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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1152-1170
 Header Item Coillte Pension Scheme
 Header Item Forestry Premium Payments
 Header Item Agri-Environment Options Scheme Applications
 Header Item Single Payment Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Forestry Sector
 Header Item Foreshore Licences
 Header Item Harbours and Piers Development
 Header Item Harbours and Piers Development
 Header Item Rural Development Programme Funding
 Header Item Beef Industry Irregularities
 Header Item Agriculture Schemes Penalties
 Header Item Horticulture Sector Issues
 Header Item Harbours and Piers Funding
 Header Item Commonage Framework Plans
 Header Item Animal Identification Schemes
 Header Item International Agreements
 Header Item Commonage Division
 Header Item Fodder Crisis
 Header Item Commonage Framework Plans

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 813 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 144 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 1152-1170

Coillte Pension Scheme

 1152. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the deficit in the Coillte pension scheme; if he understands this scheme to be a defined contribution scheme or the defined benefits scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37442/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Coillte Teoranta was established as a private commercial company under the Forestry Act, 1988. The types of pension schemes currently operated by Coillte and their respective deficits/surpluses are as stated in the Company’s Annual Report 2012, copies of which were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas at the end of July 2013. As the defined benefit Coillte Teoranta No. 1 Fund Superannuation Scheme is currently the subject of legal action, it is not appropriate for me to comment further on this matter at this stage.

Forestry Premium Payments

 1153. 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 when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of the remainder of their forestry grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36821/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The applicant in question has two forestry contracts. The second instalment of the establishment grants for these two forestry plantations have not been paid due to outstanding remedial works.

In July 2011 the applicant was notified of the works needed to bring the first site up to standard. In July 2012 she was notified that works were also required on the other plantation. The first plantation was subsequently reported by the applicant as being up to standard but failed again when inspected in March 2013.

The remedial works for both these sites must be completed and the plantations must be passed by the Forest Service inspector before the second instalment of the establishment grants can be paid. No further premiums will be paid either until the plantations are brought up to standard. The onus is on the applicant to manage her forestry plantations and, thus, she should contact her forester regarding the progress of these works as soon as possible.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Applications

 1154. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the position regarding an agri-environment option scheme 3 in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36852/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney An application under the Agri-Environment Options Scheme from the person named was received in my Department on 4 December 2012.

The process of ranking and selecting all AEOS applicants was clearly set out in the scheme documentation. Acceptance into the scheme was established using the pre-determined selection criteria as follows:

- farmers in the Boora region of Co. Offaly who chose Wild Bird Cover Option B (Grey Partridge) as one of their selected options,

- farmers with a minimum of 0.5 hectares of designated land,

- farm partnerships,

- farmers who previously participated in REPS commencing with smallest farms. and

- others based on farm size (again favouring smaller holdings).

Based on the funding available farmers in category 4 with 22.06 hectares of utilisable agricultural area and below were successful. Category 4 farmers with areas greater than this and all farmers in category 5 were unsuccessful. The person named comes under category 5 as he had not previously participated in REPS. On this basis a letter issued to the person named on 27 May informing him that he was not successful and setting out the reasons. The person was also informed of right of appeal to AEOS Section. An appeal was received from the person named and he has been advised that his appeal was unsuccessful. He has been informed of the right to appeal this decision to the Agriculture Appeals Office.

Single Payment Scheme Eligibility

 1155. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will discuss the changes to the eligible area regarding the single farm payment and disadvantaged area scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36881/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The CAP agreement reached on 26 June provides a number of options for Member States in terms of how they can tailor the new measures to suit their specific needs. In this context my Department issued a consultative paper towards the end of July and a process of consultation is currently underway with stakeholders following which I will take decisions that will determine how the measures are to be applied in Ireland.

One of the issues to be determined is a provision in the draft Regulation relating to the definition of permanent grassland and pasture. Permanent grassland and permanent pasture (referred to as ‘permanent grassland’) is defined as land used to grow grasses or other herbaceous forage naturally (self-seeded) or through cultivation (sown) and that has not been included in the crop rotation of the holding for five years or longer. There is an option for Member States to include land where ‘grasses and other herbaceous forage’ are not predominant but which is grazed as part of established local practice. Where Member States decide to include such land as permanent grassland, they may apply a reduction coefficient to such land whereby the number of hectares declared converts into a reduced number of ‘eligible hectares’.

