Question No. 991 answered with Question No. 774.

Palliative Care Services

Ceisteanna (992)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

992. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Health the cost of establishing an inpatient palliative care hospice for the midlands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27334/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Programme for Government commits to the development of a specialist palliative care inpatient unit or hospice in the Midlands. Following extensive public consultation, and in partnership with CHO 8 and the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, a site has been identified in the grounds of the Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore and initial drawings for the unit have been drafted. My Department is continuing to engage with the HSE and local hospice groups to work towards this objective.

As has been the case with other hospices around the country, capital funding for the construction or refurbishment of hospice buildings has traditionally been provided by local hospice groups, with operational funding provided by the HSE. Based on similarly sized hospices that have recently been built, the capital cost of a new 15-bed hospice would be in the region of €9 million., while the annual revenue cost of the service would be about €3.8 million.

The Midlands is fortunate to have a well-developed palliative care service in the community and, whereas the ultimate aim is to care for people appropriately at home for as long as possible, the provision of specialist palliative care inpatient beds will facilitate hospital avoidance and support families in end of life care for their loved ones. It is envisaged that the new inpatient unit, when established, will act as the hub for specialist palliative care services in the Midlands and will be able to provide additional support for residential /community services, including the region’s network of palliative care support beds.

Vaccination Programme

Ceisteanna (993)

Violet-Anne Wynne

Ceist:

993. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delay for persons in County Clare getting access to their yearly flu vaccination; when the vaccine will be rolled out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27342/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Given the potential for the winter flu season in 2020/2021 to coincide with a resurgence of COVID, and the importance of minimising hospital attendance, the Government is expanding the provision of vaccination without charge to all of those in the at-risk groups, including healthcare workers, and to all children aged from 2 to 12 years.  

Vaccines will be administered via GPs and pharmacists, as in previous years.

The expanded programme will ensure that those most vulnerable to the effects of influenza will have access to vaccination without charges. By providing vaccination to those most at-risk, and those most likely to require hospitalisation if they contract influenza, it is anticipated that the programme will see a reduction in the number of influenza-related hospital admissions, as well as a reduction in the overall spread of influenza in the community.

Following a delay in the delivery from the manufacturer of the first batch of vaccines, the first deliveries of influenza vaccines to all sites (GPs, pharmacists, nursing homes etc.) started on 17th September. For the initial deliveries, the quantities of influenza vaccine delivered to sites are the same as previous years. The quantities of vaccine available to order by sites will be increased in line with the amounts received into the country. All shipments, totalling 1.35 million individual doses, are expected to be delivered before the end of October.  The HSE is in daily contact with the manufacturer in relation to the delivery of the vaccines. Delivery of the nasal vaccine used to be used for children is not affected.

The HSE is satisfied that he number of doses procured is sufficient to vaccinate all in the at-risk groups. The start date of the vaccination programme will be late September or early October, the same as in previous years.  The vaccination programme for children is expected to commence from mid-October.

The vaccination campaign will be accompanied by a comprehensive communications campaign to encourage the greatest possible take-up.

Medical Cards

Ceisteanna (994)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

994. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Health the reason persons with stage four cancer are being refused access to a medical card; his plans to rectify the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27351/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health Act 1970, eligibility for a medical card is based primarily on means. The Act does not provide for automatic eligibility based on having a particular disease or illness.

The issue of granting medical cards based on having a particular disease or illness was previously examined in 2014 by the HSE Expert Panel on Medical Need and Medical Card Eligibility. The Group concluded that it was not feasible, desirable, nor ethically justifiable to list medical conditions in priority order for medical card eligibility.  In following the Expert Group’s advice, a person’s means remains the main qualifier for a medical card.

However, the HSE does have a compassionate system in place for the provision of medical cards when it is informed that a patient is receiving end of life treatment – that is when patients’ unfortunately have a prognosis of less than 12 months. These applications do not require a means assessment nor are they reassessed. 

