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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 148-170
 Header Item Common Agricultural Policy Reform
 Header Item Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations
 Header Item Agriculture Schemes Expenditure
 Header Item Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations
 Header Item Agriculture Schemes Eligibility
 Header Item Commonage Division
 Header Item Food Safety Authority Inspections
 Header Item Sale of State Assets
 Header Item Horse Slaughtering Data
 Header Item Afforestation Programme
 Header Item Fish Quotas
 Header Item Aquaculture Development
 Header Item Rural Environment Protection Scheme Application Numbers
 Header Item Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations
 Header Item Common Fisheries Policy Negotiations
 Header Item Forestry Sector
 Header Item Special Areas of Conservation Designation
 Header Item Common Fisheries Policy Reform
 Header Item Horse Racing Industry Funding
 Header Item Sale of State Assets
 Header Item Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments
 Header Item Sale of State Assets

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 792 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 82 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 148-170

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

 148. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he supports the recent policy paper issued by the Irish Farmers' Association in relation to common agricultural policy reform; and if he will outline the specific proposals with which he does not agree; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6981/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The overall funding of the CAP, including the amounts to be made available for direct payments (Pillar 1) and rural development (Pillar 2), have now been decided in the context of the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2014 to 2020. I am very pleased that we have managed to protect Irish farmers’ direct payments, given that there were substantial threats to this vital transfer to Ireland from those who wished to cut the CAP budget overall by a much larger amount and from the redistribution of these funds between member states.

On Rural Development, overall EU funding has been reduced from the previous financial period, and there has been some redistribution between Member States. However, we managed to negotiate a special additional allocation of €100 million for Ireland in the final stages of the talks.

The challenge for us now is to ensure that this money, which will be matched with Irish exchequer funding, is used as effectively as possible to support the aims and targets we have set ourselves in Food Harvest 2020. The agri-food sector has tremendous potential for further sustainable growth and we must use these funds to maximise that potential and deliver the jobs dividend that will come from it.

The policy paper produced by the Irish Farmers’ Association relates more particularly to the reform of the CAP for the period post-2013. As President of the European Council of Agriculture Ministers, my objective is to negotiate a Council position on the reform package by the end of March, with a view to securing an inter-institutional political agreement with the European Parliament and the Commission by the end of June. Bearing this in mind, the position is broadly as follows:

Two of the most difficult issues in the negotiations arise in relation to the administration of the single farm payment. These are internal convergence and greening. As regards internal convergence, the Commission’s proposal to move to a system of flat-rate national or regional payments would, in the case of several Member States (including Ireland), result in significant transfers between farmers. These Member States are seeking a solution that will mitigate this impact and this is an issue on which Ireland too played a leading role. Other Member States - such as the newer Member States who already implement an area-based system - are seeking alternative solutions, while still others are happy with the flat rate system. I hope to be able to navigate a course through these diverging positions in the coming weeks and settle on a compromise acceptable to all Member States.

As regards greening, most Member States (including Ireland), support further greening of the CAP, as it is consistent with the need to develop the agriculture sector in a sustainable manner. However, there are concerns about the separate and distinct nature of the greening payment, and the fact that it is to be paid on a flat-rate basis. Member States also have issues with the three greening criteria (crop diversification, maintenance of permanent grassland and ecological focus areas) and favour flexibility to implement these in a simpler manner that is also more relevant to local conditions. Again, I hope to bring forward proposals on these issues in the coming weeks that will strike a balance between the different approaches favoured by Member States.

On the other direct payments issues raised by the Deputy, the main point outstanding, according to the Cyprus Presidency’s Progress Report, is the question of the young farmers’ scheme, and whether it will be voluntary or mandatory for Member States. I have stated my preference for a mandatory scheme, but I recognise that a majority of Member States favours a voluntary approach.

On rural development, apart from the question of funding, the main issues in the context of the CAP reform package are the effect of the greening of direct payments on the baseline for rural development payments, the delimitation of areas with natural constraints and the structure of risk management and income stabilisation tools. In addition, the Commission is pressing for greater coherence between the different EU funds and to ensure that all objectives are consistent with EU 2020 strategy priorities, which raises administrative difficulties for Member States. Some of these issues will again prove difficult to resolve, but I hope to make rapid progress over the coming weeks.