A further derogation allows for the application of a reduction coefficient to be applied to permanent grassland which is located in areas of natural constraints due to climatic conditions, poor soil quality, steepness and water supply. If such a reduction coefficient is applied under either derogation, greening requirements must be respected on all declared hectares not just on the reduced number of eligible hectares.

The question of whether Ireland should avail of a co-efficient on such land has been included in the consultative paper.

Forestry Sector

 1156. 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 decision has been made on a forestry application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36889/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The application by the person named was approved subject to conditions on 18 June 2013. Both he and his registered forester were notified of the decision on the same date.

Foreshore Licences

 1157. 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 provide the most definitive/current list available of all foreshore leases/licences in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36890/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Following the enactment of the Foreshore and Dumping at Sea (Amendment) Act 2009 and the Foreshore (Amendment) Act 2011, responsibility for certain foreshore licensing functions was transferred to the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government.

My Department has retained responsibility for foreshore licensing functions in respect of designated harbour centres, activities wholly or primarily for the use, development or support of aquaculture, and activities which are wholly or primarily for the use, development, or support of sea-fishing. All other foreshore licensing functions are now the responsibility of the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government.

The current list of foreshore leases/licences coming under the jurisdiction of my Department is indicated in the table below:

AreaDateName
COOMATLOUKANE01/09/1946IRISH WEST SHELLFISH LTD., THE LOBSTER PONDS, BUNAVALLA, CAHERDANIEL, CO. KERRY
DINGLE HARBOUR20/09/1974Kerry County Council, Corporate Services, County Hall, Tralee, Co. Kerry
DINGLE01/10/1978Kerry County Council, Corporate Services, County Hall, Tralee, Co. Kerry
SEAWATER INTAKE PIPE, ROUGH POINT, KILSHANNIG, MAHAREES, CO. KERRY16/05/1999BRANDON BAY SEAFOODS LTD, THE PONDS, KILSHANNIG, CO. KERRY
DINGLE - OUTFALL PIPE01/10/1994Kerry County Council, Corporate Services, County Hall, Tralee, Co. Kerry
Laying, using & maintaining an effluent outfall pipe - Dingle01/10/1994Kerry County Council
DINGLE01/05/1948Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Crofton Road, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
MARINA DEVELOPMENT, WESTERN BREAKWATER, DINGLE, CO. KERRY01/12/1997DINGLE HARBOUR COMMISSIONERS, STRAND STREET, DINGLE, CO. KERRY
COONCLOUGH, DINGLE BAY01/08/1941Kerry County Council, Corporate Services, County Hall, Tralee, Co. Kerry
In addition, all marine aquaculture operations require both an aquaculture and foreshore licence.

The marine finfish foreshore licences relating to aquaculture in County Kerry are as follows:
AreaLicenceName
* Inishfarnard

Kenmare Bay

Co Kerry
Licence AQ 198/Salmon.Marine Harvest Ireland

Rinmore

Letterkenny

Co Donegal
Kilmakilloge Harbour

Kenmare Bay

Co Kerry
Licence AQ 303/SalmonSt Killian’s Harvest Ltd

Bradán

Gortalinny

Kenmare

Co Kerry
Doon Point

Kenmare Bay

Co Kerry
Licence AQ 425/SalmonMurphy’s Irish Seafood Ltd

Gerahies

Co Cork
* Deenish

Kenmare Bay

Co Kerry
Licence AQ 199/SalmonMarine Harvest Ireland

Rinmore

Letterkenny

Co Donegal
* These licences have expired but continued aquaculture operations are covered by section 19(A) 4 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997. This allows aquaculturists who have submitted valid renewal applications to continue aquaculture activities, subject to the terms and conditions of the old licence, pending a decision on the renewal application.

Equivalent information in respect of shellfish licences is not readily available. A list is currently being prepared and will be forwarded to the Deputy within two weeks.

Harbours and Piers Development

 1158. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will list, in order of priority, the projects Sligo County Council submitted for consideration for funding under the 2013 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme; the projects that did not comply with his Department’s criteria; the projects that were approved for funding under the 2013 programme including the level of grant aid approved; the amount of matching funding Sligo County Council will have to provide to avail of the grant aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36963/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney On 18 December, 2012 this Department invited all coastal Local Authorities to submit in order of priority a list of projects for consideration for funding under the 2013 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. Sligo County Council submitted the following list of projects for consideration under the programme:

LocationProject DescriptionTotal Project Cost requested
Rosses Point HarbourEnhanced Vessel Access and Harbour Repairs€145,000
Sligo HarbourExpanded Leisure Tourism Safe Berthage€27,000
Pullnadivva PierRepairs to Pier and ancillary safety works€85,000
Enniscrone Harbour Improvements – Feasibility Study€85,000
Mullaghmore HarbourBay Study€30,000
Sligo County Council’s application for funding at Pullnadivva Pier was approved under the programme. The funding approved is capped at a maximum of €63,750 or 75% of the total project cost whichever is the lesser.

