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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 180-199
 Header Item Live Exports
 Header Item Bovine Disease Controls
 Header Item Bovine Disease Controls
 Header Item Irish Language
 Header Item Meat Processing Plant Inspections
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Beef Exports
 Header Item State Aid
 Header Item Animal Slaughtering Standards
 Header Item TAMS Data
 Header Item Beef Industry
 Header Item Beef Industry
 Header Item TAMS Payments
 Header Item Animal Slaughtering Standards
 Header Item Air Pollution
 Header Item National Broadband Plan Implementation

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 6

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 180-199

Live Exports

 180. Deputy John Brassil Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the reason persons are being informed that 60,000 calves will be exported in view of the fact the structure allows for only 38,000 calves to be exported; the person or body that will deal with the exportation of the remaining 22,000 calves; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8556/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The export of calves is an entirely commercial matter.

The function of my department is regulatory in nature, for example through the provision of appropriate animal health certification, or the approval of vessels for the transport of animals to ensure that they comply with animal health and welfare requirements.

Bovines exported from Ireland to France are required under EU law to be rested and fed at lairage facilities in Cherbourg. These facilities are privately owned and operated. They do not have unlimited capacity, and therefore in practical terms, the numbers of animals that can be exported may be limited by the capacity of these lairages.

There has been significant engagement on the matter between my department, the French authorities , lairage owners, exporters and farm bodies, and this is continuing. I raised the matter as recently as yesterday with the French Foreign Minister. Ultimately, however, the provision of lairage capacity in other member states is a matter for commercial operators.

Some 156,000 calves were exported from Ireland in 2018, the main destinations being Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and France.

Bovine Disease Controls

 181. Deputy John Brassil Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the reason bovine feedlots are allowed here; the locations to which the cattle from the feedlots are sent; if the cattle are exported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8557/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed As part of our TB eradication programme, beef finishing herds, if they meet the necessary criteria, are allowed to avail of a special status, termed “Feedlot”. When a herd meets the criteria to be regarded as a ‘Feedlot’ under the TB Eradication Programme, the herd is restricted under the TB Regulations and a special official supervisory and testing protocol is established. Such herds are not exempted from testing, reactor removal or disinfection requirements. Restricted Feedlots are TB tested at least once a year. This feedlot status arrangement allows the delivery of an effective level of disease risk management while controlling the risk of further disease spread in compliance with animal health legislation, and enabling business continuity in this particular type of enterprise through the inward movement of cattle.

Cattle from feedlot herds restricted under the TB Eradication programme are only permitted to move to a EU approved slaughter plant. Cattle from feedlots may not be exported.

Bovine Disease Controls

 182. Deputy John Brassil Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the person or body that owns the largest feedlots here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8558/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Under the General Data Protection Regulation I am precluded from releasing this information.

Irish Language

 183. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the progress made on implementing all aspects of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010 to 2030 that are relevant to his Department and bodies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8612/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language outlines an integrated approach to the Irish language. It identifies nine areas of action: education; the Gaeltacht; the family; public services; the media and technology; dictionaries; legislation; the economy; and cross-cutting initiatives. Responsibility for implementation within the State bodies under my remit is an operational matter and those bodies have been requested to respond directly to the Deputy. The aspects of the Strategy which are relevant to my Department are being implemented as follows:

  In October 2016, my Department put in place its second Irish Language Scheme under the Official Languages Act 2003. The scheme was prepared with a view to developing and advancing the level and quality of service which the Department provides to Irish language speakers. The Scheme remains in force for a period of three years and my Department will commence work on its third scheme later this year with a view to having our third Irish Language scheme in place by October.