As regards the common organisation of the market, I agree that adequate funding is an important prerequisite for the effective functioning of the various elements of the safety net mechanism. Particularly difficult issues in this dossier will be control measures in the form of sugar quotas and vine planting rights. Member States are divided on the question of whether sugar quotas should be abolished or extended, although the European Parliament generally favours extension. On vine planting rights, the report of the High Level Group will inform the next phase of the discussions, but again the question will be whether to extend the regime or allow the planned expiry in 2015 to proceed. Compensation for reduced milk supply, as proposed by the European Parliament, will also be a difficult issue as it too touches on the organisation of the market, on which there are contrasting views. On producer organisations, some progress has been achieved, with the Special Agriculture Committee last week reaching agreement on the issue of recognition. On exceptional measures and the crisis reserve, the key requirement is that funding is available to deal with whatever emergency situations might arise.

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

 149. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the stance being adopted by him in relation to greening in the common agricultural policy negotiations; if he supports the EU Commission's position that greening payments should be paid at a flat rate rather than on a farm by farm calculation; if he is still pursuing his variable greening proposal, the implications of this proposal on farmers in designated areas with strict stocking limits; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6980/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I support the idea of encouraging sustainable forms of agriculture, which is at the heart of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy, and I can support the Commission in its desire to further enhance the green credentials of direct payments. However, my view is that it preferable to do so in a way that avoids adding excessive bureaucracy.

I have concerns that the proposed structure of the greening payment, i.e. a flattening of 30% of the direct payment, would hasten the movement towards uniform national or regional payment rates. I want to see the 30% greening component calculated as a percentage of each individual farmer’s payment as opposed to a flat 30% of the national average payment.

As to the greening criteria proposed, Ireland’s preferred option was to enhance current cross compliance and GAEC (Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition) provisions by adding (adjusted) greening measures, but I now accept that this will not deliver the visibility sought by the Commission for its greening initiative. Nevertheless, I believe there are some practical difficulties that need to be resolved in terms of thresholds and percentages and that the three greening criteria proposed by the Commission need to undergo some adjustment.

Notwithstanding Ireland’s national position, my task, over the coming period, will be to find common ground on these issues, first within the Council and then between the three EU institutions. To that end and in consultation with partners, I will be devising a series of compromises that I believe will be acceptable to the majority of Member States with a view to reaching agreement on this complex dossier.

Agriculture Schemes Expenditure

 150. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the total allocation for the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme; the expenditure to date; if he intends making changes to the scheme to increase uptake of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6986/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The following table sets out the indicative amounts allocated to each targeted agricultural modernisation scheme (TAMS) under the Rural Development Programme, 2007-2013 (RDP), the funding committed to date and the actual expenditure in respect of each Scheme up to end-2012:

Scheme RDP

Allocation
Amounts committed/grant approvals Expenditure up

to end-2012
- (€m) (€m) (€m)
Bio-Energy 20 1.37 0.63
Dairy Equipment 45 34.1 3.95
Poultry Welfare 16 11.9 10.87
Rainwater Harvesting 8 0.3 0.01
Sheep Fencing 8 3.0 0.23
Sow Welfare 13 13.6 0.59
Total 110 63.64 16.28


  Due to the high level of demand by farmers for grant-aid under the Dairy Equipment Scheme, I have already increased the allocation for that Scheme from €45 million to €49 million by the transfer of €4 million from the Rainwater Harvesting Scheme. As TAMS applicants generally have two years from the date of issue of Department approval to complete the investment works concerned, actual expenditure lags very significantly behind the financial commitments made by my Department under each Scheme at any particular time.   

  I am, of course, conscious of the important role played by the TAMS in ensuring that on-farm investment takes place in a number of specific sectors such as animal welfare, dairy equipment and sheep handling.   My Department keeps the application levels, expenditure trends and Scheme provisions under constant review in order to ensure that the maximum benefit will be obtained from this part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme. In 2012, this included a major revision of the Sow Welfare Scheme in order to increase the attractiveness of that Scheme for those pig farmers who still need to carry out work on their farms to meet the standards of the new EU animal welfare provisions which came into force at the beginning of this year.

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

 151. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the progress made to date with the Common Agriculture Policy negotiations 2014-2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6971/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney There has been good progress to date in regard to the Common Agricultural Policy reform negotiations. The proposals, comprising four main legal texts and which were launched by the EU Commission in late 2011, are the subject of full co-decision between the three EU institutions – Commission, Council of Ministers and European Parliament.

In the Council, the Polish, Danish and Cyprus Presidencies made substantial progress in clearing a broad range of technical issues. The end of Presidency report produced by Cyprus concluded that there were some thirty or so issues outstanding on which agreement has yet to be reached.

In parallel to the Council, the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament conducted an examination of the dossiers. This committee finalised its position at the end of January and that will now go to the plenary session of the European Parliament next month for its approval.

A number of CAP reform issues, related primarily but not exclusively to funding, have been brought within the ambit of the parallel negotiations on the next EU multiannual financial framework. The successful conclusion of the MFF negotiations last week clears these issues from the Council agenda, although the MFF agreement must yet be approved by the European Parliament.

