question No 530 of 15 October 2019. The position is unchanged.

Waste Disposal Charges

Ceisteanna (436)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

436. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 204 of 2 October 2019, if there have been further developments in relation to the support payment for the disposal of products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46062/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Since mid-2017, a range of charging options have operated, which encourage householders to reduce and separate their waste. This provides flexibility to waste collectors to develop various service-price offerings that suit different household circumstances. Mandatory per kilogramme 'pay by weight' charging was not introduced. A Price Monitoring Group (PMG) was established in mid-2017 to monitor the on-going cost of residential waste collection to homeowners across Ireland as the ‘flat-rate structure’ was being phased out. While fluctuations in prices and service offerings have been observed, the overall trend has been relative price stability.

My Department has been examining this issue in detail and has engaged with relevant stakeholders, including representative organisations and the HSE, in an effort to see how best to provide a financial support to persons with long-term incontinence with respect to the disposal of medical incontinence wear. However, there are complex issues at play in this area, which are understandable given the sensitive nature of the medical data in question.

Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (437)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

437. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number, date of publication and details of post-enactment reports published by his Department since March 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46087/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I refer to Questions No. 233 and 234 answered together on 10 October 2019. The position is unchanged.

Waste Disposal Charges

Ceisteanna (438)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

438. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the recent decision by a number of domestic bin collection companies to increase their annual standing charge and lift charge; the steps he plans to take to ensure that those on low incomes including pensioners are protected from such unregulated price increases; and the steps he is taking to see the return of the service to local authorities. [46134/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As Minister, I have no role in setting price levels.

Since mid-2017, a range of charging options have operated, which encourage householders to reduce and separate their waste. This provides flexibility to waste collectors to develop various service-price offerings that suit different household circumstances. A Price Monitoring Group (PMG) was established in mid-2017 to monitor the on-going cost of residential waste collection to homeowners across Ireland as the ‘flat-rate structure’ was being phased out. While fluctuations in prices and service offerings have been observed, the overall trend has been relative price stability.

Under the Waste Management Act 1996 local authorities are required to collect, or arrange for the collection of, household waste within their functional areas. It is always open to each local authority to re-enter the market on a commercial basis where they have concerns around cost, quality of service or competition.

Under section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act 1996, as Minister, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by a local authority, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function vested in it.

A full public consultation on Ireland’s new Waste Policy in a Circular Economy will be launched before the end of this year which will seek views on all matters waste related. This will inform the development of future national waste management policy, including our environmental goals, regulatory and market structures, and relevant policy instruments and tools.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (439, 441, 442, 443)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

439. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the performance gaps regarding the system of recording and reporting of progress on climate and renewables commitments as set out in his audit report of November 2018; the corrective measures to ensure satisfactory oversight and monitoring of performance gaps across Departments that have since been introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46144/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

441. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on the progress to climate and renewables targets that informed actions set out in the Climate Action Plan 2019; if the actions set out in the plan were developed while shortcomings in procedural arrangements for reporting on targets as noted in his November 2018 audit report remained unresolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46146/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

442. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the European Commission was informed of shortcomings regarding the monitoring and oversight of the climate and renewables targets following the completion of his audit report of November 2018; if he will report on the shortcomings and new procedural arrangements for monitoring and oversight of climate and energy targets as part of the integrated national energy and climate plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46147/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

443. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the UNFCCC was informed of shortcomings regarding the monitoring and oversight of climate targets following the completion of his audit report of November 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46148/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 439 and 441 to 443, inclusive, together.

I understand the Deputy is referring to a report prepared by the Internal Audit Unit of my Department entitled ‘Final EU 2020 Climate Targets Monitoring and Reporting Audit.’ The report set out a number of recommendations concerning the reporting of progress against targets within my Department and to the Government.

The Climate Action Plan 2019, published on 17 June 2019, sets out an enhanced set of governance and reporting arrangements, which also closely follow the recommendations of the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action, published in March 2019. These arrangements include:

· the establishment of a Climate Action Delivery Board within the Department of the Taoiseach to oversee delivery of the Plan

· quarterly reporting to Government on progress against the commitments in the Plan and publication of these reports

· a five year Carbon Budget and sectoral targets with a detailed plan of actions to deliver them

· an independent Climate Action Council to recommend the Carbon Budget and evaluate policy

· strong accountability to an Oireachtas Climate Action Committee

· carbon proofing all Government decisions and major investments

The objective of the ‘Final EU 2020 Climate Targets Monitoring and Reporting Audit' was to assess the adequacy of the arrangements in place for the implementation, monitoring and reporting on each of the three targets covered by the EU 2020 Climate and Energy Package, concerning reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the contribution of energy from renewable sources and improvements in energy efficiency. The report noted that there are established statutory annual reporting arrangements to the European Union in respect of these targets. In the case of greenhouse gas emissions, Ireland also reports annually to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in line with our obligations as a Party to that Convention. The report identified no concerns with respect to Ireland’s reporting to the EU and UN. In respect of renewable energy, this is reported biennially to the European Commission through the National Renewable Energy Action Plan.

The report also noted that, in terms of overall monitoring and reporting of progress, interdepartmental structures and reporting arrangements, including in response to enactment of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, have been put in place to ensure that the relevant Departments and Ministers are appropriately informed of progress in relation to these various commitments. In addition, the 2015 Act provides for an Annual Transition Statement to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. This Statement must, inter alia, include information in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions and compliance with obligations of the State under EU law and relevant international agreements.

The report found that, while there is no fixed reporting frequency nor is there any specific requirement to inform Government of the latest position on targets, in practice, the Minister will take the opportunity to set out the latest position in relation to Ireland’s targets on an on-going basis, including via relevant Memoranda for Government.