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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 643-59
 Header Item GLAS Eligibility
 Header Item Forestry Grants
 Header Item Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme
 Header Item Information and Communications Technology
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Young Farmers Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Young Farmers Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Agriculture Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item TAMS Eligibility
 Header Item Programme for Government
 Header Item Aquaculture Licence Applications
 Header Item Animal Identification Schemes
 Header Item Departmental Funding
 Header Item Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme
 Header Item Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments
 Header Item GLAS Payments
 Header Item GLAS Payments

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 946 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 643-59

GLAS Eligibility

 643. Deputy Joe Carey Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the reason whereby in a GLAS 3 application by a person (details supplied) and as administered by his Department, protection of watercourses was not an option when adjoining landowners using the river in question qualified for this option. [18059/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The GLAS 3 Specification clearly sets out compatible GLAS actions that can be selected on the same land parcels when applying to join GLAS. This specification states that where the Wild Bird Cover action is selected on a whole or part parcel basis the Protection of Watercourses from Bovines action cannot be selected on the same parcel. Therefore by selecting the Wild Bird Cover action the person named excluded himself from selecting the Protection of Watercourses action on the same land parcel.

Forestry Grants

 644. 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 under the forestry premium will issue 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. [17463/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed This refers to an application for a Grant and Premium payment under the Afforestation Scheme. This plantation appeared to be subject to a turbary burden. The applicant submitted an Indemnity which has been checked by the Department's Legal Services Division. All searches by the Department did not return any evidence that the turbary burden was registered as an appurtenant on any other folio. On this basis the signed Indemnity submitted by the applicant has been accepted and the application has now been approved for payment.

Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme

 645. 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 correspondence (details supplied); the assistance that can be provided to this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17480/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The “Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme” was developed by my Department in co-operation with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), making €150 million available to farmers at interest rates of 2.95%. One of my priorities has been to address the impact of the change in the sterling exchange rate and lower commodity prices in some sectors, which have caused cash flow difficulties for farmers. The Scheme provides farmers with a low cost, flexible source of working capital and will allow them to pay down more expensive forms of short-term debt, ensuring the ongoing financial sustainability of viable farming enterprises.

The loans are for amounts up to €150,000 for up to six years, with interest only facilities of up to three years. The Scheme was administered by SBCI through the participating banks; AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank. Normal lending assessment criteria apply and the terms and conditions of each individual loan is agreed between the banks and the applicants according to their individual circumstances. The Department has no operational role in the Scheme nor can it deal with individual applications. Those who may be dissatisfied with a decision may seek a review of an application to the Scheme from the Credit Review Office, which provides an independent, impartial appeals process on credit decisions for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), including sole traders and farmers.

I am meeting with the Chief Executives of the banks shortly to discuss the Scheme and other issues relating to access to finance in the agri-food sector.

Information and Communications Technology

 646. 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 Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding computer issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17508/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The TAMS II IT system has been updated to allow for the correction of obvious errors and payment claims which are identified as having these errors will be processed for payment.

Brexit Issues

 647. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the measures he is taking to protect Irish timber exports to the UK during and after the EU-UK Brexit negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17523/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Irish timber industry faces particularly difficult challenges arising from the UK decision to leave the EU. Over 70% of all timber products manufactured here in Ireland are exported to the UK. Brexit will most likely result in increased costs for exporters through border delays, tariffs and exchange rate fluctuations, as well as increased competition from third country imports and reduced demand from the UK market.

However, the wood processing sector in Ireland has some important advantages that will stand to it as it prepares to meet the challenges that lie ahead. The main players in the industry are relatively small in number and are agile, as was shown during the economic crash when they were able to change their focus to export markets. The sector has also invested heavily in sawmilling technology.

As well as expanding their export markets and cutting costs, saw mills can prepare for BREXIT through continued investment in the supply chain and manufacturing technologies, and through moving up the value chain. A Renewable Heat Incentive scheme is scheduled for launch later this year, which will create additional domestic markets for forest-based biomass for energy purposes. This will have the impact of bringing forward additional supplies of sawlog material in subsequent thinnings, particularly from privately owned forests.

My Department is undertaking a review of both our forest policy document entitled “Forest, Products and People” and the Forestry Programme 2014 -2020 so that forest policy and implementing measures properly reflect the needs of the sector as we face into BREXIT negotiations and beyond. The sector took an active part in the All-island Sectoral Dialogue in which the issues around BREXIT for the sector were teased out. My Department will continue to work constructively with the industry on this matter so that potential risks can be mitigated and any opportunities can be identified and pursued.

Young Farmers Scheme Eligibility

 648. 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 if his attention has been drawn to an issue concerning persons who have started the green certificate course (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17530/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Under the 2015 National Reserve an exception was made which allowed students to qualify under the scheme before completion of their agricultural course. However, this exception did not receive the approval of the EU Commission. Consequently, in order to qualify for the 2017 National Reserve successful applicants must have successfully completed a recognised course of education in agriculture giving rise to an award at FETAC level 6 or its equivalent by the 15 May 2017.

