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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1408-1425
 Header Item Single Payment Scheme Payments
 Header Item Departmental Staff Training
 Header Item Commonage Division
 Header Item European Union Solidarity Fund
 Header Item Stocking Densities
 Header Item Stocking Densities
 Header Item Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Appeals
 Header Item Single Payment Scheme Applications
 Header Item Afforestation Programme
 Header Item Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Application Numbers
 Header Item Rural Environment Protection Scheme Payments
 Header Item Aquaculture Licences Applications
 Header Item EU Directives
 Header Item Aquaculture Licences Applications
 Header Item Farm Retirement Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Appointments to State Boards
 Header Item Animal Welfare Issues
 Header Item Noxious Weeds

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 774 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 162 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 1408-1425

Single Payment Scheme Payments

 1408. Deputy Michael Creed Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has conducted any evaluation of the fodder crisis here; the measures, if any, that he is contemplating to tackle this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38419/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department is keeping the situation under review through monitoring of the weather and its effect on horticulture, cereals and silage production and grass growth.

In the meantime, I sought EU approval for the advance payment of the 2012 Single Payment Scheme. This was approved and will enable payment to issue immediately following 16 October and will represent early payment of €600 million to farmers.

I also fully appreciate the value and importance of the other scheme payments to farmers and I remain committed to ensuring that the maximum numbers are paid at the earliest possible date, mindful, of course, of the over-riding necessity to ensure compliance with the governing EU requirements. REPS payments in respect of 2011 are up to date and AEOS payments are well advanced and continue to issue as quickly as possible. My intention is to ensure that payments in respect of 2012 which are due later in the year are brought forward to the earliest possible date.

The closing dates for spreading of chemical and organic fertiliser have been extended by 2 weeks. This will help farmers to make the most of the grass growing season.

Teagasc have been very active in providing advice & assistance for farmers affected by the bad weather. Teagasc has conducted a survey of the fodder position on livestock farms and are monitoring the situation. All Teagasc offices are taking calls from concerned farmers. A series of public meetings are being held across the country in early September to address fodder/financial and social aspects of weather crisis. Weather clinics were held in all Teagasc offices recently. Newsletters / media articles are being prepared to outline options open to farmers facing difficulties.

Departmental Staff Training

 1409. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the amount of money spent on an annual basis on education and training of staff in 2011 and to date in 2012; the number of staff that availed of each course; if he will provide a list of the courses staff undertook and the cost of each course per person. [38478/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Due to the volume of the information requested by the Deputy, it was not possible to provide it in the required time. I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Commonage Division

 1410. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be allowed to increase their stocking quota; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38556/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney A Review of the Commonage Framework Plans is being undertaken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and my Department, in consultation with stakeholders. Sustainable stock numbers will be proscribed for each LPIS parcel, to prevent under-grazing and over-grazing.

The objectives of the Review are to ensure: That the lands are maintained in GAEC; That the sustainable stocking of all commonage land is achieved; That sheep farmers, who may been required under the original Commonage Framework Plans, to de-stock, can once again increase sheep numbers, subject to the NPWS stocking rates for each of the commonages; Within a number of years, all commonages will continue to be maintained in GAEC, being substantially managed and farmed and contributing, both locally and nationally, in terms of the environment, tourism and bio-diversity.

The review of Commonage Framework Plans, which has recently been completed, has established both the minimum and the maximum livestock units that will have to be maintained on a given applicant’s share of the commonage in order for the commonage to be maintained in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition. It is intended that applicants, who declare a share of commonage land under both the Direct Payment and Agri-Environment Schemes, will be notified in the coming weeks of the minimum and maximum stocking levels now allowed in respect of the commonage land they declare.

European Union Solidarity Fund

 1411. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his plans to request funding from the European Union Solidarity Fund to assist farmers here who are facing a crisis in feeding their animals this year in view of the fact that there is not enough fodder available to cater for the stock that will be housed over the winter period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38614/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The European Union Solidarity Fund is aimed primarily at providing funding to Member States in the event of a natural disaster.