The single biggest priority of the Irish presidency on the agriculture side is to bring the CAP reform negotiations to a successful conclusion. My aim is to finalise the Council position and negotiating mandate by the end of March, leading to inter-institutional trilogues, with the aim of overall political agreement by the end of June.

I am not in any way underestimating the task ahead. I am fully aware that these are ambitious targets, and that it will require intense work and major compromises on all sides. By their nature, the thirty or so issues that remain to be decided are those that have proved most difficult in the negotiations to date. Much work remains to be done, but I am fully committed to finalising our position at an early date.

Agriculture Schemes Eligibility

 152. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he considers the draft guidelines for the sustainability dairy quality assurance scheme as being too onerous and bureaucratic; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6977/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In December 2011, I announced my intention to begin consultations with the industry in relation to the introduction of a quality and sustainability programme for the dairy sector. This announcement was made against the background of ambitious plans under the Food Harvest 2020 Report to increase dairy production by 50% in the period to 2020, and the realisation that such additional production would need to find a home on international markets.

Environmental sustainability is an increasingly important issue in the market place for multi-national dairy and food operators, many of which now have sustainability as a core part of their corporate strategies. Ireland is well placed to develop a national brand image based on its mild maritime climate, plentiful supplies of water, grass based production, and an already positive green image.

Last year Bord Bia launched its “Origin Green” programme which establishes a framework within which Irish food companies can have their green credentials independently measured, and this will be a critically important element in the development of the Irish food sector in the coming years and its promotion on international markets. Indeed it has become clear during my trade missions to China and the US in 2012 that the sustainability message has a strong resonance both with potential customers for Irish food products and with potential investors in the Irish agri food sector. The key is to build independently verifiable metrics, which can be used in the marketplace, around Ireland’s already positive green image. Developing an independently accredited sustainability and quality programme for the dairy sector is an important part of that overall strategy. There is also a strong correlation between the measures needed to improve environmental sustainability, and those needed to reduce the costs of production at farm level and improve profitability.

In that context, and following extensive consultations with stakeholders in the first half of 2012, I announced last June that Bord Bia would begin detailed work on the development of a national sustainability programme for the dairy sector, which will be used as a key element in marketing and promotional efforts on international markets. Stakeholders are currently engaged in detailed technical discussions on the development of the programme, under the aegis of a technical advisory group convened by Bord Bia to progress the issue. It is essential, of course, that the technical elements of such a programme strike the correct balance and are both practical to implement and meaningful in content. I am confident that this programme, which will in any event be finalised in full consultation with stakeholders, including farm bodies, will strike an appropriate balance, and that it will facilitate the expansion and development of the Irish dairy sector.

Commonage Division

 153. 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 the progress made to date on proposals in relation to commonages; if he will confirm that no decision will be made in relation to this matter until it has been examined by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6988/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Commonage Framework Plans, first published in 2002, have been reviewed to take account of the current vegetative condition of commonages nationally. This review, which will replace the Commonage Framework Plans, has been carried out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in co-operation with my Department. The review was carried out on a commonage LPIS parcel basis and sets a minimum and maximum number of ewe equivalents (EE) required to graze the commonage parcel to ensure that it is maintained in Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC).

Account will be taken of the traditional grazing of some commonages by cattle and other animals such as Kerry Bog Ponies. My Department, in conjunction with the other interested state agencies including NPWS, is currently considering an implementation plan to take account of the changed stocking levels. My Department is trying to reconcile the conditions on the commonages with the EU requirements of GAEC. I can confirm that I intend to continue to work with the farmers, farm organisations and other stakeholders to design a practical solution to reflect the current realities of the commonages and the need to have appropriate management grazing plans in place.

Food Safety Authority Inspections

 154. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney in view of the recent instances of horse meat found in Irish burgers, his views on whether greater scrutiny of the food processing industry is needed in view of the fact that traceability seems to be adequate up until the point that the animal is slaughtered; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6941/13]

 159. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney in the interests of traceability and accuracy of description and origin of all food, food product and/or food ingredient labelling, if he will ensure the authenticity of the description of all such products imported into this jurisdiction or slaughtered and/or processed within the jurisdiction reflect their origin, with a view to giving an absolute guarantee as to the veracity of any such descriptions now and in the future thereby ensuring the integrity and credibility of all food and food products available here through processors, wholesalers, imported or otherwise sourced; if he will ensure that those responsible for breaches of the existing code are dealt with in such a manner as to discourage and prohibit such breaches in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6917/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 159 together.