  My Department has taken several measures to improve its Irish Language output. Our Irish Language Scheme sets a target of 20% of press releases to be published in Irish. However, in the second half of last year my Department began to target the publication of 100% of press releases in Irish. The following table sets out the progress made in recent years:

Year
Percentage of Press Releases published bilingually
2015
0%
2016
7%
2017
22%
2018
60%
2019 (up to 18 February)
100%


  In addition to meeting its obligations under Section 10 of the Official Languages Act 2003, to publish certain documents in both official languages simultaneously, my Department publishes other corporate documents, such as the Customer Charter and Customer Action Plan, the Farmers’ Charter of Rights, our Statement of Strategy and the Schemes and Services booklet, in both Irish and English. Budgetary constraints prevent the publication of every document in Irish.

  Correspondence to my Department in Irish is responded to in Irish. Business areas of my Department in receipt of correspondence in the Irish language are assisted, where necessary, in translating the response into Irish. The quality of the response to correspondence in Irish is equal to that of the response to correspondence in English.

  In May 2018, my Department ran a competitive procurement process, in conjunction with the Office of Government Procurement, and subsequently engaged in a contract with a service provider for the provision of Irish translation services. This contract has enhanced the timeliness of translation services provided to my Department and in turn the ability of my Department to respond efficiently to Irish Language correspondence.

  One of the nine areas for action under the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 is the provision of services in the Gaeltacht. My Department provides services through Irish in our two offices in Gaeltacht areas, thus helping with two of the objectives of the strategy related to the Gaeltacht:

  - The Irish language community inside and outside the Gaeltacht will be given encouragement and support to transmit Irish to the next generation as a living household language. Towards this end, a wide range of services in Irish will be provided.

  - The Gaeltacht will be given special support as an Irish-speaking area.

  Both of my Department’s Gaeltacht offices are Fishery Harbour Centres. One is located in Ros a Mhíl, Co. Galway and the other in An Daingean, Co. Kerry. These offices represent the most direct interface which my Department has with Irish speakers and, as a consequence, their capacity to provide a high level of services through Irish is very important to the Department and its customers.

  In the two offices, of the 13 staff employed, 10 can fully transact Department business in Irish while the remaining three members of staff have conversational Irish. My Department therefore can provide a full service through Irish where it has offices in Gaeltacht areas.

  With a view to maintaining and enhancing Irish Language competencies at these two Fishery Harbour Centres, my Department is committed to filling all future vacancies with Irish speakers as far as possible. All competitions which involve posts headquartered in an office situated in a Gaeltacht area will place requirements in terms of Irish and English on an equal standing. However, it is necessary that my Department reserves the right to fill a post in a Gaeltacht area with a non-Irish speaker if no suitably qualified Irish language speaker presents. It is hoped that this will not be necessary but my Department must ensure that it carries out its functions at Fishery Harbour Centres.

  In the context of Government policy for enhanced provision of services in Irish, in addition to what has been outlined above regarding our two Gaeltacht offices, my Department has identified a further four posts which require functional bilinguals. This is with a view to being able to facilitate customers who wish to transact business through Irish. Three of these posts are currently filled by officers with competence in Irish. My Department was unable to recruit an Irish speaker to fill the remaining post but hopes to be able to do so when the opportunity arises. In particular, these designated posts enhance the ability of my Department to provide services through Irish in areas where there is a demand including Cork, Kerry, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim and Galway. In accordance with Government policy, future language schemes of my Department will specify the posts/areas which have an Irish language competency requirement.

Meat Processing Plant Inspections

 184. 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 number of carcasses graded by mechanical machine before it was found to be out of sync rechecked to determine if their respective grades were accurate on occasions when a mechanical grading machine in a meat processing plant was found to be working out of sync and the factory reverted to manual grading; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8636/19]

 185. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 526 of 12 February 2019, the number of carcasses checked at the start of each day to ensure the machine is operating within the limits in view of the fact that the return to service protocol of mechanical grading machines requires at least 100 carcasses to be checked to make sure that they are working within the legal tolerances; the person or body that oversees this protocol; the location it is recorded; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8637/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 185 together.