Following the bad weather this summer, I sought EU approval for the advance payment of the 2012 Single Payment Scheme. This was approved and will enable payment to issue immediately following 16 October and will represent early payment of €600 million to farmers.

I also fully appreciate the value and importance of the other scheme payments to farmers and I remain committed to ensuring that the maximum numbers are paid at the earliest possible date, mindful, of course, of the over-riding necessity to ensure compliance with the governing EU requirements. REPS payments in respect of 2011 are up to date and AEOS payments are well advanced and continue to issue as quickly as possible. My intention is to ensure that payments in respect of 2012 which are due later in the year are brought forward to the earliest possible date.

The closing dates for spreading of chemical and organic fertiliser have been extended by 2 weeks. This will help farmers to make the most of the grass growing season.

Teagasc have been very active in providing advice & assistance for farmers affected by the bad weather. All Teagasc offices are taking calls from concerned farmers. A series of public meetings are being held across the country in early September to address fodder/financial and social aspects of weather crisis. Weather clinics were held in all Teagasc offices recently. Newsletters / media articles are being prepared to outline options open to farmers facing difficulties.

Stocking Densities

 1412. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the position regarding an appeal on stocking density in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38619/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In order to make the necessary savings under the budget for the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, a range of technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria were introduced, with the agreement of the EU Commission, to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme, which are defined in the governing EU legislation as follows: To ensure continued agricultural land use and thereby contribute to the maintenance of a viable rural community; To maintain the countryside; To maintain and promote sustainable farming systems which, in particular, take account of environmental protection measures.

  I did, however, give the commitment that all applicants, whose stocking density was below 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare in 2011, would be written to formally and given the opportunity to apply for a derogation and, in this regard, I can confirm that in excess of 10,000 have been written to and afforded the opportunity to seek derogation from the 0.3 livestock unit requirement. In the region of 9,000 responded and these applications are currently being processed. The following were the categories under which farmers could apply for derogation: Category 1: Farmers with a lower stocking density as a result of adherence to an agri-environment of similar type of plan; Category 2: Farmers, who are not subject to the restrictions from a stocking density point of view of plans referred to under Category 1 above, but whose stocking levels were restricted by the poor land productivity and farming constraints; Category 3: This Category is for farmers who took over a farm either immediately before or during 2011, where the previous owner died; Category 4: This category is for farmers whose livestock were affected by an epizootic disease. An epizootic disease is any disease that affects a large number of animals in one place at one time; Category 5: New Entrants; Category 6: Miscellaneous, This category is for farmers who consider their particular circumstance is not covered in the categories set out above, e.g. farmers who were occupationally incapacitated as a result of an illness and/or hospitalisation.

  These derogation applications are currently being processed, each case being individually reviewed. Decision notifications, which have recently begun issuing, are being sent to each applicant. Those whose applications are successful are being advised that their 2012 DAS applications will be further processed for payment, subject to the other Terms and Conditions governing the 2012 Scheme. Those whose applications are unsuccessful are being afforded the right of appeal.

  In this regard, I have decided that an independent Appeals Committee, chaired by an independent Chairman, should be established to process appeals in relation to applicants whose applications for derogations have been unsuccessful.

Stocking Densities

 1413. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will review the decision to change the minimum stocking density requirements for qualification for the disadvantaged area scheme (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38627/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In order to make the necessary savings under the budget for the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, a range of technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria were introduced, with the agreement of the EU Commission, to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme, which are defined in the governing EU legislation as follows: To ensure continued agricultural land use and thereby contribute to the maintenance of a viable rural community; To maintain the countryside; To maintain and promote sustainable farming systems which, in particular, take account of environmental protection measures.