Harbours and Piers Development

 1159. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the reason Sligo County Council’s application for funding for Mullaghmore Harbour, under the 2013 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme, was unsuccessful; in what respect did the Councils application not meet the qualifying criteria; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a sand bank has built up at the entrance to the harbour creating a hazard for boat users; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36964/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Mullaghmore Harbour is owned by Sligo County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the Local Authority in the first instance.

My Department, however, provides funding for the development and repair of Local Authority owned piers and slipways under the annual Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme subject to available Exchequer funding and overall national priorities.

All coastal Local Authorities were invited to submit, in order of priority, a list of capital projects for consideration under the 2013 programme. My Department received an application from Sligo County Council for funding for a total of 5 projects, of which the Mullaghmore Harbour Bay Study was identified as the fifth project in order of priority.

When assessing projects for inclusion in the programme priority was given to projects were ready for build and had any necessary consents over funding for studies and design works. The application from Sligo County Council was in respect of funding for a Bay Study at Mullaghmore Harbour and was identified by the Local Authority as their lowest priority project.

Any application received from Sligo County Council under the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme in future years will be given due consideration.

Rural Development Programme Funding

 1160. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney with regard to compensation payments under the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 for Ireland (details supplied), the amount of this compensation per year, for the years 2007 to 2013 that has been allocated and paid to date to farmers and landowners with raised bogs. [36994/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney While the REPS scheme is payable to farmers with land in Natura 2000 sites, the scheme does not include compensation for compliance with mandatory requirements within those sites. Therefore this Department does not have information with regard to the designation of raised bogs within Natura sites.

The amount of compensation per year for Natura 2000 sites under the Rural Development programme 2007-2013 is as follows:

YearPayments Made Under Natura under REPS4Natura payments made under AEOS 1 and 2
2007Nil Nil
2008€109,272 Nil
2009€12,910835 Nil
2010€21,350,930 Nil
2011€22,027,414 €503,740
2012€24,844,643 €3,175,565
2013 (to date)€7,092,238 €1,927,192

Beef Industry Irregularities

 1161. 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 views on a British rural commission that has recently condemned the slow pace of the investigations into the horse meat scandal here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37000/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I published a detailed report on the ‘Equine DNA and Mislabelling of Processed Beef Investigation’ on 14 March which provides extensive details on the investigation and the actions taken by my Department. Operations in a total of four plants were suspended (in some cases on a voluntary basis) for varying periods arising from the investigation. Information in relation to activities by traders and other intermediaries in the supply chain outside of the jurisdiction has been passed to Europol and other Member States to facilitate continuing investigations in other countries. Ireland’s investigation team worked closely with colleagues in other Member States, facilitating investigations in those countries, and we remain fully open to assisting any other Member State or entity with regard to ongoing investigations.

My Department is actively considering the possibility of instituting legal proceedings where appropriate, as indicated in the report. It is important to note in that context that while some of the failures referred to in the report risked reputational damage to the Irish food sector, they did not breach EU or national law. It is also worth noting that it was because of the vigilance of Ireland’s testing and control regime that this pan European problem, involving a range of meat products and traders/food business operators, was exposed. Exposure of this malpractice will result in improved consumer protection not just in Ireland, but also in the UK and elsewhere.

Agriculture Schemes Penalties

 1162. 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 reason that over the past number of years inspection penalties suffered by farmers have gone up by 500% and where the increase in penalties have occurred; the causes and the rules and controls that were broken in each category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37007/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In order to ensure the successful delivery of approximately €1.7 billion of EU monies under the Single Payment Scheme, Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and other area based schemes, my Department is required to carry out an annual round of inspections covering both the eligibility of the land declared to draw down payments and also cross compliance aspects. The basis for these checks is clearly laid down in the governing EU Regulations and there are certain minimum numbers and types of inspections that must take place annually. Indeed previous EU audits have made it clear that these rules and regulations must be complied with in order to avoid EU disallowances.

