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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 387-400
 Header Item Beef Data and Genomics Programme
 Header Item Forestry Sector
 Header Item Forestry Sector
 Header Item Forestry Sector
 Header Item Fish Producer Organisations
 Header Item Apiculture Industry
 Header Item Departmental Staff
 Header Item Forestry Management
 Header Item Agriculture Schemes
 Header Item Departmental Data
 Header Item General Data Protection Regulation
 Header Item Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 6
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 78 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 387-400

Beef Data and Genomics Programme

 387. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if a family (details supplied) will receive payment under the beef data and genomics programme, BDGP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17827/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue In applying to join the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP), the person named committed to participating in the programme for the full six years of the programme. The BDGP application was received under a specific Herd Number.

One of the requirements of the Programme is that a valid Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application is submitted to the Department on a yearly basis and on which all land parcels are declared. If the eligible forage hectares declared in any year is less than 80% of the maximum payable area notified to successful applicants in Year one, due to the sale or transfer of the land, the applicant concerned will not be permitted to continue participation in BDGP.

In 2020, a BPS application was received under the partnership number provided. There are two herdnumbers under this partnership, including the one under which the BDGP application was received. However, all the lands were declared under the other herdnumber. As there was no land declared under the herdnumber which made the BDGP application, no payment will issue under BDGP.

A letter will issue to the person named in the coming days detailing this decision and their right to appeal the decision if they wish.

Forestry Sector

 388. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue  when his Department will provide this Deputy with a timeframe for forestry licence applications that have been in the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17828/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I am aware of the issues facing the forestry sector and considerable efforts have been made to address them. Additional resources have been recruited and training, information and guidance has been provided to both Departmental staff and registered foresters and, as a result, we have seen gains in terms of output.

  The introduction of Project Woodland, recently launched by Minister-of-State Pippa Hackett, with responsibility for forestry, is our strategy for resolving the licensing issues. This new structure aims to ensure that the current backlog is addressed. The Project involves a review and refresh of our processes and procedures and includes outside stakeholder participation to bring an independent perspective. It is a task-driven process, with clear deliverable and milestones.

  Working Group 1 under Project Woodland is specifically tasked with reducing the backlog and then plotting a trajectory to achieve this target. The recommendation in Ms Jo O'Hara's Implementation Report is that this Group publish a process to achieve these targets, including prioritisation and scheduling and that a monthly dashboard show the outcome of this process against the target trajectory. Meanwhile, Working Group 4 will address Effective Processes, which will include clearer explanations for the statutory basis for forestry regulation and the introduction of more efficient and effective processes. I expect there will be cross-cutting issues between these two groups.

  A target to issue 4,500 licences in 2021 has been set which is a 75% increase on 2020.

  I remain hopeful and confident that the changes presented under the Project Woodland structure to processes within my Department will bear fruit, particularly to give confidence to all applicants that they can receive a timely decision on their forestry licence application.

  The tables below show the average time taken to decide on an application received for each of the three categories of licence, broken down by the year received, for 2018 to 2020.

  It is worth noting that there are always licences in the system at various stages of processing. These are the initial stages of an application being made, while the registered forester finalises application documents to referral to prescribed bodies, referral to the inspector and/or ecologist/archaeologist, to making final decision. Applications may also be returned to the applicant (and their registered forester, where relevant) for further information.

  The average time taken for a decision to issue on a felling application, averaged over the last three years was seven months. The average time an undecided felling licence has been in the system is 13 months.

  The average time taken for a decision to issue on an afforestation application, averaged over the last three years was six months. The average time an undecided afforestation licence has been in the system is 17 months.

  The average time taken for a decision to issue on a Forest Road application, averaged over the last three years was six months. The average time an undecided Forest Road licence has been in the system is 15 months.

  Felling

Year Received Avg. Days from app to licence Months (30)
2018 180 6
2019 241 8
2020 137 5
All years 197 7
Undecided 406 14


  Afforestation
Year Received Avg. Days from app to licence Months (30)
2018 180 6
2019 201 7
2020 136 5
All years 182 6
Undecided 495 17


  Roads
Year Received Avg. Days from app to licence Months (30)
2018 186 6
2019 189 6
2020 164 5
All years 184 6
Undecided 437 15

Forestry Sector

 389. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the number of forestry licences issued by his Department for the first quarter of 2021; if the commitment to issue 4,500 licences in 2021 will be honoured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17829/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue As of Friday 26th March, the Department has issued 814 forestry licences in 2021. This is 18% of the target of 4,500 that will issue this year. The number of forestry licences issued this year is almost 20% higher than the same period last year.

  I remain hopeful and confident based on these figures that target of 4,500 will be met in the remainder of the year notwithstanding that it will be an enormous challenge to reach those targets. In overall terms, when compared with end-March last year, Q1 2021 has resulted in:

  - Afforestation decisions are down 12% but the area approved is up 14%

  - Forest Roads decisions up 81% and length up 125%

  - Felling decisions are up 37%, volume is up 53%

  - The full end of quarter figures will be outlined in the next Forestry Dashboard.

