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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 429 - 451
 Header Item Agriculture Schemes
 Header Item Food Safety Standards
 Header Item Food Safety Standards
 Header Item Harbours and Piers Funding
 Header Item GLAS Payments
 Header Item Fishing Industry
 Header Item Fishing Industry
 Header Item Live Exports
 Header Item Animal Welfare
 Header Item Aquaculture Licence Appeals
 Header Item Aquaculture Licence Appeals
 Header Item Aquaculture Licence Appeals
 Header Item Aquaculture Licence Appeals
 Header Item TAMS Eligibility
 Header Item EU Issues
 Header Item Agrifood Sector
 Header Item Common Agricultural Policy Reform
 Header Item EU Issues
 Header Item Dairy Sector
 Header Item Animal Welfare
 Header Item Common Fisheries Policy

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 429 - 451

Agriculture Schemes

 429. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when the new €35 million hen harrier scheme will be introduced; the reason it has been further delayed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14813/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed At the outset, I would like to clarify that the available budget of €35 million is not solely targeted towards the conservation of the Hen Harrier, it also covers planned expenditure on the planned new Fresh Water Pearl Mussel scheme as well.  I have explained this previously.

  A request for tender covering both schemes was published on 14 November 2016 with a closing date for submissions of 24   January 2017.   Following evaluation of the submissions for the Hen Harrier Scheme, the Department has selected its preferred bidder, which is made up of experienced agricultural advisors, conservationists and environmental scientists. At the present time, the process is in standstill in accordance with procurement law.  When all elements of the procurement process have been completed, the necessary contracts can be signed and work will then commence on developing the new scheme.

Food Safety Standards

 430. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his plans to call for an EU Council of Ministers meeting with a view to introducing an immediate ban on Brazilian food products being imported into the EU in view of the recent revelation regarding the substandard food products being exported by Brazilian food processors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14815/17]

 431. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the steps he will to take to safeguard persons from inadequate products in view of the recent revelation regarding the substandard food products being exported by Brazilian food processors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14816/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I propose to answer Questions Nos. 430 and 431 together.

 The Brazilian police announced on 17 March that, after a two-year probe, they had discovered evidence that a number of beef and poultry plants allegedly bribed inspectors to overlook improper practices. This facilitated the export of meat unfit for human consumption. 21 Brazilian establishments are concerned. Most of them produce for the domestic market and only 4 of them are approved for meat export to the EU. 

  My Department is closely monitoring this case through our Embassy in Brasilia who are in direct contact with the Brazilian authorities, and through the European Commission. It is the Commission which approves the Third Countries for export of meat into the EU on behalf of MS. The relevant Commissioner with responsibility for this area, Commissioner Andriukaitas is currently in Brazil for discussions with the Brazilian authorities on this issue.

  On 19 March the Brazilian authorities (MAPA) confirmed that they had been informed of the Federal Police Operation on 17 March. Based on information received, they suspended certification from the 4 establishments under investigation that were approved for export to the EU.

  On 20 March the Commission requested full information on all exports to the EU from the 4 establishments since 1 January 2017, and asked the Brazilian authorities to recall any consignments in transit. The Commission also suggested the suspension of certification from all other establishments approved for export to the EU, pending the outcome of a full investigation.

  On 21 March I wrote to Commissioner Andriukaitis, supporting the suggestion to suspend certification from all other establishments approved for export to the EU.

  Food safety is a shared responsibility between national and EU authorities. Food business operators in the EU also carry out their own quality and safety checks in line with their responsibilities to ensure that their products are safe.

  My Department carries out controls on imports at Border Inspection Posts – ( BIPs). The EU imposes strict hygiene and safety controls on food imports, and in particular on animal products for which documentary, identity and physical checks are compulsory for meat products imports. These are implemented here in Ireland by veterinary staff from this Department at the Border Inspection Posts.

  The checks on all Brazilian product are now being intensified in light of current developments, and will include microbiological testing.