  Under EU law primary responsibility for the safety and traceability of food placed on the market place lies with food business operators. The role of my Department is to verify compliance by the food business operators with this requirement. This is done by a combination of inspection of establishments and by audit on the food safety management systems which operators are required to have in place. These controls are applied at different stages in the food supply chain. It is important to point out that the key controls carried out by my Department, under its contract with the FSAI, relate to food safety.

  EU law provides for the free movement of goods between Member States. On that basis, meat and meat products produced in an establishment which is approved under the relevant EU regulation can be moved freely within the EU. As is the case with compliance with EU food safety regulations, responsibility for compliance with traceability requirements rests in the first instance with food business operators. Food business operators in Ireland are responsible for carrying out checks to ensure that their ingredients come from EU approved plants. They must also have a system in place to identify the source of inputs and destination of outputs (referred to as one “step forward and one step back”).

  My Department has a permanent veterinary presence at all its approved slaughter plants. Controls at stand alone secondary processing plants are carried out at a frequency which is based on an annual risk assessment for each plant. Checks are also conducted at retail level by the HSE, working under the aegis of the FSAI which has an overarching supervisory role in relation to labelling matters.

  An annual audit of imported products is carried out in each Department approved meat plant. The audit includes physical identity, labelling and documentary checks. This includes product originating both in EU Member States and third countries. In addition, labelling and documentary checks form part of the routine checks conducted by Department officials.

  Under the Department’s National Residue Programme, and including tests on bovine samples carried out by processors, up to 30,000 samples taken at farm and factory level and covering a wide range of food stuffs are tested annually. These tests relate to microbiological and chemical standards, their primary focus being on food safety. These are fully in accordance with EU testing requirements.

  In addition the Product Official Sampling and Testing (POST) programme is a microbiological testing programme on samples taken from Department approved ready-to-eat food, meat product, minced meat and meat preparation plants i.e. added value plants. This is part of the official verification of food safety controls in the plants concerned as provided for in Regulations (EC) 852/2004, 854/2004 and 2073/2005. A total of 1,600 samples are taken annually and the sampling and testing is risk based.

  The focus of the Department and FSAI efforts in relation to current investigations has been on identifying the source of equine DNA in beef burgers, and ensuring that the corrective action necessary to prevent a recurrence is taken. DNA testing is not required under EU legislation and is not generally in use in relation to food production. It has however been deployed in recent times as part of the FSAI’s checks on food authenticity and food fraud control programmes. In that respect it is another new layer to our food production controls.

  In the light of recent developments I have decided to request Irish manufacturers of processed meat products to carry out DNA testing and to work with the FSAI in developing testing protocols. I consider this a necessary step in order to provide further reassurance to Irish consumers and consumers of Irish food abroad about the authenticity of ingredients in our meat based products. Having regard to the close trading relationship between the Irish and UK food industries it is intended that the FSAI and the UK Food Standards Agency will work closely together and jointly agree an approach in this matter.   

  It is worth noting that it was because of the vigilance of our testing and control regime in Ireland that what is now a pan European problem, involving a range of meat products and traders/food business operators, was exposed. In that context I am raising the issue at EU level to consider the wider implications and whatever steps may be necessary at that level to comprehensively address this matter. That does not lessen the determination of my Department and FSAI to continue to work with the Gardai to bring the enquiries here to a conclusion. I will continue to take whatever actions are necessary to ensure this issue is addressed in a comprehensive and effective manner.

Sale of State Assets

 155. Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the measures being taken to ensure the continued open access for recreation to land owned by Coillte in the context of the sale of parts of Coillte to private interests; if he plans to write into any sale agreement that there must be access to Coillte owned land for recreational users after the sale takes place, that car parks must be kept open, and that any damage to paths by machinery is repaired; and his view on the importance of land access to Coillte lands for recreational users [5407/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney With reference to the Government decision, in the context of the asset disposal programme, that a concession for the harvesting rights to Coillte’s forests be put forward for sale, substantial work has been undertaken to date on the identification of the forestry assets involved, the determination of their value and the consideration of a number of issues associated with the proposed sale of the harvesting rights. Public access to recreational land is one of the issues so identified which requires detailed consideration. The outcome of the overall analysis will be considered by the Government upon its conclusion and no decision has been taken, as yet. I wish to assure the Deputy that any sale will take account of public access to recreational land.

Horse Slaughtering Data

 156. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of horses killed at licensed slaughter houses in each of the last five years; the number of those passed fit each year to enter the human food chain; the number passed fit for processing into pet food; the number destroyed; the methods by which the carcases were destroyed; the supervision of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6969/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The number of horses slaughtered in plants approved by my Department under EU and national food safety regulation in each of the years since 2008 was as follows:

  2008 – 2,002;

  2009 – 3,220;

  2010 – 7,296;

  2011 – 12,575;

  2012 – 11,402.