  I did, however, give the commitment that all applicants, whose stocking density was below 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare in 2011, would be written to formally and given the opportunity to apply for a derogation and, in this regard, I can confirm that in excess of 10,000 have been written to and afforded the opportunity to seek derogation from the 0.3 livestock unit requirement. In the region of 9,000 responded and these applications are currently being processed. The following were the categories under which farmers could apply for derogation: Category 1: Farmers with a lower stocking density as a result of adherence to an agri-environment of similar type of plan; Category 2: Farmers, who are not subject to the restrictions from a stocking density point of view of plans referred to under Category 1 above, but whose stocking levels were restricted by the poor land productivity and farming constraints; Category 3: This Category is for farmers who took over a farm either immediately before or during 2011, where the previous owner died; Category 4: This category is for farmers whose livestock were affected by an epizootic disease. An epizootic disease is any disease that affects a large number of animals in one place at one time; Category 5: New Entrants; Category 6: Miscellaneous, This category is for farmers who consider their particular circumstance is not covered in the categories set out above, e.g. farmers who were occupationally incapacitated as a result of an illness and/or hospitalisation.

  These derogation applications are currently being processed, each case being individually reviewed. Decision notifications, which have recently begun issuing, are being sent to each applicant. Those whose applications are successful are being advised that their 2012 DAS applications will be further processed for payment, subject to the other Terms and Conditions governing the 2012 Scheme. Those whose applications are unsuccessful are being afforded the right of appeal.

  In this regard, I have decided that an independent Appeals Committee, chaired by an independent Chairman, should be established to process appeals in relation to applicants whose applications for derogations have been unsuccessful.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Appeals

 1414. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38658/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In order to make the necessary savings under the budget for the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, a range of technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria were introduced, with the agreement of the EU Commission, to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme, which are defined in the governing EU legislation as follows: To ensure continued agricultural land use and thereby contribute to the maintenance of a viable rural community; To maintain the countryside; To maintain and promote sustainable farming systems which, in particular, take account of environmental protection measures.

  I did, however, give the commitment that all applicants, whose stocking density was below 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare in 2011, would be written to formally and given the opportunity to apply for a derogation and, in this regard, I can confirm that in excess of 10,000 have been written to and afforded the opportunity to seek derogation from the 0.3 livestock unit requirement. In the region of 9,000 responded and these applications are currently being processed. The following were the categories under which farmers could apply for derogation: Category 1: Farmers with a lower stocking density as a result of adherence to an agri-environment of similar type of plan; Category 2: Farmers, who are not subject to the restrictions from a stocking density point of view of plans referred to under Category 1 above, but whose stocking levels were restricted by the poor land productivity and farming constraints; Category 3: This Category is for farmers who took over a farm either immediately before or during 2011, where the previous owner died; Category 4: This category is for farmers whose livestock were affected by an epizootic disease. An epizootic disease is any disease that affects a large number of animals in one place at one time; Category 5: New Entrants; Category 6: Miscellaneous, This category is for farmers who consider their particular circumstance is not covered in the categories set out above, e.g. farmers who were occupationally incapacitated as a result of an illness and/or hospitalisation.

  These derogation applications are currently being processed, each case being individually reviewed. Decision notifications, which have recently begun issuing, are being sent to each applicant. Those whose applications are successful are being advised that their 2012 DAS applications will be further processed for payment, subject to the other Terms and Conditions governing the 2012 Scheme. Those whose applications are unsuccessful are being afforded the right of appeal.

  In this regard, I have decided that an independent Appeals Committee, chaired by an independent Chairman, should be established to process appeals in relation to applicants whose applications for derogations have been unsuccessful.

Single Payment Scheme Applications

 1415. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if the amount of single farm payment being made available to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38729/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The person named submitted an application under the Inheritance measure of the Single Payment Scheme on 30th November 2005, to inherit the entitlements established by his late father. Following examination of this application, my Department requested the person named to forward a copy of his late father’s will. Despite numerous requests from my Department, the person named failed to submit the relevant documentation. Subsequently, on 26th July 2006 my Department rejected the Inheritance application from the person named as the requested documentation was not submitted to my Department.

  We have since established that the person named was actually farming the land following the death of his father and in these circumstances we will make arrangements to review the Single Payment entitlements for the person named. My Department will write to the person named as soon as possible.