Food Safety Standards

 432. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the action being taken to protect European consumers following reports of Brazilian beef exports containing contaminated meat; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14819/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Brazilian police announced on 17 March that, after a two-year probe, they had discovered evidence that a number of beef and poultry plants allegedly bribed inspectors to overlook improper practices. This facilitated the export of meat unfit for human consumption. 21 Brazilian establishments are concerned. Most of them produce for the domestic market; and only 4 of them are approved for meat export to the EU. 

My Department is closely monitoring this case through our Embassy in Brasilia who are in direct contact with the Brazilian authorities, and through the European Commission. It is the Commission which approves the Third Countries for export of meat into the EU on behalf of MS. The relevant Commissioner with responsibility for this area, Commissioner Andriukaitas is currently in Brazil for discussions with the Brazilian authorities on this issue.

On 19 March the Brazilian authorities (MAPA) confirmed that they had been informed of the Federal Police Operation on 17 March. Based on information received, they suspended certification from the 4 establishments under investigation that were approved for export to the EU.

On 20 March the Commission requested full information on all exports to the EU from the 4 establishments since 1 January 2017, and asked the Brazilian authorities to recall any consignments in transit. The Commission also suggested the suspension of certification from all other establishments approved for export to the EU, pending the outcome of a full investigation.

On 21 March I wrote to Commissioner Andriukaitis, supporting the suggestion to suspend certification from all other establishments approved for export to the EU.

Food safety is a shared responsibility between national and EU authorities. Food business operators in the EU also carry out their own quality and safety checks in line with their responsibilities to ensure that their products are safe.

My Department carries out controls on imports at Border Inspection Posts – (BIPs). The EU imposes strict hygiene and safety controls on food imports, and in particular on animal products for which documentary, identity and physical checks are compulsory for meat products imports. These are implemented here in Ireland by veterinary staff from this Department at the Border Inspection Posts.

The checks on all Brazilian product are now being intensified in light of current developments, and will include microbiological testing.

Harbours and Piers Funding

 433. Deputy Lisa Chambers Information on Lisa Chambers Zoom on Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when the funding for the fishery harbour and coastal infrastructure development programme 2017 will be announced; and when funding will be made available to the relevant local authorities. [14827/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed On 5th February, I announced details of the 2017 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Capital Programme. I have approved funding of €28m for the overall Programme, with €2.5m being allocated for the 2017 Local Authority Harbour Development and Marine Leisure programme.

On the 3rd February 2017, Local Authorities were invited to submit prioritised lists of projects for consideration. Detailed applications were then requested from Local Authorities for short-listed projects on 1st March and the closing date for receipt of these applications was 10th March. At present, the finalized suite of projects is under consideration.

GLAS Payments

 434. 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 Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when payment will issue under GLAS 1 to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason for the delay in issuing this payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14899/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The person named was approved into GLAS 1 with a contract commencement date of 1 October 2015 and has received a first payment instalment in respect of the 2015 scheme year.

  During the prepayment checks an issue presented which has now been examined and the application will now go through the 2015 balancing payment prepayment checking process again with a view to issuing payment at the earliest opportunity.

  Following the issue of the balancing payment in respect of the 2015 scheme year, the 2016 scheme year payment will be processed.

Fishing Industry

 435. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when a decision will be made on fishing fleet capacity in view of the fact that the public consultation closed for submissions on 28 February 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14903/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed As Minister I have responsibility for policy in relation to sea-fishing boat licensing under Section 3(3) of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003, as amended by Section 99 of the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006.  In this context, Section 3 of the Act makes provision for Ministerial Policy Directives to issue to the independent Licensing Authority for Sea-fishing Boats.  I am, however, precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to individual cases, or a group of cases, with which the Licensing Authority is or may be concerned under Section 3(5) of the 2003 Act.

I  received proposals from a Producer Organisation (PO) which, in summary, relate to the possibility of reducing the requirement to provide 100% replacement capacity with the relevant track record to 80% (the balance being sourced from capacity without track record).  I undertook a public consultation process on these proposals and made a consultation paper available which set out the background to fleet policy and carried out an analysis of the current situation.  The consultation paper examined the implications of the proposals made by the Producer Organisation and also put forward alternative options.  As the Deputy notes, this consultation ended on 28 February 2017.