Individuals may also qualify for a medical card through the means assessment process. Where such individuals might be in excess of the income guidelines every effort is made by the HSE, within the framework of the Health Act 1970, to support applicants in applying to take full account of the difficult circumstances, such as extra costs arising from an illness.  In such circumstances the HSE may exercise discretion and grant a medical card.

Furthermore, since 2015 medical cards are awarded without the need of a financial assessment to all children under 18 years of age with a diagnosis of cancer.

It should also be noted that the HSE Clinical Advisory Group (CAG) was established in December 2019 to review eligibility for medical cards in cases of terminal illness. The work of the CAG group has concluded and a Report was submitted recently to my Department and is currently under active consideration.

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (995)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

995. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health the number of requests on hand from his Department and from State agencies under the aegis of his Department for approval to increase staff levels; the number of public and civil servants in total involved in these requests; the method by which decisions are made on the requests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26474/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

My Department uses workforce planning processes to identify the critical resource needs required to deliver its business goals.  Workforce planning is a key tool in enabling my Department to forecast its current and future staffing needs (subject to the limits of the annual estimates process, the usual budgetary constraints and approvals by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform). The Workforce Plan aims to ensure a long-term, proactive and strategic plan by which my Department aims to have the right people, with the right levels of talent and skills, in each location and Division, doing the right thing at the right time. 

My Department operates in a rapidly changing environment and its structure must facilitate the flexibility to deploy resources to priority work, as the need arises.  As business needs arise, staff are allocated to support organisational priorities within my Department.  Overall staffing levels within Divisions are continually monitored and staff transfer in and out of Divisions as the workload demands.  Where skills gaps have been are identified, the HR Division reviews these requests on a quarterly basis and approves staff assignments on the basis of business cases made by Divisions.  One such iteration of this process has just been completed, so no requests are currently on hand for consideration from within the Department.   

The question of staffing levels in the State Agencies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter, generally delegated to the Agencies themselves and I will ask the Agencies to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.  However, I am aware of one request for additional staff resources, related to Brexit.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (996)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

996. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the actions taken on foot of the inclusion within the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, correspondence of 7 August 2020 of the point that NPHET agreed the interim recommendations of the report Investigation into a Series Of Outbreaks of Covid-19 in Meat Processing Plants in Ireland and further recommend that the HSE’s newly established national standing oversight committee for such facilities considers, as an immediate action, the development of the most appropriate and proactive approach to surveillance and testing within the food processing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26477/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is contributing to the whole-of-Government response to managing outbreaks of Covid -19 in food plants.  In the context of Covid-19, human health must be the absolute priority for all of us, and therefore it is vitally important that all our decisions and actions led by public health advice.

My Department’s statutory responsibility in relation to meat processing establishments is to ensure that these premises operate in compliance with the EU’s food hygiene legislation, animal health and animal welfare standards. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, my Department is participating in the HSE-chaired National Standing Committee on high risk settings, which meets on an ongoing basis to review existing protocols and compliance measures, and to identify any additional control measures required. My Department is also supporting the HSE and the Health and Safety Authority in monitoring the effective implementation of all relevant Covid-19 guidance in DAFM-approved food plants.

The Government decided in August that the HSE should implement a programme of serial testing of workers in food plants and other large businesses.  This programme is on-going. By 27 September, 21,637 samples had been tested under this programme with 74 positives detected – a positivity rate of 0.34%.

There is no room for complacency with regard to the threat posed by Covid-19, and my Department is continually engaged with industry  to ensure that the basic measures are implemented correctly – for example, ensuring that workers are reminded on a daily basis of public health guidance, in a range of languages, screening questions and temperature check on entry every day, social distancing in canteens and locker rooms, adequate PPE for all workers, etc.

Agrifood Sector

Ceisteanna (997)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

997. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the supports that have been made available to the agrifood industry to support it through the impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26407/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Both Brexit and Covid-19 have had a significant impact on the agri-food and fisheries sectors. 