  I understand from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland that the following numbers of horses were slaughtered in local authority approved slaughter plants:

  2008 – Nil;

  2009 – 1,027;

  2010 – 2,494;

  2011 – 4,985;

  2012 – 12,960.

  All animals that arrive at an approved slaughter plant are subject to both ante mortem and post mortem inspections, conducted by veterinarians. Animals that fail ante mortem inspection are not allowed to leave the plant. They are euthanized and their carcases sent for disposal. The carcases of animals that fail post mortem inspection are also sent for disposal. Disposal is normally by means of rendering at a Department approved rendering plant. My Department does not collate figures on horses that fail ante or post mortem inspection but I understand that the numbers are low.

  The manufacture of pet food in Ireland is governed by EU regulations relating to animal by-products (ABPs), which provide that this product must be processed in a plant approved by the competent authority and to the parameters specified in the legislation. The regulations permit the manufacture of pet food from specified ABPs, including ABPs which are fit for human consumption but are not intended for human consumption for commercial or other reasons. I understand that none of the pet food manufacturers approved by my Department under the EU regulations uses horsemeat as an ingredient in the manufacture of pet food.

Afforestation Programme

 157. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of applications received in 2011 and 2012 for grants and premiums to plant land with forestry; the number rejected; the broad reasons for these rejections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6991/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In 2011 a total of 1,603 applications were received for approval to plant land with forestry under the afforestation grant and premium schemes of which 151 were rejected. The corresponding figures for 2012 were 2,150 applications received and 118 rejected. The main reasons for rejection included unsuitable soil type, implications for water quality, adverse impact on the landscape, exposed nature of site, proximity to archaeological sites and various issues relating to the silvicultural suitability of the site proposed for planting.

Fish Quotas

 158. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the allocation of bass quota in Irish waters. [6914/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney As the Deputy will be aware, I outlined the current and historical position in relation to this issue (in some detail) in the recent related PQ Ref No: 4436/13 dated 29 January 2013.    

  As stated in that response, the EU Commission has not yet advised if it intends to pursue a TAC and quota regime for seabass for 2014.   In that context, I will continue to press Ireland’s case at EU Fisheries Council meetings where the topic is discussed and will consider management arrangements for seabass when and if Council decides on TACs and quotas for the relevant stocks.

  Question No. 159 answered with Question No. 154.

Aquaculture Development

 160. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will give any indication as to when the appropriate assessment will commence on Bannow Bay and Waterford Estuary in view of the fact that the application was first made in 2010 and is now delaying job creation in the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6940/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The bays referred to by the Deputy are designated as Special Areas of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive and/or Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 sites).

In the case of aquaculture sites located within Natura 2000 areas my Department, in conjunction with the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service 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 these areas. This process is ongoing and significant progress has been made. Once the relevant data has been collected, conservation objectives for the site have to be established by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and an appropriate assessment has to be carried out by the Marine Institute. The licensing process must take full account of the outcome of that assessment is reaching a determination on any particular licence application.

Conservation Objectives have been set by NPWS in relation to both bays and the next step in the process is the carrying out of an Appropriate Assessment by the Marine Institute. This is being progressed taking account of the need to facilitate the use of scientific and other resources on a flexible basis across the full range of bays.

The sustainable development of the industry and the creation of long term employment from aquaculture into the future can only take place if there is full compliance with the range of EU Directives which impact on this area and national legislation on environmental protection.

I am cognisant of the great potential for all types of aquaculture around our coast as set out in ‘Food Harvest 2020 – A Vision for Irish Agri-food and Fisheries’ and the steps outlined above, together with the work being done by BIM and the Marine Institute, will result in the sustainable development of this important industry.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme Application Numbers

 161. Deputy Michael P. Kitt Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of farmers currently in rural environment protection scheme 4 and agri-environment option scheme 1 and agri-environment option scheme 2; the number that have received their 2012 payments to date; the reason for the delay in paying farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6984/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The table below displays the number of active participants in both the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) 4 and Agri-Environment Options Schemes (AEOS) 1 and 2 and the numbers in each scheme that have received payment for the 2012 scheme year.

Scheme Number of applicants

in Scheme
Number of Applicants

paid 2012 Payment
REPS 4 30,284 26,145
AEOS I 7,500 6,235
AEOS II 6,266 2,069


  Under the EU Regulations governing the scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check of all applications, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue.

  Successive EU audits have made it absolutely clear that compliance with the Regulations must be strictly adhered to and that all administrative checks must be passed and eligibility conditions met before payment issues. As a result, my Department is obliged to ensure that individual payments will not issue until all aspects of a farmer’s application are in order, all outstanding documentation provided and all queries resolved.