26 submissions were received in this regard and they are currently being examined.  I will carefully consider, following any further analysis needed, the case for amendment(s) to current licensing policy taking into account the submissions received.  I will have my conclusions published on the Department's website, as early as possible.

Fishing Industry

 436. Deputy Declan Breathnach Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if any fishing organisations were consulted with regard to the Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14835/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Government approved the publication of the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill to address the issues raised by the Supreme Court judgment of 27 October 2016, and the Bill was published on 13 February 2017.  The Bill is available on the Oireachtas website.

The Supreme Court judgment found that fishing by Northern Ireland vessels within the 0 to 6 nautical mile zone of the territorial waters of the State under the Voisinage arrangements is not currently provided for in domestic law.  The Voisinage arrangements are long-standing reciprocal arrangements which allow fishing boats from Northern Ireland access to fish within the 0 to 6 nautical mile zone of the territorial waters of the State and vice versa. 

It is important to note that the Supreme Court upheld the High Court finding that the Voisinage arrangements are not invalid but that, as it stands, there is insufficient provision in domestic law for them.  The Supreme Court in fact noted that the arrangements were a sensible recognition at official level of practice and tradition, where fishing boats traditionally fished neighbouring waters. 

Voisinage arrangements were in place prior to the London Fisheries Convention 1964 and were continued under the terms of the Convention.  The arrangements are compliant with the Common Fisheries Policy, as Article 5 of EU Regulation 1380/2013 recognises and permits neighbourhood arrangements (such as the Voisinage arrangements) which existed before the Common Fisheries Policy came into force.

While the Bill proposes to restore access to Northern Ireland boats to fish, under the terms of the Voisinage arrangements, this access is subject to the same conditions that apply to Irish sea-fishing boats. The Bill itself does not apply the specific conditions. Therefore, other parallel associated measures will be required to ensure that conditions in place for Irish sea-fishing boats are appropriately applied to Northern Ireland boats fishing under the Voisinage arrangements. The process of identifying which conditions may need to be legislated for is under way. The conditions will include such restrictions as currently apply to Irish sea-fishing boats. When the necessary measures have been identified, the most appropriate mechanisms for applying them to Northern Ireland boats will be determined. The objective will be for these measures to come into effect at the same time as commencement order for the Bill. Together, the Bill and the associated measures will re-establish the status quo for fishing access that existed under the Voisinage arrangements before the Supreme Court's judgment on 27 October. The only difference will be that the Voisinage arrangements will be provided for within a legislative framework. The access arrangements for Northern Ireland boats will not change as a result of this Bill, Northern Ireland boats will simply regain fishing access they have had for decades under the Voisinage arrangements in the zero to six nautical mile zone of the territorial waters of the State. They will also continue to be subject to the same measures that apply to Irish-registered fishing boats.

Fishing industry representatives have been briefed on the Bill and the associated measures at recent meetings with my Department. I have also exchanged correspondence with fishing industry representatives and with deputies who made representations on behalf of concerned fishermen.  I would reiterate that the purpose of the Bill is not to change long-standing fishing access arrangements but to take account of the Court’s judgment and provide for arrangements that existed prior to 27 October 2016 to be reinstated within a legislative framework.  Access continues to be accommodated for Irish sea-fishing boats to fish within the Northern Ireland 0 to 6 nautical mile zone.

Live Exports

 437. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the current regulations for the protection of animal welfare while live animals are in situ or on docks awaiting loading on to a vessel.  [14855/17]

 438. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the current regulations in place for the protection of animal welfare during long-haul transportation. [14856/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I propose to answer Questions Nos. 437 and 438 together.

Ireland has a comprehensive legislative framework in place to ensure that vessels authorised for the carriage of livestock by sea are equipped to the very highest specification.  My Department also ensures that rigorous controls and procedures are put in place to ensure strict compliance with this legislation. Only ships approved by DAFM can load cattle for export from Ireland. These ships undergo a detailed joint inspection by both independent marine inspectors and my Department's veterinary inspectors.