My Department's Brexit preparedness work has resulted in various supports being introduced over successive budgets to help the agri-food and fisheries sectors mitigate the impact of Brexit.   These include supports in the form of direct aid, as well as the provision of low-cost loans such as the €300 million Future Growth Loan Scheme.  In addition, in 2019, my Department introduced the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) in recognition of a very difficult year for the beef sector and a prolonged period of price uncertainty caused by various factors, including Brexit.  Budget 2020 also made provision for an initial fund of €110 million to be deployed in the event of a hard Brexit in order to help farmers, fishermen and food SMEs to deal with such an outcome.  In the event, this did not prove necessary. 

More recently, my Department launched the €50 million Beef Finisher Payment Scheme which is a one-off, exchequer-funded grant aid scheme under the Covid-19 State Aid Temporary Framework to provide support for beef finishing farms in Ireland that have been severely impacted by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

All of these impacts on the farming community will, of course, be kept under ongoing review. In this regard, the recently-published Brexit Readiness Action Plan confirms that further measures to support affected sectors will be considered over the coming months. I also welcome the Multi-Annual Financial Framework agreement reached in July by EU Heads of State and Government, which includes a €5 Billion Brexit Adjustment Reserve for those Member States and sectors most affected by Brexit. We will work to ensure that the agri-food sector gets an adequate allocation from that funding.

Fishing Industry

Ceisteanna (998)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Ceist:

998. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of bluefin tuna that were caught in Irish fishing waters and landed here in the past five years; the monetary value of the fish; the locations where they were landed; the vessels they were caught from; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26895/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The data requested by the Deputy is held by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and I have referred the query to them for direct written response to the Deputy.

However, it should be noted that Ireland does not have a national quota for Bluefin tuna. A small Bluefin by-catch quota is available to Ireland, primarily for use in our important Northern Albacore Tuna fishery and Celtic Sea herring fishery where there can be Bluefin tuna by-catch.  This by-catch quota is also available to other Member States in the European Union.

A Catch-Tag-Release science-based fishery for authorised recreational angling vessels has been in place since 2019.  The project, which was developed by Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Marine Institute in partnership with the SFPA, the Department for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and my Department, will allow the Marine Institute and Inland Fisheries Ireland to collect valuable data on the migratory patterns of Bluefin tuna in Irish waters in a tightly controlled environment.

Budget Process

Ceisteanna (999)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

999. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the receipt of the pre-budget submission by an organisation (details supplied) will be acknowledged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26317/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The IFA’s pre-Budget 2021 submission was received and acknowledged by my Department. My Department engages with stakeholders, including IFA, on an ongoing basis. I met with IFA earlier this month and my colleague Minister Heydon met with them last week to specificallty discuss their pre-budget submission. The issues raised will be considered in the context of Budget 2021 deliberations.

Seafood Sector

Ceisteanna (1000)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

1000. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding oyster licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26364/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

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

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

My Department’s records indicate that applications were made for aquaculture licences by the person referred to by the Deputy for sites in Castlemaine Harbour and were considered by my Department.  On 25th September 2018, following consideration of all aspects of the applications, it was determined that the applications could not be approved. These determinations were published by my Department in the normal way and subsequently ALAB notified my Department that appeals had been received in respect of these applications.

As ALAB is currently considering the appeals as part of a statutory process, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter pending the conclusion of that process.

Beef Industry

Ceisteanna (1001)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

1001. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will make available the minutes and correspondence of meetings between Bord Bia and farming organisations that his Department may have consulted regarding the protected geographical indication, PGI, application by an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26366/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has not had meetings with Bord Bia or any farming organisations regarding the PGI application made by the organisation named.

Beef Industry

Ceisteanna (1002)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

1002. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there was correspondence with an organisation (details supplied) regarding the protected geographical indication, PGI, application by an organisation; if so, if he will furnish the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26367/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I can inform the Deputy that no correspondence has been received or entered into by my Department with the organisation named regarding the second organisation named.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (1003)

John Lahart

Ceist:

1003. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has considered the exploration of introducing stepping stone forests here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26458/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The current Forestry Programme supports opportunities for habitat linkage by providing grants and premiums for afforestation, including native woodland extablishment and conservation schemes. This includes the establishment of 12 different forest types including  native woodlands that can be planted in areas as small as 0.1ha. This programme is due to end in 2020 but delays in finalising the new CAP regulations means that this will extend into 2021.