Where an applicant has fully completed all aspects of their course by 15 May but has not yet been verified as successful or received final certification, a Confirmation of Education Form should be submitted with the application. This form is available to download through the online application system and is also available on my Department’s website.

Decisions in relation to the National Reserve and Young Farmers Scheme, including educational qualifications, are made in consultation with the Direct Payments Advisory Committee which includes members of the main farming bodies and advisory services. Full Terms and Conditions of the 2017 National Reserve and Young Farmers Scheme are available on my Department's website.

Young Farmers Scheme Eligibility

 649. 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 if he will provide a copy of the correspondence from the European Union refusing to allow the State to give national reserve to a person who enrolled in a course in 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17531/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed In accordance with EU Regulations governing the operation of the National Reserve and Young farmers Scheme, Members States may define additional eligibility criteria as regards appropriate skills, experience or education.

To ensure that the benefits of the ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant’ categories are targeted at those who have a genuine interest in farming as a career, Ireland included agricultural education at FETAC level 6 standard or its equivalent as a requirement to qualify for the schemes. In order to maximise the number of young farmers for eligibility under the 2015 National Reserve and Young Farmers schemes, it was decided that any person who met the other qualifying requirements and commenced a relevant agricultural course anytime up to and including September 2016 would be accepted under the National Reserve and Young Farmers Scheme in 2015. The increased flexibility would ensure that the benefits of the ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant’ categories would be widely available even to those who were unable to complete their agricultural course by 2015.

Ireland was required to notify the EU Commission of the additional educational eligibility criteria being applied to the National Reserve and Young Farmers Scheme, and the increased flexibility in relation to same. The EU Commission subsequently advised Ireland that the flexible arrangements that would allow an applicant to commence their agricultural education after the date of submission of an application under the National Reserve and/or Young Farmers Scheme did not fit with the ‘annual logic of the Direct Payments’ and was a risk of non-compliance with requirements.

In order to ensure that no young farmer would be disadvantaged by this ruling and in order to comply with the notification from the EU Commission thus avoiding the risk of a financial correction for Ireland, extensive efforts were put in place by the Department and Teagasc at the end of 2015. This resulted in applicants to the 2015 National Reserve and Young Farmers Scheme being provided with a placement on an agricultural education course prior to 31 December 2015.

A copy of the correspondence referred to will be made available directly to the Deputy.

Agriculture Scheme Eligibility

 650. 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 reason he has not provided funding to persons classed as forgotten farmers; if he will provide a copy of correspondence from the European Union not allowing Ireland the special category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17532/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Regulations governing the operation of the National Reserve include an optional provision whereby Member States may use the National Reserve to allocate new entitlements or give a top-up on the value of existing entitlements for persons who suffer from a ‘Specific Disadvantage’.

Officials from my Department have consulted with the EU Commission with regard to funding of ‘specific disadvantage’ categories such as ‘Forgotten Farmer’ under the National Reserve in 2017 and future years. In 2017 the National Reserve is being funded from a linear cut to all entitlements held under the Basic Payment Scheme. The EU Commission has confirmed that Member States cannot use the proceeds of a linear cut to fund the specific disadvantage category of the National Reserve.

The only funding option for the Forgotten Farmer category is natural replenishment of the Reserve such as unused entitlements or the proceeds of claw back, but only after the two priority categories of young farmer and new entrant have been catered for.

A copy of the correspondence referred to will be made available directly to the Deputy.

TAMS Eligibility

 651. 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 reason contractors that supply services to farmers are not included in TAMS for building sheds or for grants for slurry equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17533/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The governing EU Regulation 1305/2013 for the TAMS Schemes specifies that support for investments in physical assets will be granted to farmers or groups of farmers and the Rural Development Programme submitted to the European Commission specified that the beneficiaries under the TAMS II Scheme will be active farmers. This is included in the eligibility criteria laid out in the Terms and Conditions of the TAMS II Schemes.

There is no scope under the current Rural Development Programme to extend the TAMS II  Schemes to agricultural contractors.

Programme for Government

 652. 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 reason there is no facility in TAMS for a mats grant to provide two bays per year for three years as agreed in the programme for Government to help animal welfare and create employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17534/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The commitment in the Programme for Government states that

  "Subject to EU amendment approval, we will expand the TAMS scheme to include measures on mats for slatted sheds and rainwater harvesting systems."

  The inclusion of slat mats under TAMS II schemes will be considered in light of budgetary considerations.

Aquaculture Licence Applications

 653. 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 if approval will be given in respect of an application for an aquaculture licence (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17546/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The aquaculture licence application referred to by the Deputy is currently under consideration by my Department under the provisions of the 1997 Fisheries (Amendment) Act, the 1933 Foreshore Act and applicable EU legislation.