Land eligibility inspections (either on-farm or by remote sensing) must be carried out on at least 5% of applicants. These checks are carried out to verify that the actual area claimed in the application form corresponds to the area farmed by the farmer and to ensure that any ineligible land or features are not included for aid purposes. Currently, around 75% of these inspections are carried out in the first instance without the need for a farm visit, as the information needed is acquired using the technique of remote sensing via satellite.

It is also a regulatory requirement that Cross Compliance inspections must take place throughout the calendar year to take account of specific requirements at individual Statutory Management Requirement level and are required in order to ensure compliance with EU regulatory requirements in the areas of public, animal and plant health, environment and animal welfare.

In response to a number of queries and in order to clarify recent comments regarding a perceived increase in both penalties in percentage terms and in the number of farmers penalised as a result of inspections, my Department is currently in the process of compiling a comprehensive set of statistics on all inspections carried out under the Single Payment and Disadvantaged Area Schemes since 2005. Given the very comprehensive and detailed nature of the information requested across a broad range of schemes, I am arranging for it to be provided directly in an appropriate format to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Horticulture Sector Issues

 1163. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will to bring forward grant aid packages in 2013 for the development of horticulture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37015/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Through the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector, my Department currently provides grant aid for horticultural growers who are making capital investments in specialist plant and equipment.

The main objectives of the scheme are to improve the quality of products, facilitate environmentally friendly practices and promote diversification of on-farm activities in response to market demand. Apart from improving the quality of products, investments under the scheme have also significantly extended the growing season for Irish produce.

Under the 2013 Scheme, €4.4 million was allocated to 175 projects. The grant aid covers all areas of the horticultural industry and will, in 2013, assist towards funding investments of approximately €11 million.

Consideration is being given, as part of the budgetary process and in light of the outcome of the CAP negotiations, to operating a similar Scheme in 2014 but a decision has not yet been taken.

Harbours and Piers Funding

 1164. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will provide in tabular form the amount of capital funding and investment his Department has allocated to harbours and piers in County Wicklow from 2011 to date in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37039/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department provides funding, where exchequer funds allow, for the development and repair of Local Authority owned piers and slipways under the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. In 2011 no application for funding was received from Wicklow County Council.

The following table shows the allocation of funding under the programme for 2012 & 2013:

YearAllocated Funding (75% of Project Cost)
2012€6,000
2013€5,250

Commonage Framework Plans

 1165. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will provide a list of commonages in County Donegal and his views on those properties in view of the report on the review of commonage lands and framework management plans. [37044/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Commonage lands form an important part of the farming enterprises of many farmers, particularly along the West Coast. They also form an important part of the local environment from the point of view of bio-diversity, wildlife, amenities and economic returns e.g. tourism. However, there is a substantial risk of land abandonment as under-grazing becomes more of a problem.

Under-grazing leads to an increase in ineligible land under Direct Aid and Agri-Environment Schemes and leads to risk of financial corrections being imposed by EU Commission. It is vital, therefore, to maintain the commonages in GAEC (Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition), or where there is under-grazing, to return the habitat to GAEC. It is my stated aim that this will be achieved by working with the farmers directly managing the lands, relevant State Agencies, the farming organisations and all other interested stakeholders.

I readily acknowledge that it will not be an easy task, but it is achievable if all stakeholders work in a co-operative basis. If action is not taken now, the areas will continue to deteriorate and will lead to more land abandonment. If this is allowed to happen, Ireland will lose a valuable resource from the point of view of farming, rural economy, bio-diversity and wildlife. While grazing is the only method of managing these lands, the task facing us is how to ensure that these grazing levels are appropriate to the individual commonages.

In order to ensure that the achievement of this objective, as already stated, we need the input of individual shareholders. Grazing plans, at the level of each commonage, will allow for greater flexibility for shareholders and will enable the active farmers to increase their stock to cater for dormant and inactive persons. It will be matter for agreement between the shareholders – as was always the case – to decide how best to reach the stocking levels. Professional assistance will be required, in particular where the commonage has been damaged by under-grazing.

The Grazing Plan will have to cater the traditional farming methods for the area, with provision made for sheep and other animals, such as cattle, providing that they are appropriate to the habitat. An appropriate time-scale will have to be put in place but the Plan should include the incremental steps to achieve GAEC. The whole concept will be output driven, in that the assessment of the Plans will be based on whether the commonage is in GAEC or not or whether the appropriate progress has been achieved.