Cattle being exported are monitored by my Department’s veterinary inspectors during the prescribed isolation period. The loading of cattle is also supervised by officials of my Department and the animals are inspected and certified as regards health status and fitness for travel. Under the relevant legislation, the transporters must ensure that adequate feed and water is provided for the entire duration of the journey, which includes the loading process.  While on the truck, regulation 1/2005 applies, with an onus on the transporter to make contingency arrangements in the event of unforeseen delay. This contingency could involve bringing the cattle back to the holding of origin and unloading them in the case of unforeseen delay in relation to loading on to a vessel.

Cattle on board a livestock ship departing from Ireland are typically bedded and penned in conditions very similar to cattle in any feedlot or cattle shed. In general, on the occasion of a first shipment to a new destination, a veterinary practitioner accompanies the shipment. For example, at the time of the first shipment to Turkey at end of September 2016, a private veterinary practitioner accompanied the load from Ireland to Turkey and the unloading of the cattle was monitored by a veterinary inspector from my Department who reported that the cattle were well rested, were in good condition and were fed following landing.  

To date the feedback as regards the welfare, quality and health of the Irish cattle that have been exported has been very positive.  The Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue to promote and maintain an environment in which live exports can continue in both an economic and sustainable manner, with due regard for the welfare of all animals exported.

Animal Welfare

 439. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the current regulations in place for the protection of animals transported overseas for non-economic reasons that are subsequently used for food, for example, greyhounds sent to China. [14857/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Regulation (EU) No 576/2013 applies to the non-commercial movement of pet animals between EU Member States.

Directive 92/65/EEC applies to animal health requirements for trade in and imports to the EU of 'other' live animals, which includes some ruminants, Camelids (e.g. llamas, alpacas), cats and dogs (for commercial imports only), bees, apes, rabbits and hares, exotic birds, ferrets, mink, foxes, zoo animals and other exotic species. 

With regard to the export of greyhounds to China, all exporters of dogs are required to provide animal health and welfare certification in respect of compliance with identification requirements, fitness for the intended journey, health status and rabies vaccination requirements. Once these animal certification requirements are met, dogs, including greyhounds, may be exported internationally.

The transport of animals by air is also governed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Live Animals regulations, which set out the requirements for transporting different animal species by air, including among other things, the container specifications required for their transport.

Bord na gCon, the organisation which is responsible for the governance, regulation and development of the greyhound industry in Ireland, advises all owners involved in the export of greyhounds to only export to destinations that provide the expected levels of greyhound care and management as defined in the IGB's Code of Practice for the welfare of greyhounds. I strongly endorse this view.

Aquaculture Licence Appeals

 440. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when a decision will be made in respect of an appeal against a decision to grant an aquaculture licence (details supplied); the reason correspondence issued by this Deputy to the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board to query same has yet to be answered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14858/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB) has statutory functions assigned to it in accordance with the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997. The function of the Board is to provide an independent authority for the determination of appeals against decisions of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on aquaculture licence applications. A person aggrieved by a decision of the Minister on an aquaculture licence application, or by the revocation or amendment of an aquaculture licence, may make an appeal within one month of publication (in the case of a decision) or notification (in the case of revocation/amendment). 

Section 56 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997 provides that the Bord should endeavour to determine an appeal within a period of four months beginning on the date of the receipt of the appeal. In the event that the appeal is not determined within this time because of the particular circumstances of an appeal there is provision in the Act to extend this period. The Board will inform (in writing) parties and persons of the reasons why the appeal would not be determined within that period and shall specify the date before which, or the period within which, the Board intends that the appeal shall be determined.

Aquaculture Licence Appeals

 441. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when a decision will be made in respect of an appeal against a decision to grant an aquaculture licence (details supplied); the reason correspondence issued by this Deputy to the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board to query same has yet to be answered; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [14859/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB) has statutory functions assigned to it in accordance with the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997. The function of the Board is to provide an independent authority for the determination of appeals against decisions of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on aquaculture licence applications. A person aggrieved by a decision of the Minister on an aquaculture licence application, or by the revocation or amendment of an aquaculture licence, may make an appeal within one month of publication (in the case of a decision) or notification (in the case of revocation/amendment). 