A new Forestry Programme will be required to cover the period 2022 – 2028.  This will set out the different measures that the Department will support during the next period and will most likely include a redesigned afforestation scheme and measures specifically aimed at supporting biodiversity.  A public consultation process will be carried out to help shape this new programme and I would recommend that you submit any proposals on 'Stepping Stone Forests' at this time. I expect that a call for submissions will be made in the coming months.

Meat Processing Plants

Ceisteanna (1004)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

1004. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of instances to date in 2020 in which mechanical grading in meat factories has been suspended and reverted to manual grading; the factories concerned; the length of time for the suspension in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26460/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1184 of 20 April 2017 governs the monitoring of carcase classification, carcase presentation and weighing. To date, in 2020, officers from the Carcase Classification Division of my Department have conducted over 335 inspections across 32 factories (mechanical and manual grading plants) and over 29,963 carcasses were inspected. 

The mechanical classification method must operate within legally defined tolerances at all times.  When any mechanical system is found at inspection to be working outside of these tolerances, the meat plants concerned are instructed to revert to manual grading.   

Regarding the suspension of mechanical grading, this occurred on 3 occasions to date in 2020 following inspections by DAFM classification officers and the factories in questions were instructed to revert to manual grading. In all instances, classification officers from my Department conduct a classification check before a factory is allowed to recommence mechanical grading.

Suppliers are advised through their remittance dockets where manual grading is applied.

Horticulture Sector

Ceisteanna (1005)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

1005. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the supports he plans to put in place in accordance with the commitments made in the programme for Government to ensure it will still be possible to purchase mushrooms, lettuce and herbs grown here in shops and garden centres at a reasonable cost when stocks of horticultural peat produced here are exhausted in the near future and will have to be imported in view of the fact there is no alternative available that replaces horticultural peat in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26461/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am aware of the current dependance of the mushroom industry on peat as a growing medium.

Following on from the publication of a report on the review of the use of peat moss in the horticulture industry by the Department of Heritage, Culture and the Gaeltacht,, Minister Noonan set up a working group to consider impacts on the sector.

It is proposed that this working group will represent Government Departments, including Agriculture, Food and the Marine, State Agencies, Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations and industry stakeholders. This working group will address the key issues raised in the report itself, including future use of peat by the horticulture sector.

At a broader level, my Department provides a support to the horticulture industry through the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Horticulture Sector. Financial support is available to assist growers and businesses through grant aid for capital investments in specialised plant and equipment including renewable energy, as well as technology adoption specific to commercial horticulture production.

It is expected that the full budget allocation to the scheme of €6 million for 2020 will be drawn down by the end of the year. This Scheme is 100% funded by the Irish Government.

In addition, my Department administers the EU Producer Organisation Scheme for Fruit and Vegetables which allows growers jointly market their production in order to strengthen the position of producers in the marketplace. Members of a Producer Organisation may also qualify for co-funding for agreed measures such as Environmental action, marketing, Production Quality, Research and Crisis prevention & management including mutual funds.

Horticulture Sector

Ceisteanna (1006)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

1006. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to protect the mushroom industry here, which has a farmgate value of €119 million and relies on horticulture peat, in view of the potential depletion of peat reserves; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26462/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am aware of the current dependance of the mushroom industry on peat as a growing medium. 

Following on from the publication of a report on the review of the use of peat moss in the horticulture industry by the Department of Heritage, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Minister Noonan set up a working group to consider impacts on the sector.

It is proposed that this working group will represent Government Departments, including Agriculture, Food and the Marine, State Agencies, Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations and industry stakeholders. This working group will address the key issues raised in the report itself, including future use of peat by the horticulture sector

At a broader level, my Department provides a support to the horticulture industry through the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Horticulture Sector. Financial support is available to assist growers and businesses through grant aid for capital investments in specialised plant and equipment including renewable energy, as well as technology adoption specific to commercial horticulture production.