  Outstanding 2012 payments under both REPS and AEOS are largely due to unresolved queries associated with applications and in most instances officials in my Department will have contacted the applicants concerned with the intention of issuing payment as soon as possible. There is a specific issue delaying payments under AEOS 2 related to non productive capital investments. In order to facilitate the 2012 payment applicants must have submitted a valid claim form if they have selected a non-productive capital investment action. However a significant number of applicants have either not submitted a claim form or have outstanding queries associated with submitted forms. Officials in my Department have been in contact with all these farmers and are dealing with the responses received with the intention of clearing any backlog as soon as possible.

  I am conscious of the importance of these payments to farmer’s incomes and my Department is making every effort to assist farmers in regularising their applications and claims for payment. Additional resources have been assigned to dealing with all outstanding queries and payments will continue to issue on an ongoing basis as outstanding issues are resolved.

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

 162. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the French proposal under common agriculture policy reform to front load the single payment and the first number of hectares in order to assure adequate payments to small farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6973/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Along with other Ministers, I have been pressing for the flexibility to be given to Member States to design payment models that suit their own farming conditions.

As the Deputy is well aware, the ‘approximation’ approach, by which all payments could gradually move towards, but not fully to, the average, is one alternative that I believe should be considered in this regard. The Commission’s “pragmatic” proposal for redistribution between Member States is, in effect, an approximation approach and provides a useful precedent. Modelling in my Department suggests that the application of this system to the distribution of funds between farmers in Ireland would lead to more acceptable gains and losses to individual farmers than a flat rate system.

I have examined the French proposal and I believe that it is worth including also as an option for Member States.

I would add that, as President of the European Council of Agriculture Ministers, my overriding objective is to negotiate a Council position on the reform package by the end of March, with a view to securing an inter-institutional political agreement with the European Parliament and the Commission by the end of June. In that regard, I will be making proposals on this key issue within the next few weeks. I will be seeking reasonable flexibility for Member States on how these funds are distributed. I want to see payments distributed more fairly between farmers, but I want a sensible level and pace of change that will not disrupt our most active and efficient farmers as they gear up to meet the ambitions of our Food Harvest strategy.

Common Fisheries Policy Negotiations

 163. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has met any of the farming organisations recently in relation to common agricultural policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [3964/13]

 172. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his plans to meet the farming organisations in relation to the future common agriculture policy negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [2315/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 172 together.

I have regular meetings with the farming organisations in relation to the common agricultural policy negotiations and these meetings are supplemented by frequent meetings at official level. In addition, the Consultative Committee on CAP reform, established by my predecessor, was set up for the specific purpose of obtaining the views of all stakeholders, farming organisations included, on the reform proposals. This committee comprises all the major farming and agriculture related representative organisations involved in Social Partnership as well as a number of academics. It meets at regular intervals, most recently in November of last year.

Forestry Sector

 164. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the position in relation to the Coillte review that was a separate component of the forestry review, being conducted by his Department in 2010, in relation to informing and drafting the new forestry Bill.  [6911/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I wish to advise that the purpose of the proposed Forestry Bill is to reform and update the legislative framework relating to forestry in order to support the development of a modern forestry sector, which enshrines the principles of sustainable forest management (SFM) and protection of the environment and is not intended to deal specifically with Coillte. The current legislative framework regulating forestry activities is as provided in the Forestry Act 1946 as amended. The current legislation specifically governing Coillte is the Forestry Act, 1988 as amended.

The review of Coillte, to which the Deputy refers, was undertaken on foot of a commitment in the previous Government’s Renewed Programme for Government. While significant work was undertaken by an interdepartmental group dealing exclusively with the role, functions and operations of Coillte, the deliberations were superseded by the Government Decisions in 2012 in relation to the sale of state assets which encompasses Coillte.

Special Areas of Conservation Designation

 165. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney in view of the possible designation of the area from Rockabill to Dalkey Island as a special area of conservation by the Department Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, if he will ensure the protection of fishing jobs in the area; and if he will give assurance to the local fishermen that they will receive letters of comfort with regards to their jobs and livelihoods in the event of the designation being successful. [6953/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department was informed in December 2012 about the proposed designation of six additional areas as Special Areas of Conservation, in accordance with the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. 477 of 2011). The Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht published details of the proposed designations in the national press. As candidate special areas of conservation, these sites now enjoy all of the protections set out in S.I. 477 of 2011.

As a ‘public authority’ under S.I. 477 of 2011, I am required to comply with a number of obligations set out in Regulation 27 of that S.I. In summary, these obligations mean that I must ensure that fishing activities and aquaculture operations do not give rise to significant deterioration of habitats or disturbance of species, designated for protection in these sites. Activities licensed by my Department must be subjected to screening for appropriate assessment and/or appropriate assessment before I may consent to such activities.