Section 56 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997 provides that the Bord should endeavour to determine an appeal within a period of four months beginning on the date of the receipt of the appeal. In the event that the appeal is not determined within this time because of the particular circumstances of an appeal there is provision in the Act to extend this period. The Board will inform (in writing) parties and persons of the reasons why the appeal would not be determined within that period and shall specify the date before which, or the period within which, the Board intends that the appeal shall be determined.

Aquaculture Licence Appeals

 442. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when a decision will be made in respect of an appeal against a decision to grant an aquaculture licence (details supplied); the reason correspondence issued by this Deputy to the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board to query same has yet to be answered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14860/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB) has statutory functions assigned to it in accordance with the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997. The function of the Board is to provide an independent authority for the determination of appeals against decisions of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on aquaculture licence applications. A person aggrieved by a decision of the Minister on an aquaculture licence application, or by the revocation or amendment of an aquaculture licence, may make an appeal within one month of publication (in the case of a decision) or notification (in the case of revocation/amendment). 

Section 56 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997 provides that the Bord should endeavour to determine an appeal within a period of four months beginning on the date of the receipt of the appeal. In the event that the appeal is not determined within this time because of the particular circumstances of an appeal there is provision in the Act to extend this period. The Board will inform (in writing) parties and persons of the reasons why the appeal would not be determined within that period and shall specify the date before which, or the period within which, the Board intends that the appeal shall be determined.

Aquaculture Licence Appeals

 443. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when a decision will be made in respect of an appeal against a decision to grant an aquaculture licence (details supplied); the reason correspondence issued by this Deputy to the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board to query same has yet to be answered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14861/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB) has statutory functions assigned to it in accordance with the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997. The function of the Board is to provide an independent authority for the determination of appeals against decisions of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on aquaculture licence applications. A person aggrieved by a decision of the Minister on an aquaculture licence application, or by the revocation or amendment of an aquaculture licence, may make an appeal within one month of publication (in the case of a decision) or notification (in the case of revocation/amendment). 

Section 56 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997 provides that the Board should endeavour to determine an appeal within a period of four months beginning on the date of the receipt of the appeal. In the event that the appeal is not determined within this time because of the particular circumstances of an appeal there is provision in the Act to extend this period. The Board will inform (in writing) parties and persons of the reasons why the appeal would not be determined within that period and shall specify the date before which, or the period within which, the Board intends that the appeal shall be determined.

TAMS Eligibility

 444. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if he will review the criteria under which tillage farmers are eligible to apply for the TAMS II scheme (details supplied).  [14866/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Tillage scheme is open to farmers who have a Department identifier and have a minimum of 15 hectares  of tillage crops declared under the Basic Payment scheme, or equivalent in the year of application or previous year. This is the criteria that has been approved by the European Commission and there are no plans to adjust it.

EU Issues

 445. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his views on the joint paper on the better functioning of the food supply chain from seven eastern European countries which was discussed at the recent EU Agriculture Ministers meeting in March 2017.  [14908/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The joint paper from the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia on the Better functioning of the food supply chain sets out proposals on progressing the Conclusions of the Council of Ministers last December, which envisaged a possible regulatory framework at EU level on unfair trading practices (UTPs).  Ireland is broadly supportive of the proposals for an EU legislative framework.   

Ireland is one of the Member States that has introduced legislation on unfair trading practices.  Ireland (DJEI) introduced national regulation on unfair trading practices a year ago and RGGUs (Registered Grocery Goods Undertakings) with a worldwide turnover of over €50 million are due to submit their first annual compliance report by 31st March 2017.  This will be a good opportunity for considering the effectiveness of the Regulations in their first year of operation and whether further measures would be useful.  In our view a regulatory framework at EU level would contribute to better functioning of the food supply chain and the Single Market.  Some Member States, however, have a preference for their national voluntary systems.