It is expected that the full budget allocation to the scheme of €6 million for 2020 will be drawn down by the end of the year.  This Scheme is 100% funded by the Irish Government.

In addition, my Department administers the EU Producer Organisation Scheme for Fruit and Vegetables which allows growers jointly market their production in order to strengthen the position of producers in the marketplace. Members of a Producer Organisation may also qualify for co-funding for agreed measures such as Environmental action, marketing, Production Quality, Research and Crisis prevention & management including mutual funds.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (1007)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

1007. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of temporary veterinary inspectors who have been employed at each relevant food processing plant; the number of temporary veterinary inspectors who signed the waiver at each plant in cases where they were over 70 years of age or otherwise extremely medically vulnerable to Covid-19, by each month in 2020, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26463/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department engages independent private veterinary practitioners to provide services in meat plants to support DAFM staff in 49 meat plants by providing meat inspection services. The total numbers of such Temporary Veterinary Inspectors (TVIs) on panels at each relevant plant and the number of those over 70 years of age or otherwise extremely medically vulnerable to Covid-19 provided waivers at each plant by month in 2020 (from July to September) is provided in tabular form.

Meat plant

Total number of  TVIs on panel

Waivers received July

Waivers received August

Waivers received September

ABP Rathkeale Limerick

20

1

-  

-  

AIBP Bandon Cork

24

5

-  

-  

AIBP Nenagh Tipperary

34

2

-  

-  

AIBP, Cahir, Tipperary

28

-

-  

-  

AIBP, Ferrybank  Waterford

31

3

-  

-  

AIPB Clones Monaghan

19

-

-  

-  

Ashbourne Meats Tipperary

25

-

-  

-  

Ballon Meats

15

-

-  

-  

C&J Meats

7

-

-  

-  

Carton Brothers

20

-

-  

-  

Dawn Charleville foods Cork

28

1

1  

-  

Dawn Meadow Meats Rathdowney   Laois

21

-

-  

-  

Dawn Meats Ballyhaunis Mayo

28

-

-  

-  

Dawn Meats Grannagh Waterford

26

4

-  

-  

Dawn Pork&Bacon Waterford

36

-

-  

-  

Dunbia slane, Meath

14

1

-  

-  

Dunleavy Meats

15

1

-  

-  

Emerald Isle

1

1

-  

-  

Eurofarm meath

24

-  

-  

-  

Finn Meats

13

-

-  

-  

Foyle Meats

21

1

-  

-  

Green Pastures

12

-

-  

-  

Grove Turkeys

6

-

-  

-  

Hogans Turkeys

1

-

-  

-  

ICM Camolin Wexford

26

2

-  

-  

ICM Navan

21

3

-  

-  

IGWT

6

-

-  

-  

Kavanagh Meat, Wexford

9

-

-  

-  

Kepak Clonee

22

2

-  

-  

Kepak Watergrasshill, Cork

22

-  

-  

-  

Kepak, Athleague, Roscommon

32

-

-  

-  

Kepak, Kilbeggan, Westmeath

21

2

-  

-  

Kildare Chilling

34

7

-  

-  

Liffey Meats Ballinasloe

12

2

-  

-  

Liffey Meats, Carlow

11

3

-  

-  

Liffey Meats, Cavan

21

-

-  

-  

Martin Jennings

16

2

-  

-  

McCarrons Cavan

14

1

-  

-  

Michael Staunton & Sons,   Cork

25

-

-  

-  

Moyvalley Meats Kildare

16

-

-  

-  

Rosderra Edenderry, Offaly

41

5

-  

-  

Rosderra Roscrea, Tipperary

39

1

-  

-  

Shannonside Foods

2

-

-  

-  

Silverhill Duckling

8

2

-  

-  

Slaney Meats

21

-

-  

-  

T O'Regans Shannonvale

8

-

-  

-  

Western Brand Chickens

15

1

-  

-  

Ballaghadreen Bacon Co. Ltd,   Roscommon

1

-

-  

-  

The overall cohort of TVIs includes those who are over 70 and/or who are otherwise extremely medically vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Initially, my Department, in line with HSE guidance on cocooning, and in recognition of its responsibilities towards contractors which it engages, did not engage these individuals in order to protect their health. As guidance evolved, my Department put in place a protocol for the engagement of those TVIs over 70 and/or otherwise vulnerable to COVID-19. The waiver and the accompanying communications make clear that TVIs, as contractors, have responsibilities regarding their own health and safety and that they must undertake a risk assessment process and, if necessary, provide a waiver before this engagement takes place.

Sheep Welfare Scheme

Ceisteanna (1008)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