Regarding operations in a meat plant operating mechanical classification, at the start of each day the meat plant performs a ‘daily system check’. This ensures that the mechanical classification system is within operational tolerances established by the system provider and if any mechanical system fails a morning system check then the mechanical classification system will not operate. This process does not require carcasses checking at the start of each day.

At each inspection carried out by my Department a minimum of 100 carcases are re-checked against the machine normally in real time on the line during production. The manual grade is compared against the machine grade and the machine is scored. When a mechanical grading machine is found to be operating outside tolerance the factory is instructed to revert to manual grading straight away.

Brexit Issues

 186. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if a comprehensive package of market supports and direct aid from the EU will be made available to farmers to cover the cost of a hard Brexit and the losses already incurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8656/19]

 187. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his views on whether current EU intervention and APS support measures are not adequate; the additional measures sought in the context of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8657/19]

 190. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his plans to ensure that the EU provides support of €20 per animal for each 5 cent per kilogram price drop with the onset of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8660/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I propose to take Questions Nos. 186, 187 and 190 together.

I and my officials have been working very hard for quite some time to sensitise other Member States and the European Commission to the potentially very severe impacts of Brexit on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors, and to the likelihood of specific supports being required in order to deal with these impacts. The institutions of the European Union are very well aware of the likelihood of a significant impact of a disorderly Brexit on Ireland’s economy because this has been part of the discussion from the beginning, and indeed this is explicitly recognised in the Commission’s own communication on contingency planning.

Most recently, I held a bilateral meeting with Commissioner Hogan to discuss the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors. We discussed the unique exposure of these sectors to the threat of a disorderly Brexit, and the challenges that it could present. I stressed the need to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and the food industry, including through traditional market supports such as intervention and Aids to Private Storage (APS); and also through exceptional aid under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation; as well as increased flexibility under State Aid regulations. Commissioner Hogan reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland, and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

Brexit Issues

 188. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his views on whether the new market disturbance measures under EU Regulation 1308/13, Article 219/221 are required in the context of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8658/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I and my officials have been working very hard for quite some time to sensitise other Member States and the European Commission to the potentially very severe impacts of Brexit on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors, and to the likelihood of specific supports, including exceptional reasons under EU Regulation 1308/13, being required in order to deal with these impacts. The institutions of the European Union are very well aware of the likelihood of a significant impact of a disorderly Brexit on Ireland’s economy because this has been part of the discussion from the beginning, and indeed this is explicitly recognised in the Commission’s own communication on contingency planning.

Most recently, I held a bilateral meeting with Commissioner Hogan at the end of January to discuss the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors. We discussed the unique exposure of these sectors to the threat of a disorderly Brexit, and the challenges that it could present. I stressed the need to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and processors, including through traditional market supports and exceptional aid under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation, and increased flexibility under State Aid regulations. Commissioner Hogan reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland, and we will remain in contact on these issues.

Subsequently there was a meeting between officials from my Department and from the Commission to explore possible support measures that may be required in the event of a no deal Brexit on 29 March 2019. The officials will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

Beef Exports

 189. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the actions he has taken to ensure that beef holds its position in the UK market in view of the fact that there is no comparable alternative market with the onset of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8659/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The UK is Ireland’s largest export destination for beef exports. In 2018, beef exports were valued at €2,439m and exports to the UK were valued at €1,206m, which is 49.4% of beef exports.

Retention of the UK market for the beef industry is a key component of the Government's response to Brexit.

I have provided a total of €19.5m to Bord Bia since the UK referendum. This additional funding is being used, among other things, to provide direct support and advice to individual companies in relation to maintaining customer relationships in the UK.

In addition, I have met with the chief executives of the major British retailers to impress upon them the commitment of Irish suppliers in continuing to supply the UK market post-Brexit.

More generally, the pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports, including beef exports, is an ongoing and central component of the strategic development of the agri-food sector, as evidenced by its placement right at the centre of Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development over the coming years.