Since the announcement of the proposed designations, my Department has been working with the Marine Institute and Bord Iascaigh Mhara to identify fishing activities and aquaculture operations within the six sites, their interaction with designated features and potential impacts. This work is continuing and my Department will be in discussions with the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht to discuss these matters. I will be doing all within my power to ensure the continuance of fishing and aquaculture within these sites, while ensuring the protection of designated habitats and species, in compliance with my obligations in law under S.I. 477 of 2011.

Regulation 13 of S.I. 477 of 2011, and Annex III Stage 1 of the EU Habitats Directive, specify the circumstances in which a person affected by these proposed designations may object to the designation and the criteria on which any objection must be founded. I understand a deadline of 5 March 2013 has been set for the receipt of such objections by the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Common Fisheries Policy Reform

 166. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his view on the effect that the decoupling process within common agricultural policy reform has had upon the scale and intensity of Irish farms and farming; if the trends towards larger, more intensive farming practice partially brought about as a result of the decoupling process has had an effect upon the State's overall ability to tackle the emission of climate-forcing agents from intensive farming as part of a wider programme of emissions reduction; the impact into the future that the full decoupling process is expected to have; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6912/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Ireland moved to fully decoupled payments in 2005. In the period since then, there have been no radical changes to the structure, scale and intensity of Irish farming enterprises. According to the 2010 CSO Census in Agriculture, the number of farm holdings has decreased by 2,000 from 141,527 in 2000 to 139,860 in 2010 and average farm size has been relatively stable with a slight increase from 31.4 ha to 32.7 ha over the same period. In addition there has been a decline in cattle and sheep numbers over the period.

On the emissions side, there is evidence to show that emissions from agriculture have been in steady decline since 1998 with total sectoral emissions in 2010 some 8.3% lower than 1990 reference levels. In terms of future emissions, a recent Teagasc study on the Marginal Abatement Cost Curve for Irish Agriculture finds that, under Food Harvest 2020, and with the adoption of the cost beneficial measures alone, there would be virtually no change in emissions from the 2010 level, (4.5% below 2005 - EU Effort Sharing reference year).

Horse Racing Industry Funding

 167. Deputy Seamus Kirk Information on Seamus Kirk Zoom on Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the amount of funding allocated by his Department in each of the last two years to each of the following, Horse Sport Ireland, Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon; the relative contribution of each of these sectors to the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6967/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Government support for the horse and greyhound racing industries is provided under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, established under Section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001. In accordance with the Act, 80% and 20% of the monies paid into the Fund each year are distributed between Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon, respectively. The horse and greyhound racing industries generate very substantial economic activity and make a vital contribution to the rural economy including farm incomes. These industries attract significant inward investment into the country.

The amounts paid from the Fund in 2011 and 2012 were as follows:

Name 2012 2011
Bord na gCon €11,258,000 €11,460,000
Horse Racing Ireland €45,032,000 €45,830,000


  The level of funding provided has reduced by 28% since 2008.

  Bord na gCon

  Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry. The Board has wide powers to regulate all aspects of greyhound racing in the Republic of Ireland.

  The Board of Bord na gCon, comprising of seven members - a Chairman and six ordinary members, is responsible for leading and directing the activities of the organisation.

  Bord na gCon has estimated approximately 10,500 people derive employment, directly and indirectly, from the greyhound industry in Ireland and the industry’s contribution to the economy is estimated to be in excess of €500m.

  Horse Racing Ireland(HRI).

  HRI is a commercial State body, established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001, which dissolved the Irish Horseracing Authority and extended the provisions contained in the Irish Horseracing Industry Act 1994. In replacing the Irish Horseracing Authority and incorporating certain administrative functions of the Turf Club (the Racing Regulatory Body) and with a Board representing key sectors of the industry, a more comprehensive national authority for racing in Ireland was created, charged with the overall administration, promotion and development of the industry with a funding mechanism established under statute.

  Horse Racing Ireland and Bord na gCon are required to act in accordance with their statutory obligations, the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies and any other directives issued by Government or by my Department.

  The Irish Thoroughbred Industry

  This industry has a significant economic impact across the country. It is estimated the industry contributes almost €1bn to the Irish economy and underpins approximately 17,350 jobs.

  There are approximately 7,000 thoroughbred breeders in Ireland with 95% owning less than 4 broodmares.

  2012 has been a very eventful year for the thoroughbred industry with Ireland continuing to breed world class horses which turn in great performances at home and abroad.