1008. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to extend the sheep welfare scheme into 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26464/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is currently engaged in negotiations at EU level in relation to the development of regulations for the new CAP and also for the transition period between the two CAP programming periods.  Options for any future iterations of the sheep welfare scheme, as well as all other schemes, are currently being examined in the context of these ongoing negotiations.  I am committed to ensuring that key supports for farmers are developed and maintained during the transitional period and through the new CAP programming period.

Beef Industry

Ceisteanna (1009)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

1009. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of submissions received in respect of the proposal for a protected geographical indication, PGI, application for beef; the number of submissions that were opposed to the PGI proposal; his plans to publish the submissions or a synopsis of same; his further plans for consideration of the submissions and to reflect the content in the PGI application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26465/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

An application to register "Irish Grass Fed Beef" as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) was submitted to my Department by Bord Bia on behalf of producers.   One of the legal requirements for a PGI application is that a 'National Opposition" procedure must be undertaken  prior to submission of an application to the EU Commission.  The draft application was published in August and the period for submissions ended on 11 September.

I can confirm that 22 submissions were received in response to the national opposition procedure. My Department is currently assessing these submissions.  The matter is still the subject of the deliberative process. At the appropriate time, the issues raised in the opposition procedure will be made available with due regard to for data protection rules.

The PGI application was on the agenda of a recent meeting of the Beef Taskforce (23 September). A new draft of the application, clarifying issues raised in the submissions, was circulated prior to that meeting. The application will be discussed at another meeting of the taskforce in October.

Our Irish grass fed beef is a respected product nationally and internationally and that reputation is a reflection of the sustained efforts of farmers and all of those involved in striving to achieve the highest level of quality for our beef products. PGI status would assist Ireland in further communicating the characteristics and reputation of this quality product.  This is in line with the Programme for Government commitment to “Work at EU level for the development of a Protected Geographic Indicator  (PGI) for Irish beef’.

Tillage Sector

Ceisteanna (1010)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

1010. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to an estimate by an association (details supplied) indicating that the value of the tillage sector will be down by 15% due to the difficult harvest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26555/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am acutely aware of the difficulties encountered by the tillage sector primarily because of poor weather conditions over the last twelve months. As a result of these conditions it is expected that levels of both grain and straw will be less than the 2019 output but I welcome the recent predictions that the harvest will not be as bad as earlier anticipated.

There are many supports available to the tillage sector from my Department with specific measures in the GLAS scheme e.g. arable margins, cover crops and an exemption from the 3-crop rule for specialist malting barley growers. Other supports put in place in recent times include:

- The 2017 Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme

- The Brexit Loan Scheme

- The Coupled Protein Aid Scheme

- The 2018 fodder production incentive measure for tillage farmers

- The Tillage Capital Investment Scheme (TCIS) under TAMS

- Exemption to the crop diversification requirements as part of Greening for 2020 on a case-by-case basis.

My Department also provides an independent free crop variety evaluation programme and a seed certification scheme in support of the sector.

These schemes and supports provide significant investment in tillage and underpin the Governments ongoing commitment to this important area.

Last July, my predecessor launched the Tillage Industry Ireland report into the Irish Tillage Sector. My Department will examine the content of the report and engage with Stakeholders as appropriate.

In the meantime, I will continue to engage with stakeholders on the key issues affecting the Tillage Sector.