Apart from ensuring that the Grazing Plan is valid, there are a number of other complications, including:

- Dormant shareholders – in the majority of cases, these persons are no longer farming;

- Current claimants on the commonages, who do not farm or manage the lands. The issue of whether the latter claimants will continue to be eligible for payment will have to be examined.

There are other issues that will need to be considered. These include the fact that many commonage habitats have been significantly damaged by under-grazing, with resulting problems that must be addressed including land abandonment, spread of scrub and invasive species.

The report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture is a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate regarding the issues surrounding commonage lands, the views of the various stakeholders having being sought and considered by the Committee. As I have indicated previously, while it is generally accepted that this is a very complex matter and requires a very detailed action plan to cover the various issues, I intend to set out proposals on how these matters will be progressed in the near future. My firm intention is that the process will be fully inclusive and that all stakeholders, particularly farmers and their representatives will be central to the process. It is only by adopting this approach that the desired result can be achieved.

Animal Identification Schemes

 1166. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he or officials in his Department will consider asking the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to abolish the dog licence fee once the dog microchipping initiative comes into effect; the discussions his Department have held with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government regarding this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37049/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Matters relating to dog licences are a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

The microchipping initiative being undertaken by my Department is a separate policy initiative which is being progressed under the Animal Health and Welfare Act. Under this initiative, it is intended that dogs will be uniquely identified by means of a microchip and details recorded on recognised databases. This will facilitate re-uniting lost dogs with their owners.

It is envisaged that the costs associated with inserting microchips will be kept to a minimum, a process that is being greatly assisted by the initiatives being taken by a number of welfare bodies.

International Agreements

 1167. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if his Department are monitoring the negotiations on securing an agreement between the EU and China on quality food products, organic food equivalency arrangement, fighting counterfeiting, co-operation in the areas of food security, rural development and research amongst others; the implications and opportunities for Ireland as a result of these negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37113/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The EU China Cooperation Plan in Agriculture and Rural Development, which I understand is the one which the Deputy refers to, was reached between Commissioner Ciolos and Minister Han Changfu in June 2012, and sets out the grounds and principles for agriculture cooperation between the EU and China in relation to Rural Development, Agriculture Research and Innovation and Agricultural Quality Policy.

This agreement facilitates mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and China in agriculture and rural development. It is important that we work together to share expertise and to develop cooperation in agriculture research and innovation in particular to address climate change issues that affect agriculture, in addition to water conservation, food security and food safety. The EU has much experience in the areas of rural development, the maintenance of rural populations and the development of food safety systems that can be shared with China. Equally the EU can benefit from the sharing of expertise on the Chinese side in relation to drought resistance and other areas. Indeed my Department hosted the field trip for the combined EU Chinese delegation which took place in December 2012 as part of the annual dialogue that takes place between DG Agri and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.

I welcomed the Framework Agreement during the Agriculture Council meeting on 16 July 2012, as I see great potential in terms of trade and cooperation with China. I had already signed an Action Plan in May 2011 with the Chinese Vice Minister of Agriculture and subsequently had led a trade mission to China in April 2012 which culminated in a series of agreements focused on facilitating trade between Ireland and China in the agri- food, seafood and agri- services sectors and also linkages between our research institutes.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that exports of Irish agri- food and related exports to China have grown in value from €167m in 2010 to €323m in 2012, an increase of 93%, with dairy products increasing from €103m in 2010 to €182m in 2012, an increase of 77%. Pigmeat exports increased from €8m in 2010 to €44m in 2012, and increase of 450% while our seafood exports have also grown from €5.7m in 2010 to €10m in 2012, a 75% increase. Exports of hides and skins are valued at €40m in 2012.

Both the Marine Institute and Teagasc have also developed Memoranda of Understanding with their counterparts in China, focused on developing research between both our countries.

My Department will continue to monitor the implementation of the EU China Framework agreement and opportunities that may arise for Ireland, in addition to the development of trade and cooperation between Ireland and China.

Commonage Division

 1168. 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 views on the EU policies that have resulted in the de-stocking of many hills over the past number of years which has resulted in areas becoming overgrown (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37186/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Commonage lands form an important part of the farming enterprises of many farmers, particularly along the West Coast. They also form an important part of the local environment from the point of view of bio-diversity, wildlife, amenities and economic returns e.g. tourism. However, there is a substantial risk of land abandonment as under-grazing becomes more of a problem.