Afforestation Programme

 1416. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if the decision to refuse permission to plant forestry will be reviewed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38730/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Since 2007 the person named has submitted five separate applications in respect of his lands, each of which has been refused, most recently in August 2011 (reference CN57292). The lands in question are located close to the Atlantic coastline with consequent exposure to extreme wind and salt deposition. The lands are unsuitable for afforestation and incapable of producing a commercial crop.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Application Numbers

 1417. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney when he expects to have decisions on derogation appeals on the 2012 disadvantage area scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38760/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In order to make the necessary savings under the budget for the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, a range of technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria were introduced, with the agreement of the EU Commission, to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme, which are defined in the governing EU legislation as follows: To ensure continued agricultural land use and thereby contribute to the maintenance of a viable rural community; To maintain the countryside; To maintain and promote sustainable farming systems which, in particular, take account of environmental protection measures.

  I did, however, give the commitment that all applicants, whose stocking density was below 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare in 2011, would be written to formally and given the opportunity to apply for a derogation and, in this regard, I can confirm that in excess of 10,000 have been written to and afforded the opportunity to seek derogation from the 0.3 livestock unit requirement. In the region of 9,000 responded and these applications are currently being processed. The following were the categories under which farmers could apply for derogation: Category 1: Farmers with a lower stocking density as a result of adherence to an agri-environment of similar type of plan; Category 2: Farmers, who are not subject to the restrictions from a stocking density point of view of plans referred to under Category 1 above, but whose stocking levels were restricted by the poor land productivity and farming constraints; Category 3: This Category is for farmers who took over a farm either immediately before or during 2011, where the previous owner died; Category 4: This category is for farmers whose livestock were affected by an epizootic disease. An epizootic disease is any disease that affects a large number of animals in one place at one time; Category 5: New Entrants; Category 6: Miscellaneous, This category is for farmers who consider their particular circumstance is not covered in the categories set out above, e.g. farmers who were occupationally incapacitated as a result of an illness and/or hospitalisation.

  These derogation applications are currently being processed, each case being individually reviewed. Decision notifications, which have recently begun issuing, are being sent to each applicant. Those whose applications are successful are being advised that their 2012 DAS applications will be further processed for payment, subject to the other Terms and Conditions governing the 2012 Scheme. Those whose applications are unsuccessful are being afforded the right of appeal.

  In this regard, I have decided that an independent Appeals Committee, chaired by an independent Chairman, should be established to process appeals in relation to applicants whose applications for derogations have been unsuccessful.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme Payments

 1418. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the position regarding a REP scheme payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38810/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The person mentioned commenced REPS 4 in January 2008 and received payments for the first four years of their contract. Following a compliance inspection in October 2010 areas of non-compliance with the terms and conditions of the scheme were noted in relation to Measure 5 – Maintenance of Farm and Field Boundaries which resulted in a penalty being imposed. This decision was appealed to the Agricultural Appeals Office and in February 2012, following an oral hearing, a decision to partially allow the appeal was allowed. Payment of €3,152.01 issued to the person named on 17 April 2012 in respect of the adjusted penalty.

Aquaculture Licences Applications

 1419. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of licence applications awaiting decisions for new and renewals of aquaculture licences; the duration that this backlog has been accruing; if he will indicate over the last ten years the number of applications that were made each year and the number of decisions that were issued on foot on those applications each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38829/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney At present there are 626 aquaculture licence applications awaiting determination.

  The backlog has developed over a period of approximately eight years and largely arises because the majority of areas for which aquaculture licences are sought are located in areas designated as Special Areas of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive and/or Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive (known as ‘Natura areas’). In 2007, the European Court of Justice issued a judgement against Ireland for a breach of the Birds Directive which is indicative of the seriousness of this issue and the need for full compliance with the relevant Directives.

  To ensure compliance with the Birds and Habitats Directives, all applications in ‘Natura 2000 areas’ are required to be appropriately assessed. This has required the putting in place of a significant work programme which has considerable time and resource implications. An additional factor is that all aquaculture applications now undergo Environmental Impact pre-screening assessment which requires significant input from the Department’s scientific and technical advisors.

  My Department, in conjunction with the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is engaged in a comprehensive programme to gather the necessary baseline data appropriate to the conservation objectives of ‘Natura 2000’ areas. This data collection programme is substantially complete. Analysis of the data, together with the setting of appropriate conservation objectives by the NPWS, will enable all new, renewal and review applications to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. This work represents a significant financial, administrative and scientific investment by the State in resolving this issue. The Appropriate Assessment of aquaculture applications is being dealt with on a bay-by-bay basis.