  There is considerably more work to do and the implementation of Project Woodland in collaboration with stakeholders remains a key political priority for me. We are continuing to invest in resources and reform our processes and procedures to improve our licensing output.

Forestry Sector

 390. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if he will provide the details of the decision in 2010 to impose the 20% rule on forestry and farmers, including accompanying reports and correspondence from the EU at that time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17830/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue A decision was made to restrict the planting of unenclosed land in December 2010.

  Enclosed land is, in general, more fertile and less exposed than unenclosed land and trees planted on enclosed land generally perform much better than trees planted on soil types associated with unenclosed land. This position is supported by many publications including ‘Sitka spruce in Ireland, Joyce, P.M. and OCarroll, N. 2002, and by ‘The distribution and productivity of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) in Ireland in relation to site, soil and climatic factors’. Farrelly N. et al 2009. and the Code of Best Forest Practice - Ireland (2000).

Prior to the decision to restrict planting of unenclosed land, a number of well-known studies supported the position that habitat types associated with unenclosed land are more environmentally sensitive than enclosed land. For example, various studies including ‘Phosphorus release from forest harvesting on an upland blanket peat catchment by Rodgers et al   in 2010 established that peat soils do not buffer phosphate in the same way mineral soils do and that there will be a release of phosphate into receiving waters post-harvesting, even with the installation of protective setbacks along watercourses.

  Concerns also existed in relation to the importance of unenclosed land for forging and breeding by a wide range of protected bird species (e.g. Hen harrier). Similarly, concerns existed in relation to undesignated Annex 1 habitats such as wet and dry heath, and highly endangered protected species such as freshwater pearl mussel, whose lifecycle is dependent on natural habitats typically associated with unenclosed land. Such environmental issues were discussed at this time with the European Commission.

  At the time, another consideration was the fact that many plantations on unenclosed land that received grant and premium aid failed and the Department often engaged with the applicant to recoup the monies paid.

  The planting on unenclosed land will be reviewed in the context of Project Woodland.

Fish Producer Organisations

 391. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Zoom on Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if his attention has been drawn to the establishment of a new independent organisation (details supplied); if this organisation will be included in future rounds of consultation that he holds with the industry; and if it will be invited to participate in the work of the seafood task force. [17840/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I am aware of the organisation referred to by the Deputy.

There is already a significant number of fisher's organisations representing the interests of the fishing fleet, namely, the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF) and the five Producer Organisations (Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, Irish South & West Fish Producer's Organisation, Irish South & East Fish Producer's Organisation, Irish Fish Producer's Organisation and the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation).

Therefore, I would urge industry to work within the recognised bodies of the Producer Organisations and the NIFF at the Task Force and other relevant representative consultative groups to ensure that it has a coherent and clear voice, particularly during this challenging period for the fleet.

  Question No. 392 answered with Question No. 382.

Apiculture Industry

 393. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by an association (details supplied) with regard to the potential importation of bees from continental Europe either for release in Ireland or the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17902/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I fully acknowledge the important contribution bees make to agriculture and biodiversity as both pollinators and honey producers. In this regard, my Department provides a range of supports and initiatives to encourage and assist beekeepers and the national beekeeping associations. These supports include funding to carry out applied research through the National Apiculture Programme, grants to national beekeeping associations and grant aid to fund capital investments for beekeepers. My Department has funded a number of studies under the Genetic Research Grant Aid Scheme looking at various aspects of this honeybee species and specifically apis mellifera melliferra. In 2021, funding has been allocated for an innovative queen rearing project.

In relation to the importation of honeybees into Ireland, this is allowed under regulations governing intra-Community trade with other EU Member States. The specific health requirements for trading in bees are laid out in Council Directive 92/65/EEC. All imports of bees must be accompanied by a health certificate issued by the country of export after a physical inspection of the bees and their packaging has taken place. This is to ensure that imported bees are healthy and do not harbour pathogens or parasites that may be harmful to our native bee stocks.

The importation of bees into the UK via Northern Ireland is a UK internal matter.

Departmental Staff

 394. Deputy Claire Kerrane Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if he will provide a breakdown of the higher executive officers, administrative officers, assistant principal officers, principal officers and assistant secretaries in his Department, by gender, in tabular form. [17903/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue The gender breakdown of staff in my Department at the requested grades is shown in the following table.

Grade Female Male
Administrative Officer 21 20
Assistant Secretary * 3 8
Assistant Principal 88 83
Higher Executive Officer 165 142
Principal Officer 17 29
  * It should be noted that the figures shown here include the Chief Inspector and Chief Veterinary Officer in my Department, as these roles are equivalent to the Assistant Secretary Grade.