  The bloodstock market was yet again a star performer for the industry. The total turnover figure for horses sold at public auction in 2012 has shown further gains on last year. The figure for 2012 is €93.5m and this represents an impressive 15.4% increase on the €81m achieved at public auction in 2011.

  International investment in the bloodstock sales figure was greater than ever with 4,837 Irish foaled horses being exported to 34 different countries. Ireland remains the biggest producer of thoroughbred foals in Europe and is fourth in the world. The value of Irish foaled thoroughbred exports sold at public auction in 2012 was €174m. This represents an increase of 11.4% on the 2011 figure (€156m).

  In 2012 I commissioned Indecon Consultants to conduct a “Review of Certain Aspects of the Irish Horse Racing Industry”. Indecon identified that changes are required to underpin a viable and sustainable horse racing sector and to realise the economic potential of the sector. I am currently addressing the recommendations made in that report.

  Horse Sport Ireland

  Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) is a Company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital. It is approved under the relevant EU and National legislation as a studbook keeping authority and has a broad range of functions in the sport horse sector.

  Horse Sport Ireland is in receipt of an annual grant and has received funding under the National Development Plan 2007 – 2013 from my Department to assist its work in promoting and developing the non –thoroughbred horse industry. The following amounts were paid by my Department to Horse Sport Ireland in 2011 and 2012:

Year Annual Grant NDP Total
2011 €1,285,000 €615,728 €1,900,728
2012 €1,220,000 €607,072 €1,827,072


  A recent report, commissioned by Horse Sport Ireland and conducted by UCD, found that the contribution of the Irish Sport Horse industry to the Irish economy is in excess of €708 million per annum.

  HSI is also in receipt of funding from the Irish Sports Council in respect of its mandate as regards equestrian sports.

Sale of State Assets

 168. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the progress made to date with the sale of the Coillte Teo. forest crop; the funds expected to be raised from this sale; his views that this is the correct decision in view of the recent IMPACT report on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6976/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Further to the Government decision that a concession for the harvesting rights to Coillte’s forests be put forward for sale, the National Treasury Management Agency, via its NewERA Unit, has been actively engaged with Coillte, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department to examine the financial and other implications of a potential transaction.

  Substantial work has been undertaken to date on the identification of the forestry assets involved, the determination of their value and the consideration of a number of issues associated with the proposed sale of the harvesting rights. The outcome of the overall analysis will be considered by the Government upon its conclusion.   This whole process is a very complex one and it is not possible at this stage to pre-empt the outcome of the analysis or to give an estimate of the possible net proceeds. As I have said previously, the Government will proceed with caution in relation to this matter and no final decision has been taken, as yet.

NewERA, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department received a copy of the report, “Assessment of the Consequences of the proposed Sale of Coillte’s Timber Harvesting Rights – 10 January 2013  ” by Peter Bacon and Associates, commissioned by IMPACT, at the end of last month at a meeting with the Coillte unions. The report and its findings are currently being analysed as part of the consideration process.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments

 169. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of farmers that were written to in relation to their 2012 disadvantage payments under the stocking density rule; the number that have been refused a derogation to date, including after appeal, broken down between the three payment categories: less favoured areas, severely disadvantaged areas and mountain areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6975/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In total, my Department wrote to in excess of 10,000 beneficiaries under the 2011 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme whose holdings had not achieved the minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare, as required under the Terms and Conditions of the 2012 Scheme.

In response, my Department received 9,635 applications from farmers seeking a derogation from this requirement. These applications have been fully processed and 7,086 applications were successful.

Those, whose applications were rejected, were informed of their entitlement to appeal their cases to the independently chaired DAS Appeals Committee. Appeals were received from 1,459 applicants, of which my Department was in a position to overturn the original decision on 547 cases, without the need to refer to the DAS Appeals Committee, on the basis of additional information which had not previously been submitted. Of the 849 appeals submitted to date to the Committee, decisions have been taken in respect of 599 cases, of which 192 were allowed, 351 disallowed and 56 requested to submit additional information. Processing remains ongoing.

The additional detail sought concerning the breakdown between the payment categories is currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy.

Sale of State Assets

 170. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the way he will ensure that amenity areas within our forests are protected following privatisation of our forests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4502/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  With reference to the Government decision, in the context of the asset disposal programme, that a concession for the harvesting rights to Coillte’s forests be put forward for sale, substantial work has been undertaken to date on the identification of the forestry assets involved, the determination of their value and the consideration of a number of issues associated with the proposed sale of the harvesting rights. Public access to recreational land is one of the issues so identified which requires detailed consideration. The outcome of the overall analysis will be considered by the Government upon its conclusion and no decision has been taken, as yet. I wish to assure the Deputy that any sale will take account of public access to recreational land and associated amenity areas.


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