Agrifood Sector

 446. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his views on the planned establishment of two market observatories for sugar and crops, cereals, oilseeds and protein crops at EU level.  [14909/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I welcome the recent confirmation by Commissioner Hogan of his intention to establish two market observatories for the sugar markets and the crops, cereals, oilseeds and protein crops market. These two new market observatories will provide expertise and advice to the European Commission to utilise existing market management tools for the crop sector in a timely and effective manner. The Commissioner indicated also that the aim of these EU market observatories will be to bring more transparency to their respective sectors through the sharing of market data and short term analysis.

The new observatories are expected to begin their work before this summer and it is hoped they will bring together economic experts from both sectors along with officials from the Commission’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department.

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

 447. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if he will provide an overview of the concrete proposals discussed at the first exchange of views on the future design of the Common Agricultural Policy at the March 2017 EU Agriculture Ministers meeting.  [14910/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The discussion on the future design of the CAP at the March Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting took place at an opportune time given the range of CAP-related discussions my European colleagues and I have had over recent months and in the light of the Commission’s recent launch of its public consultation process on the modernisation and simplification of the policy.

The future of the CAP is an issue of enormous importance for Ireland and indeed the European agriculture sector.  The CAP has demonstrated its capacity to evolve very effectively in response to changing market, consumer and environmental demands in recent years, to the point where it now plays a central role in delivering the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth sought under the Europe 2020 strategy. It is vitally important for the CAP to continue its market orientation and to evolve in a way that supports the achievement of European strategic objectives. 

The Maltese Presidency identified six priorities, which emerged from previous discussions, and which informed our discussion at March Council.  The priorities are – building resilience, responding to environmental challenges, investing in rural viability and vitality, ensuring generational renewal, maintaining a market orientation and strengthening farmers’ position while simplification remains an over-arching principle for the future CAP.

These priorities are largely consistent with what I and my Department view as the key challenges ahead.  In my view the over-riding priority must be to support the sustainable intensification of food production to meet the requirements of a growing population while simultaneously meeting our environmental and climate change obligations.  I believe this can be done by sharpening the focus on outcomes and by reducing the regulatory and audit burdens on Member States and farmers, as they implement measures to achieve these outcomes. Innovation and the application of new technologies will play a critical role in this effort.

The recent market difficulties experienced by farmers, demonstrated the need to build farmers resilience in the face of market volatility.  Modern and innovative measures to counteract these difficulties such as hedging arrangements, futures markets and fixed price contracts are areas worth considering and developing. The direct payments system provides stability and certainty to farmers in the face of market volatility and should continue to be a key component of the future CAP. 

I am very supportive of efforts to encourage generational renewal as we have an ageing farmer population not unlike other Member States and the need to adopt new and innovative technologies as well as more sustainable methods of production will be paramount in the future.

In terms of addressing these priorities, I think a more holistic approach is needed.  For example, in the case of sustainable intensification, Member States need to be able to identify objectives – such as the production of more food in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable way – and then be allowed to implement measures which will enable them to achieve those objectives.

As regards CAP simplification, this remains an ongoing priority for us, given its capacity to reduce the administrative burden on farmers and national administrations.  We are continuing to monitor the effectiveness of simplification and would like to see it go further, particularly in respect of the removal of guidelines and interpretations of regulations that have the effect of increasing the administrative burden.

EU Issues

 448. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his views on the joint position by a dozen delegations at the recent EU Agriculture Ministers meeting which called for greater flexibility in the implementation of voluntary coupled aid and enhanced subsidiarity at national level, to grant coupled support in certain agricultural sectors that are particularly important for economic, social and environmental reasons and undergo certain difficulties.  [14911/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Up to 13 delegations outlined their concerns at the March Council, regarding the implementation of the provisions on voluntary coupled support (VCS) under the Direct Payments Regulation.  Their concerns are based on the additional information and justification required by the Commission regarding the implementation of the VCS and in particular the impact of excessive Commission scrutiny on national decisions.  The delegations requested more flexibility allowing Member States to target sectors in need, according to their national strategies.

Irish payments are almost entirely decoupled, with only one small coupled scheme (protein crops) and the matter is therefore of limited relevance to us.