The legislation provides for a period of public and statutory consultation. In the case of this application the public consultation period is now over. My Department is continuing to examine this application in accordance with the applicable legislation and full account is being taken of the engineering, scientific, environmental, legal and public policy aspects relevant to this application.

As the licence application is under active consideration as part of a statutory process it would not be appropriate to comment further on the matter at this time.

Animal Identification Schemes

 654. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the number of herdowners who ordered cattle tags between 1 October 2016 and 31 March 2017; the percentage who have not paid the ICBF levy; the number of tags covered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17603/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed My Department introduced a new approval process in place for the provision of official bovine identification tags. Three tag vendors are currently approved under the new arrangements.

  During the period 1 October 2016 to 31 March 2017, 50,623 herd keepers ordered 2,057,116 bovine tag sets. 25,069 of these herd keepers, representing 1,091,238 tag sets, opted not to pay the voluntary ICBF levy.

Departmental Funding

 655. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his plans to provide funding to the ICBF in view of the funding shortfall from the ICBF levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17604/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The ICBF was established in 1998 following a number of years of industry consultation among all stakeholders in the cattle breeding industry.

  ICBF is the only body approved under EU legislation (Commission Decision 2006/427/EC) to carry out testing, genetic evaluation and publication of breeding values for Irish dairy and beef cattle.

  The objective of the ICBF is to achieve the greatest possible genetic improvement in the national cattle herd for the benefit of Irish farmers and the national dairy and beef industries. The organisation delivers a public good in the area of cattle breed improvement which is the foundation of a profitable and sustainable dairy and beef herd. It is a ‘farmer led’ body receiving its funding from a number of sources including farmers, the breeding industry and with state support. A critical funding source has been the tag levy. However a significant drop in levy collection has arisen leading to major uncertainty in this source of funding. Solutions to the financial issues are being explored by ICBF with industry stakeholders and DAFM and with discussions on-going.

Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme

 656. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when low-cost loans for tillage farmers will be available following the announcement in October 2016. [17607/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed One of my priorities has been to address the impact of the change in the sterling exchange rate and lower commodity prices in some sectors, which have caused cash flow difficulties for farmers. Therefore I was pleased to announce the launch of the “Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme” on 31st January. The Scheme, which was developed by my Department in co-operation with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), makes €150 million available to farmers throughout Ireland at interest rates of 2.95%. Distributed and administered through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, it provides farmers with a low cost, flexible source of working capital and will allow them to pay down more expensive forms of short-term debt, ensuring the ongoing financial sustainability of viable farming enterprises.

The loans are available to all livestock farmers, tillage farmers, horticulture producers and others involved in primary agricultural production. My Department is contributing €25million in total, which includes €11 million from the EU’s ‘exceptional adjustment aid for milk and other livestock farmers’ and €14 million in national funding. SBCI uses the €25 million of public funding provided by my Department to leverage the total amount of €150 million and, along with the European Investment Fund’s ‘COSME’ (the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs), is providing the guarantee required to underpin the loan’s flexibility and lower the cost of the loans.

The banks will report on progress to the SBCI on a regular basis. Although no official returns have been made to my Department as yet, the banks have confirmed that they have applications up to the amounts available under the Scheme. There may be some residual availability but this will only emerge as applications are processed and loans drawn down.

I am pleased at the very positive reaction by farmers to the Scheme, which has proved that significant demand exists for low-cost flexible finance. I hope that the commercial banks will respond positively to this demand by reducing interest rates and providing more flexible terms for cash flow loans in the future. I am meeting with the Chief Executives of the banks shortly to discuss this and other issues relating to access to finance in the agri-food sector.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

 657. Deputy Michael Ring Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when a person (details supplied) will receive an AEOS 2 payment. [17617/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The person named commenced their AEOS 2 contract on 1 September 2011. Payment issued in respect of the 2011-2015 Scheme years.

Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System must take place. As 2016 is the final scheme-year of payment for the person-named, re-checks on payments made for all scheme years must be completed before final payment can be processed. These checks are now complete and the 85% payment in respect of 2016 has been processed and will issue without delay. The remaining 15% will issue in due course.

GLAS Payments

 658. Deputy Michael Ring Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when a person (details supplied) will receive a GLAS payment. [17618/17]

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 full payment in respect of the 2015 scheme year.

  During the 2016 prepayment checking process an issue presented on the computerised crosscheck of Department databases. Department officials have examined this issue and the application is now being further processed for payment in respect of the 2016 scheme year.

GLAS Payments

 659. Deputy Michael Ring Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when a person (details supplied) will receive a GLAS payment. [17619/17]

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 full payment in respect of the 2015 scheme year.

During the 2016 prepayment checking process an issue presented on the computerised crosscheck of Department databases. Department officials are actively working to resolve this issue with a view to further processing the application for the 2016 payment as soon as possible.


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