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Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Wednesday, 8 May 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 465 No. 1

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 206. Mr. O'Leary Information on John O'Leary Zoom on John O'Leary  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry Information on Ivan Yates Zoom on Ivan Yates  the recent discussions, if any, he has had with the EU Council of Ministers or the European Commission with a view to seeking a derogation from the regulations to enable payment of grants to a large number of farmers in County Kerry who had less than 5 per cent of suckler cows that were unknowingly born on a cross with a meat breed in the herd at the time of inspection; the progress, if any, he has made in this respect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9303/96]

[204]Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): Information on Ivan Yates Zoom on Ivan Yates The EU regulations governing the suckler cow premium scheme specify that only “cows belonging to meat breeds” are eligible for the scheme. However, in order to allow producers to convert their herds to acceptable breeds, a transitional arrangement was put in place which allowed payment on other breeds during 1993 and 1994 provided the cows had been “inseminated by bulls of a meat breed and the producer in question received the suckler cow premium in respect of 1990 or 1991”. 1995 was the first year when the rule governing breed eligibility had to be applied without derogations.

My officials carried out field inspections in all cases where applicants changed the breed declaration of any of their cows between 1994 and 1995. In other words, cows that were described in 1994 as non-beef but described one year later as a different breed were examined by my officials to establish eligibility. In the vast majority of cases the animals were found to belong to eligible beef breeds. In a small number of cases involving less than 1 per cent of all those applying for suckler cow premium in 1995, invalid change of breed declarations were found. Under the terms and conditions of the scheme the penalty in these cases was the non-payment of premium under the 1995 suckler cow scheme and ruling out of the scheme for 1996. Anyone penalised in this way was given an opportunity to appeal the decision and, if appealed, was visited a second time by a different inspecting officer to examine the animals in question.

I had my officials discuss the level of penalty in these cases with officials of the European Commission but the change of declaration was considered by them to be serious enough to warrant such penalty.

The matter of breed is considered fundamental to the aim of the scheme which is to promote the production of quality meat. When the eligibility criteria were decided the transition period [205] of two years was negotiated in order that producers would have sufficient opportunity to convert from dairy to beef breed herds if their circumstances required such a conversion.

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