Forestry Management

 395. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue further to Parliamentary Question No. 2021 of 24 March 2021, if the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, advised his Department to increase the buffer radius from 3 km to 15 km; if his attention has been drawn to the clear guidance on page 32 of the appropriate NPWS assessment document; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17921/21]

 396. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the reason all forestry projects are required by his Department to adhere to a 15 km buffer zone when the clear guidance from the National Parks and Wildlife Service states the distance can be much less than 15 km and, in some cases, less than 100 m, and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17923/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue I propose to take Questions Nos. 395 and 396 together.

  The Habitats Directive and the transposing legislation SI 477 of 2011 require, inter alia, that an appropriate assessment is undertaken where screening identifies a likelihood of the project having a significant effect on a European site(s). This is true regardless of the separation distance between the project and the European site(s).

  A likely zone of impact is used in order to identify those European Sites to be specifically addressed during screening. In making a decision regarding the likelihood of a project having a significant effect on a European Site(s), all European Sites within a certain radius (or ‘likely zone of impact’) should be considered at screening stage, in addition to hydrologically-connected European Sites. For example, in relation to a Special Protection Area, it is important to consider whether the project area lies within the foraging distance of bird species for which that SPA was designated, and many of these foraging distances exceed 3km.

  This was one of the reasons why 3km was not deemed appropriate. There were a number of factors which prompted the Department to make the change in mid-2019. We were advised by our Ecology consultants that our appropriate assessment screening decisions would be vulnerable to challenge if we continued to consider at screening stage only those European Sites within 3km. Practice in other land use sectors where appropriate assessment screening is required is also to provide for a 15km likely zone of impact. Furthermore, results on individual cases heard by the FAC also indicated that the 3km radius was not appropriate.

  My Department are in close contact with their counterparts in the NPWS and they are aware of our screening process. The document referred is currently under review by the NPWS.   I can assure you that each file is assessed on a case by case basis.

Agriculture Schemes

 397. 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 Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the position regarding a project (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17954/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue The European Innovation Partnerships Initiative (EIP) under the current Rural Development Programme involves the establishment of Operational Groups to develop ideas, or take existing ideas/research and put them into practice. The ultimate aim of these innovation partnerships is to road-test new ideas and practices which can be used more widely by farmers and others to improve productivity, enhance resource efficiency and pursue sustainable farming practices. These EIPs are pilot projects and, as such, are restricted in the number of farmers that they can accept into their schemes.

The Department approved applications for funding, following a competitive open call for proposals under the EIP Initiative. In their application for funding under the open call, each project group indicated, based on their capacity, the level of funding required to carry out the pilot project including funding for the number of farmers that they planned to involve in each project. In successful EIPs, such as the one referred to, it may be the case that not all interested farmers can be accommodated within the pilot project.

Existing EIP groups have been working hard on the actions in their proposals and have built a deep understanding of the impacts these works are having on biodiversity and habitat quality. The results of this work to date will be invaluable in negotiating the next CAP and in programme design for these sensitive areas in the next CAP Strategic Plan.

We are currently making plans for new and expanded EIPs in the next CAP and we are engaging with stakeholders on the design of these through the CAP consultation process.

Departmental Data

 398. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue if a schedule will be provided of the data sets, databases and file types his Department has shared with the Department of Health since 2000. [17966/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue Given the 20-year span of the question, it is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy in the required time. The information is currently being compiled and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

General Data Protection Regulation

 399. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the number of complaints his Department has received from members of the public under the heading of general data protection regulation, GDPR, and data information requests from 2018 to date in 2021; the number of data information requests that have been refused and accepted, respectively; the number of GDPR requests refused; and the basis on which they were declined, in tabular form. [17984/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the attached tables.

Table

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

 400. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue the extent to which he remains satisfied that carbon emission reduction targets are being met without damage to agrifood production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18010/21]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue In December 2020, I published the AgClimatise roadmap. This roadmap sets out a series of ambitious actions for the next decade and beyond which will be transformative for Irish agriculture. The roadmap will enable the sector to reduce agricultural GHG emissions by 10-15%, while maintaining, and indeed, hopefully increasing agricultural output through efficiency gains over the years ahead.

One of the major objectives of AgClimatise is an overall reduction in chemical nitrogen fertiliser use to 325,000 tonnes by 2030, a key objective of the EU Farm-to-Fork Strategy. The roadmap places significant emphasis on measures that will maintain grass productivity with reduced levels of chemical fertiliser use. These measures include an increased use of lime on farms, the use of clover and other multispecies swards and a greater uptake of low emission slurry spreading technology. The Teagasc Signpost farms initiative, along with the many public and private advisors, will play a key role in up skilling farmers over the years ahead.

By implementing the Ag Climatise roadmap over the course of the next decade, I am very confident that we can transition the sector to a more long term sustainable platform, with co-benefits for water, air quality and biodiversity, while at all times, maintaining productivity in the sector.

Ultimately, I want to ensure that, as a priority, we protect farm family incomes while also protecting the environment.


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