I and my officials have also been working very hard for quite some time to sensitise other Member States and the European Commission to the potentially very severe impacts of Brexit on the Irish beef and other sectors, and to the likelihood of specific supports being required in order to deal with these impacts. The institutions of the European Commission are very well aware of the likelihood of a significant impact of a disorderly Brexit on Ireland’s economy because this has been part of the discussion from the beginning, and indeed this is explicitly recognised in the Commission’s own communication on contingency planning.

More recently, I held a bilateral meeting with Commissioner Hogan at the end of January to discuss the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. We discussed the unique exposure of sectors such as the beef sector to the threat of a disorderly Brexit, and the challenges that it could present. I stress the need to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and processors, including through traditional market supports and exceptional aid under the CAP’s Single Common Market Organisation regulation, and increased flexibility under State Aid regulations. Commissioner Hogan reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland. Subsequently there was a meeting between officials to explore possible support measures that may be required in the event of no deal Brexit on 29 March 2019. The officials will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

In addition, I have introduced a range of measures to help these sectors to deal with the impacts of Brexit –

- In Budget 2017, a farm-gate business costs reduction measure in order to enhance competitiveness, including a €150m low-cost loan scheme;

- In Budget 2018, a €50m, dedicated Brexit package which included a contribution to a €300m (joint DAFM/DBEI) “Brexit Loan Scheme”, at least 40% of which is available to food businesses.

- In Budget 2019, a €78m Brexit package for farmers, fishermen, food SMEs and to cover additional costs related to Brexit.

My colleague, Minister for finance Paschal Donohoe, also announced the Future Growth Loan Scheme, which will be rolled out in 2019 and for which I had made provision of €25m in 2018. The scheme will provide long term, unsecured investment finance for farmers and small scale companies in the food and seafood sectors.

I wish to assure the Deputy that the Government remains very focused on supporting the agri-food industry, including the beef industry, through the challenges ahead.

Question No. 190 answered with Question No. 186.

State Aid

 191. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his plans to ensure that EU state aid limits on member states are set aside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8661/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The agri-food sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy, and its regional spread means it underpins the socio-economic development of rural areas in particular. As such, Brexit has the potential to have a very significant impact on farmers and on the agri-food sector throughout Ireland.

I and my officials have been working very hard for quite some time to sensitise other Member States and the European Commission to the potentially very severe impacts of Brexit on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors, and to the likelihood of specific supports being required in order to deal with these impacts. The institutions of the European Union are very well aware of the likelihood of a significant impact of a disorderly Brexit on Ireland’s economy because this has been part of the discussion from the beginning, and indeed this is explicitly recognised in the Commission’s own communication on contingency planning.

Most recently, I held a bilateral meeting with Commissioner Hogan at the end of January to discuss the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors. We discussed the unique exposure of these sectors to the threat of a disorderly Brexit, and the challenges that it could present. I stressed the need to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and processors, including through traditional market supports and exceptional aid under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation, as well as increased flexibility under State Aid regulations, which has already been the subject of discussions with the Commission. Commissioner Hogan reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland, and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

As regards state aid limits, my Department operates the State aid rules and regulations governing the agriculture sector, where the state aid limits under the agriculture de minimis regulation are currently set at €15,000 per undertaking over a rolling three year period.

With regard to increases or exemptions to state aid limits, this is a matter for the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation, who are the competent authority for the implementation of the general State Aid rules and regulations in Ireland.

Animal Slaughtering Standards

 192. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the steps he will take to ensure that controls are increased in addition to inspections and sanctions for factories on carcass trim, classification and weights. [8662/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Carcase classification and carcase presentation controls in slaughter plants are carried out by a dedicated team of specialist staff in the Beef Carcase Classification Section within my Department. Classification Officers conduct unannounced, on-the-spot inspections in 32 beef slaughtering plants to ensure that Carcase Classification is carried out in accordance with EU Regulations.