  The number of applications received by my Department over the last ten years is set out in the following table.

Applications received 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Total
New 54 57 73 66 37 14 42 27 68 34 472
Renewals 52 22 12 12 17 10 64 52 40 20 301
Review 3 5 16 0 4 1 0 0 0 0 29


The number of Ministerial decisions made in each of the last ten years is set out in the table below:
Licences issued 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Total
New 33 25 7 15 6 1 3 2 5 4 101
Renewals 12 10 16 28 5 1 1 1 1 0 75


  My Department continues to make every effort to expedite the determination of all aquaculture applications having regard to the complexities of each case and the need to comply fully with all national and EU legislation. My Department and the relevant agencies are working to an agreed co-ordinated plan to address the licencing backlog and I expect that licence determinations in full compliance with the requirements of the Natura directives will commence later this year.

EU Directives

 1420. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will clarify when restrictions relating to a licence application (details supplied) in County Kerry came into place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38830/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The site in question is located within a ‘Natura 2000 area’. All applications in ‘Natura 2000 areas’ are required to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of environmental compliance with the EU Habitats/Birds Directives.

In accordance with these EU Directives, as clarified by a judgement against Ireland of the European Court of Justice in 2007, my Department is constrained by law from issuing or renewing aquaculture licences for sites located within Natura 2000 areas, until such time as an ‘appropriate assessment’ has been conducted in accordance with those Directives of the potential of the proposed aquaculture and fishery activities within that area to impact negatively on the conservation objectives for that Natura site. The licensing process must take full account of the outcome of that assessment in reaching a determination on any particular licence application.

In relation to the specific case referred to by the Deputy my Department’s records indicate the applicant was made aware of the EU Habitats/Birds Directives requirements back in 2006.

Aquaculture Licences Applications

 1421. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney in relation to an application for a licence to produce salmon (details supplied) in County Kerry in 2005, if he will clarify certain matters (details further supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38831/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department is in receipt of aquaculture licence applications from the operator referred to by the Deputy for a site in Kenmare Bay. The applications which are for the same site will be processed simultaneously.

The site in question is located within a ‘Natura 2000 area’. All applications in ‘Natura 2000 areas’ are required to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of environmental compliance with the EU Habitats/Birds Directives. My Department, in conjunction with the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is engaged in a comprehensive programme to gather the necessary baseline data appropriate to the conservation objectives of ‘Natura 2000’ areas. This data collection programme is substantially complete. Analysis of the data, together with the setting of appropriate conservation objectives by the NPWS, will enable all new, renewal and review applications to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. This work represents a significant financial, administrative and scientific investment by the State in resolving this issue. The Appropriate Assessment of aquaculture applications is being dealt with on a bay-by-bay basis.

My Department continues to make every effort to expedite the determination of all aquaculture applications having regard to the complexities of each case and the need to comply fully with all national and EU legislation.

The legal and factual position in relation to this case has been conveyed by my Department to the applicant.

Farm Retirement Scheme Eligibility

 1422. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will clarify an anomaly which has shown up on the system where a farmer has retired under the EU Commission early farm retirement scheme at the age of 55 years and was advised that participation in the scheme would cover any PRSI contributions necessary to allow them to qualify for the full contributory pension at age 66 years, but it has now transpired that there was no PRSI paid even though the pension was taxable, they now do not qualify for a full contributory pension; if he will investigate same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38832/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Payments under the Early Retirement Scheme are classified as Class M and as occupational pensions for PRSI purposes. While occupational pensions are taxable, PRSI is not deducted from occupational or Department of Social Protection pensions.

Compulsory PRSI deductions are not made from payments under the Early Retirement Scheme. Subject to certain conditions, voluntary contributions may be made up to age 66 in order to qualify for the State Contributory pension (Old Age Contributory). Enquiries should be made to the Department of Social Protection.