Dairy Sector

 449. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the specific actions he is planning and the timeline for the greater use of dairy futures markets as a tool to allow farmers to hedge against increasingly volatile prices.  [14912/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The dairy sector has in the recent past been through a prolonged period of downward price volatility.  As Minister, I have been an advocate of deploying the market measures utilised by the Commission,  such as Aids to Private Storage and Intervention.  Additionally, the Common Market Organisation Regulations agreed by the Irish EU Presidency in 2013 provide for more flexible "exceptional measures, " such as those deployed during the most recent dairy market crisis. These included the provision of direct aid  to farmers, the voluntary production reduction scheme and the €11 million in funding that facilitated the creation of a €150 million low interest loan fund for farmers.

At the same time, I have at all times stressed the need to take a longer-term view in addressing price volatility. While there is no single silver bullet existing measures need to be added to through adoption of new innovations, not just by Member States or the Commission, but also by industry.

With specific reference to futures markets, which are used successfully in other regional dairy markets such as the United States and New Zealand, the recent report of the Agriculture Markets Task Force to Commissioner Hogan noted that such instruments certainly had a role to play but were underdeveloped in the EU dairy sector compared to, for instance, the cereals sector.

It must be noted that such initiatives typically have a long lead in time to gain industry and stakeholder acceptance as a viable way to mitigate volatility and that the driving force behind any such futures market development in the EU and Ireland must be industry-led.

I have facilitated discussion on such an initiative at the dairy forum and I am aware of some exploratory work under way in Ireland on the creation of a dairy price index and I would encourage industry players to continue with this important work. 

Animal Welfare

 450. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the steps he is taking to ensure the all-island animal health and welfare strategy is maintained in a hard Brexit scenario; and the status of discussions he has had with authorities in the UK and Northern Ireland in this regard.  [14913/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Following recognition of the need for a high level animal health and welfare status on the island of Ireland, the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) commissioned a programme of work in 2001 to develop closer co-operation and joint strategies for the improvement of animal health on an all island basis.

Under the NSMC arrangements, a number of working groups, on different aspects of animal health and welfare, were established with the objective of co-operating on policies as far as possible. These Working Groups continue to co-operate closely, overseen by the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy Steering Group, which is made up of senior officials from both my Department and the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.  The most recent meeting of the NSMC (Agriculture) in October 2016 provided an opportunity to discuss the potential implications of Brexit in the context of the All Island Strategy.

In addition to the ongoing cooperation within the NSMC structures, officials from my Department have established a number of bilateral working groups with their counterparts in Northern Ireland, specifically to discuss Brexit and its possible implications for animal and plant disease control strategies and contingency planning on the island. 

This work will feed into my Department’s preparations for the forthcoming EU/UK negotiations on the UK exit and its future relations with the EU.

Common Fisheries Policy

 451. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his views on the principle of relative stability under the Common Fisheries Policy; and any impact Brexit will have in this regard. [14914/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Relative stability refers to the fixed percentage share of fish stocks allocated to Member States and was established as a principle of the first Common Fisheries Policy in 1983.  The percentage share of each stock for each Member State was based on the average catch of each Member State over a set reference period and has remained unchanged.    

  At this stage it is impossible to say with certainty what impact Brexit will have on the Irish fishing industry. We don't know yet what changes the UK may seek to the current arrangements.

  What we do know is that there is a strong desire and expectation from parts of the UK fishing industry to ensure that non-UK fishermen will no longer have access to the UK Zone.

  In theory, the UK could restrict access to their waters and or seek to gain larger quota shares at the expense of others, i.e. changing existing relative stability.  However, that could only happen if the UK were content to ignore the potential repercussions that would certainly arise from the EU side.

  Any attempt by the UK to increase its current quota share at the expense of Ireland and others will be resisted strenuously.

  I have recently held a further series of meetings with key fisheries Ministers and am coordinating a like minded group of 8 Member States to ensure that fisheries remains a top priority in the negotiations to come. Protecting existing shares will be a top priority for that group.  As both I and An Taoiseach have stated before, we intend to ensure that fisheries remains high on the Brexit agenda in the EU and that Ireland obtains the best possible outcome from the negotiations.

  In conclusion, I would like to assure the Deputy that I will be unequivocal in opposing any dilution of our existing EU quota shares.


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