The number of inspections conducted annually significantly exceeds the legal requirement for the minimum number of inspections set down in EU legislation. In 2018, my Department conducted almost 550 inspections. This is an average of 20 inspections per factory per year, which significantly exceeds the legal minimum requirement of 8 inspections per year. At each inspection an average of 85 carcasses were inspected for correct classification and carcase presentation. The legal requirement is 40 carcasses per inspection.

Under legislation (SI 363/2010) sanctions may be applied. Non-compliance with the legislation attracts a maximum on the spot fine of €200 per carcase. In addition, any person who commits an offence under these Regulations is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or to both.

Regarding enhanced controls, since January 1st, 2019, additional monitoring of carcase presentation by my Department’s veterinary public health inspection staff (VPHIS) in these factories is in place. This will provide further assurance to stakeholders that the appropriate dressing specification is being applied. These staff will provide a supporting role for the Beef Carcase Classification staff.

TAMS Data

 193. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the number of farmers that availed of solar grants in counties Laois and Offaly in respect of installing solar panels on outhouses and buildings other than domestic dwellings. [8663/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The TAMS II Scheme provides a grant towards the cost of installing solar panels for the purposes of electricity production on buildings used for pig, poultry and egg production. There have been no applications for this investment from counties Laois and Offaly.

Beef Industry

 194. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the actions he will take to ensure that a fair price is attained at factories for quality suckler stock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8664/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Beef Sector is an important element of the Irish rural economy and I am conscious of the importance that this key sector plays in rural Ireland. To this effect, I recently launched the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot, a targeted support of €20 million for suckler farmers specifically aimed at further improving the economic and environmental efficiency of beef production. As well as clear environmental and climate benefits, the BEEP will provide farm gate investment at a time of market volatility and uncertainty relating to Brexit. The pilot has been designed to be as straightforward as possible. Applications will be accepted up until this Friday 22 February, and I would urge all eligible farmers to apply.

Additionally, the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is currently the main support specifically targeted for the suckler sector, which provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) period. This scheme is an agri-environmental measure to improve the environmental sustainability of the national suckler herd by increasing genetic merit within the herd. Also, it should be noted an additional €23 million was secured for the ANC scheme in 2019, which, effectively restored the Budget to pre-downturn levels.

While, I am aware of the current challenges facing beef farmers, I cannot intervene directly in any commodity price; cattle prices are a matter for the processing industry and the farmers who supply it. Cattle prices are influenced by a variety of factors such as the level of consumer demand, production levels and exchange rate differences. The UK's decision to leave the EU also presents enormous challenges for the entire beef sector.

I am, however, very conscious that the beef sector is currently facing a difficult period. I am deeply committed to fully supporting and developing Ireland’s beef sector. I am strongly of the view that the existing range of supports available to suckler farmers, together with ensuring access to as many markets as possible, both for live animals and beef exports, are appropriate for the continued development of the sector. According to National Farm Survey data, suckler farmers receive support equivalent to approximately €500 per suckler cow on average.

One of the unique strengths of the agri-food sector has been the shared vision for the sustainable development of the sector in Food Wise 2025. It is crucial that we all continue to work together. At the last Beef Round table, I highlighted the need for stakeholders to recognise their inter-dependency and to support the sector through examination of mechanisms to add value along the supply chain and increase the strength of all links in the supply chain, including Beef Producer Organisations.

Officials in my Department are currently engaging extensively with stakeholders in relation to Beef Producer Organisations which have strong potential to help strengthen the position of the primary producer in the supply chain.

Beef Industry

 195. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his plans to extend the deadline by which beef suckler farmers must apply for the BEEP scheme beyond 22 February 2019 due to lack of awareness among farmers in respect of the scheme; the steps he has taken to ensure there is a sufficient level of awareness among beef suckler farmers regarding the deadline for receipt of applications for the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8668/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I recently launched the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot, a targeted support for suckler farmers specifically aimed at further improving the economic and environmental efficiency of beef production. As well as clear environmental and climate benefits, the BEEP will provide farm gate investment at a time of market volatility and uncertainty relating to Brexit.