Appointments to State Boards

 1423. Deputy Dominic Hannigan Information on Dominic Hannigan Zoom on Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will outline, in tabular form, both the number and the percentage of women and men on State boards under the aegis of his Department in each of the past ten years; if he will provide the most up-to-date figures available regarding the number and percentage of women and men on State boards under the aegis of his Department in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38850/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Since May 2011, a notification has been placed on my Department’s website inviting expressions of interest from persons interested in being appointed to the boards of State Bodies under the aegis of my Department. Also on 7th September of this year I placed an advertisement in the National Newspapers inviting expressions of interest. These applications will be considered when appointments are being made to any of these boards. It is hoped that this will provide me with a wide range of applicants with the appropriate mix of skills and experience in the relevant area of work.

  In the case of a number of bodies, the board appointments, while made by me, are not at my sole discretion and, instead, individuals are nominated for appointment by me by various organisations as specified in the relevant statute. These are the Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board, Bord Bia, Teagasc, National Milk Agency, Veterinary Council of Ireland and Horse Racing Ireland.

  The details of board membership are outlined in the table below.

Position as at 18 September 2001

Body/Agency Total No of Board

Members
Men % Female % Vacancies
Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board 7 4 (57%) 2 (28%) 1
An Bord Bia 15 11 (73%) 3 (20%) 1
Bord Iascaigh Mhara 6 5 (83%) 0 ( 0%) 1
Bord na gCon 7 6 (85%) 1 (15%) -
Coillte 9 7 (77%) 2 (23%) -
Horse Racing Ireland 14 13 (92%) 1 (8%) -
Irish National Stud 7 5 (71%) 2 (29%) -
Marine Institute 9 4 (44%) 0 (0%) 5
National Milk Agency 14 14 (100%) 0 (0%) -
Sea Fisheries Protection Agency 3 2 (66%) 0 (0%) 1
Teagasc 11 8 (72%) 1 (9%) 2
Veterinary Council of Ireland 19 11 (57%) 8 (42%) -


  Position as at 18 September 2002
Body/Agency Total No of Board Members Men % Female % Vacancies
Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board 7 6 (85%) 1 (15%) -
An Bord Bia 15 12 (80%) 3 (20%) -
Bord Iascaigh Mhara 6 5 (83%) 1 (17%) -
Bord na gCon 7 7 (100%) 0 (0%) -
Coillte 9 8 (88%) 1 (12%) -
Horse Racing Ireland 14 12 (86%) 2 (14%) -
Irish National Stud 7 5 (72%) 2 (28%) -
Marine Institute 9 8 (88%) 1 (12%) -
National Milk Agency 14 14 (100%) 0 (0%) -
Sea Fisheries Protection Agency Body not created until 2009      
Teagasc 11 9 (82%) 2 (18%) 0
Veterinary Council of Ireland 19 Gender breakdown not known for 2002    

Animal Welfare Issues

 1424. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on a matter regarding grants (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38868/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney A revised Sow Housing Welfare Scheme was introduced by my Department in July 2012 in order to further assist the pig sector in Ireland to comply with the new EU animal welfare rules for the sector which come into effect at the beginning of next year.

The revised Scheme is, however, limited to investment projects which had not commenced prior to the introduction of the Scheme. Accordingly, where an applicant has already commenced the investment works by virtue of a Department approval issued under a previous Scheme, the applicant is not entitled to cancel that application and re-apply for grant-aid under the revised Scheme.

Noxious Weeds

 1425. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has issued instructions to local authorities and other State bodies, to ensure they comply with their obligations and duties under the Noxious Weeds Act 1936, as amended; and if so, the response there has been to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38940/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department actively seeks to enforce the provisions of the Noxious Weeds Act 1936 by engaging with all County Councils, Local Authorities and the National Roads Authority (NRA) to ensure a consistent programme of treatment and disposal of such weeds on an ongoing basis. In this regard, all County Councils, Local Authorities and the NRA were written to in April of this year emphasising their statutory obligations and the importance of implementing measures for the treatment and safe disposal of ragwort.

Fines under the Noxious Weeds Act have been updated under the provisions of the Fines Act of 2010, which provides for a fine of up to €1,000 on conviction.


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