Tuesday, 24 March 2009
Farm Waste Management.
Question 46: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how he will finance the commitments made under the farm waste management scheme for 2009 in view of the shortfall in his Department's Estimates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12210/09]
The arrangements for payment of grants under the farm waste management scheme on a phased basis have been confirmed, with 40% being paid this year as claims are approved. A further 40% will be paid in early January 2010 and the remaining 20% in January 2011. I have also announced that a special ex gratia payment not exceeding 3.5% of the value of the deferred amount will be made to farmers whose farm waste management grants have been partially deferred. This payment will be made in January 2011 along with the final instalment.
The Revised Estimates for the public service will be published following the budgetary adjustments planned for 7 April. Funding for my Department, including the allocation for the farm waste management scheme, is being considered in that context.
I assure the Minister that I am not seeking any budgetary figures and do not intend to probe into confidential Cabinet deliberations. Does the Minister accept there is a shortfall of €105 million in his Department's capacity to make the 40% payments in 2009? Farmers seek an assurance that the payments they are receiving under various schemes will not be reduced. In other words, there must be no robbing of Peter to pay Paul. Rather, supplementary funds must be allocated to meet the Government's liability under the farm waste management scheme. Will the Minister confirm that the suckler cow welfare scheme, for example, will not be further reduced in order to make up the Department's shortfall?
Provision will be made in the Revised Estimates to meet the commitments we have given to those farmers who are due grant payments under the farm waste management scheme. So far this year, of the 40% to be paid, almost €66 million has issued to almost 5,000 farmers. Departmental officials at local level are carrying out inspections as expeditiously as possible in order to ensure that appropriate payments are made at the earliest possible date. This is a scheme of investment of €1.1 billion over a short period.
This is the largest infrastructural investment ever made in on-farm facilities. It is funded entirely by the Exchequer. Grant aid of 70% in some areas and 60% in others was provided.
Moreover, the maximum eligible investment ceiling was increased and the scheme was extended to include other sectors previously denied access to on-farm investment schemes. I assure Deputy Creed that the 40% payment to all eligible applicants will be made in the course of this year.
I will put my question to the Minister once again. Will he confirm that the shortfall is currently €105 million? Will he also confirm that in order to make up that shortfall there will be no cutback in other schemes under which farmers benefit? I mention, for example, the suckler cow welfare scheme. Will the Minister give an assurance that disadvantaged area payments will not be impacted? Will he give an assurance that access to REPS 4 will not be closed off as was done? If the Minister takes the liberty of repeating issues, I will take the liberty of recalling chapter and verse the cutbacks he has introduced already — disadvantaged area payments, installation aid and early retirement scheme. Are we going to have a further litany to make up for the mathematical bungling in the Department which did not provide adequate funding from the first day? Is the shortfall €105 million? Will there be no robbing Peter to pay Paul in the Department?
The question asked when people would be paid and if funding would be made available. I want to assure the Deputy as I have done previously that provision is being made to ensure that the 40% element of all eligible grant applications will be made during the early part of this year. Inspections are being expedited as rapidly as possible.
As the Deputy is well aware this is an Exchequer-funded scheme and the Minister for Finance provides the funding to the relevant Department to meet obligations under different schemes. We will not be getting the money from Europe but from our own Exchequer.