I am very conscious that 2018 was a very difficult year for beef farmers, in terms of weather, fodder issues and market volatility. This is the sector most exposed to Brexit, given its reliance on the UK market. The BEEP is designed to provide an injection of investment at a critical time for farmers navigating the challenges ahead, while delivering in real terms on our climate objectives.

The pilot has been designed to be as straightforward as possible and to ensure that the majority of the payment can be retained by the farmer.

The scheme was launched on 30 January with media in attendance. Details of the launch were posted on my Department’s official Twitter account and details of the pilot were subsequently covered online and in print in the Irish Farmers Journal, Farm Ireland, Agriland and the Irish Examiner. The pilot was also the focus of a recent multi-page article in the Irish Farmers Journal. In addition some 25,000 existing Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) participants were notified of the pilot in a newsletter that also contained a BEEP application form.

The development of the programme was the focus of extensive stakeholder engagement with a range of representative bodies. Applications will be accepted up until this Friday 22nd of February and I would urge all eligible farmers to apply.

TAMS Payments

 196. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when a supplementary TAMS payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8721/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The applicant in question made an application for mobile sheep handling equipment in the Animal Welfare, Safety and Nutrient Storage Scheme of TAMS II. The payment claim had a penalty applied and the application of this penalty has been reviewed following a request from the applicant. A balancing payment due following the outcome of the review will issue to the applicant shortly.

Animal Slaughtering Standards

 197. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 535 to 537, inclusive, of 12 February 2019, the corresponding inspection figures for 2017; the number of machines operating outside of tolerance not identified by inspections that required the calibration to be checked by staff from his Department before mechanical grading recommenced in 2017 and 2018, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8728/19]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1184 of 20 April 2017 governs the monitoring of carcase classification, carcase presentation and weighing.

  Inspections carried out by my Department identify when the grading machines are operating outside of tolerance. In 2017, my Department conducted almost 630 unannounced, on-the-spot inspections in 32 factories on classification and carcase presentation.

  In all cases where a machine is found to be working outside of tolerance, manual grading is instigated immediately. There were 8 instances in 2018 and 13 in 2017 when factories were instructed to revert to manual classification.   In all instances, classification officers from my Department conduct a classification check before a factory is instructed to recommence mechanical grading.

Air Pollution

 198. Deputy Joe Carey Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if a query (details supplied) will receive a response. [8515/19]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Recent scientific evidence indicates that air pollution is more damaging at lower concentrations than was previously understood. With this in mind, I am committed to bringing forward Ireland's first ever National Clean Air Strategy. The Strategy, which I intend to publish this year, will provide the policy framework necessary to identify and promote integrated measures across Government that are required to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air, while delivering on wider national objectives. Domestic solid fuel use will be addressed in the context of the strategy.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

 199. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the status of the roll-out of the national broadband plan at a location (details supplied); if broadband will be connected in view of the number of houses in the area that have already been connected; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [8516/19]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The premises referred to by the Deputy is in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP. This intervention is the subject of an ongoing procurement process.

  The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. I will bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

  The Deputy makes reference to the premises' proximity to a commercial deployment of high speed broadband. This deployment is part of eir's commercial roll out of high speed broadband to 300,000 predominantly rural premises, in line with a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017.

  eir’s rural investment in high speed broadband is an entirely commercial undertaking, and not part of the planned State Intervention network. Although the deployment is monitored under the terms of a Commitment Agreement signed between the company and my Department, it is not funded by the State and it is not planned, designed or directed by my Department in any capacity.

  Decisions made by private telecommunication operators relating to the roll out and siting of infrastructure to provide high speed broadband services throughout Ireland are undertaken on a commercial basis. I have no statutory role or function in such commercial decisions of private operators, and therefore cannot direct operators regarding infrastructure installation or delivery of services.

  For those premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, practical initiatives will continue to be addressed through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.

  Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing. These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements.


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