Under-grazing leads to an increase in ineligible land under Direct Aid and Agri-Environment Schemes and leads to risk of financial corrections being imposed by EU Commission. It is vital, therefore, to maintain the commonages in GAEC (Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition), or where there is under-grazing, to return the habitat to GAEC. It is my stated aim that this will be achieved by working with the farmers directly managing the lands, relevant State Agencies, the farming organisations and all other interested stakeholders.

In terms of support for those farming commonage lands, it should not be lost sight of that support is already provided through a range of Schemes, including the Single Farm Payment Scheme, Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and the Grassland Sheep Scheme, among others, including environmental support measures. The Grassland Sheep Scheme and the related Sheep Technology Adoption Programme are particularly supportive of farmers with commonage lands, albeit that neither is specifically confined to those farming commonage lands only.

The Grassland Sheep Scheme, as originally implemented, was to run for three years: 2010, 2011 and 2012, with an annual budget of €18 million. However, as the Deputy will be aware, I was in a position to secure funding which allows the Scheme continue for a fourth year, notwithstanding continued adverse budgetary conditions, albeit with adjusted funding of €14 million.

I also decided to make funding of €3 million available for a new Sheep Technology Adoption Programme, which concept has already proven very successful in both the dairy and beef sectors, with a maximum payment of €1,000 per participant. It is important that sheep farmers take action to increase and maximise their income from their enterprises. This can be achieved by improving breeding, animal health/welfare and grazing regimes. The dairy sector has demonstrated that the discussion group concept to achieve such improvements. Notwithstanding the financial adjustment made to the overall funding to the Grassland Sheep Scheme, hill sheep farmers, who join a Sheep Discussion Group will find that the aid they will receive in 2013 will increase by almost €590.

Fodder Crisis

 1169. 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 when then the inter-agency fodder committee will meet again to enable farmers can act early to deal with any shortage of fodder that is expected for this winter and subsequent spring; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37243/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The inter-Agency Fodder Committee met on 12 September to discuss the results of the recent fodder survey. The fodder census survey shows that there is an overall average 8% surplus of fodder (silage and hay) across the country. The survey was carried out in the week commencing 1 September by Teagasc and other organisations participating in the inter-Agency Fodder Committee.

The survey noted that with prudent management of existing fodder stocks, along with appropriate supplementation with concentrate feeds, farmers are well positioned to come through this winter. The survey also shows that 72% of farmers said they had a ‘good’ supply of grass going into the autumn grazing period, with a further 28% saying they have ‘normal’ levels of grass available in fields.

Commonage Framework Plans

 1170. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the July 2013 report that was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas entitled Review of Commonage Lands and Framework Management Plans produced by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine; his views on the ten recommendations contained in this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37246/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture is a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate regarding the issues surrounding commonage lands, the views of the various stakeholders having being sought and considered by the Committee. As I have indicated previously, while it is generally accepted that this is a very complex matter and requires a very detailed action plan to cover the various issues, I intend in the near future to set out proposals on how these matters will be progressed. My firm intention is that the process will be fully inclusive and that all stakeholders, particularly farmers and their representatives will be central to the process. It is only by adopting this approach that the desired result can be achieved.

With regard to the specific recommendations of the Committee contained in their Report, I can confirm that these will be included among the range of issues to be addressed in the process that will shortly be commenced by my Department - it very clear that matters to be resolved are very wide ranging and complex; it is self-evident that the process required to adequately address these must be fully inclusive and focused. To this end, I am determined, as indicated, to convene a broad group of all relevant stakeholders, charged with comprehensively addressing the range of issues.

Commonage lands form an important part of the farming enterprises of many farmers, particularly along the West Coast. They also form an important part of the local environment from the point of view of bio-diversity, wildlife, amenities and economic returns e.g. tourism. However, there is a substantial risk of land abandonment as under-grazing becomes more of a problem.

Under-grazing leads to an increase in ineligible land under Direct Aid and Agri-Environment Schemes and leads to risk of financial corrections being imposed by EU Commission. It is vital, therefore, to maintain the commonages in GAEC (Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition), or where there is under-grazing, to return the habitat to GAEC. It is my stated aim that this will be achieved by working with the farmers directly managing the lands, relevant State Agencies, the farming organisations and all other interested stakeholders.


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