Thursday, 21 October 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
I thank the Deputy for his question. I am pleased to have secured more than €1.8 billion of funding in budget 2020 for the overall sector. This is in addition to almost €1.2 billion in direct payments annually. Farmers can have confidence that this budget protects family farms and their income and supports action to improve safety and sustainability on farms. I have succeeded in maintaining all of the crucial schemes for farmers. The budget provision will also allow us to provide additional funding for several policy priorities. I am committed to supporting our suckler and sheep sectors now and into the future.
More than €100 million will be provided in targeted supports for the beef and sheep sectors, including the beef data and genomics programme BDGP, the beef environmental efficiency programme for sucklers, BEEP-S, the sheep welfare scheme and the dairy calf programme. Other measures relevant to the livestock sectors include €7 million for Enterprise Ireland capital investment schemes to support the meat and dairy sector to invest in greater product and market diversification; €4 million for the establishment of the office of the food ombudsman; €80 million for on-farm investments through the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme, TAMS, including specific supports for solar energy installation; a tax package that protects the stamp duty relief for young, trained farmers, as well as stock relief; and an additional €2 million to support farm safety initiatives.
Within the 2022 provision, some €872 million allows key rural development programmes and forestry supports to remain available through the transitional period between the two CAP programmes. Of course, we cannot do new schemes this year, as the Deputy is aware. We are working hard on delivering the new schemes that will be in place in January 2023 but we cannot do new schemes at the moment. We are certainly determined to ensure all the schemes that are available are fully paid for and that there are no gaps in farmers' incomes.
I have worked closely with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, to finalise a financial package for the new CAP which I announced yesterday. Overall, in the context of fully supporting farm family incomes this year and next year as we transition to the new CAP, we have delivered very strong support for farm families.
I thank the Minister. That was a long way of answering "There are none" to the question I asked him regarding new measures. Of course, the Minister can apply to implement new Exchequer-funded schemes next year. There is nothing stopping him from doing so.
In the context of the CAP proposals he brought forward yesterday, and specifically in respect of the sectors to which I refer, will the Minister confirm that BEEP-S will remain a stand-alone scheme separate from the new suckler package he outlined and will continue to be funded through the Exchequer for the lifetime of the next CAP? As regards the sheep welfare scheme, the Minister is aware that an annual budget of €25 million was earmarked but the most that was ever actually drawn down was €17 million per year. What will the annual budget for that scheme be in the next CAP? What proposals will he bring forward to ensure the full amount is drawn down?
As regards areas of natural constraint, it has been reported that the scheme will continue. I ask the Minister to confirm whether an additional annual budget will be allocated to that scheme under his proposals.
To correct the Deputy, we cannot do new schemes under the transition regulation. We have the facility to continue with existing schemes and, of course, that takes a significant amount of money because at the end of a CAP programme there are full participation levels and maximum cost for all of those schemes. Thankfully, with the 11% increase last year from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the further increase of 2% this year, we have delivered a total increase of 13% in the budget of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine over that two-year period. That increase was required to ensure these schemes could be continued and to do some new initiatives such as the results-based environment agri pilot, REAP, scheme that we kicked off last year and the soil sampling programme that will continue this year.
As regards the 50% increase in CAP co-funding that I announced yesterday, under the new suckler carbon efficiency scheme, it will deliver €150 per cow for the first ten cows and €120 per cow for the remainder of the herd. That will be within the CAP strategic plan programme for five years. The capacity will remain open to us to also support sectors in parallel with that, as was the case with the BEEP scheme. The announcement yesterday was very much about what is programmed for the full five years.
The Minister did not deal with the specific questions I asked in respect of those three schemes. Perhaps he will furnish me with a written response on that.
The difficulty facing farming is that under the old CAP, Pillar 1 payments amounted to €5.975 billion in Exchequer and EU funding. Under the new CAP, for the entire programme, that figure is exactly the same. In real terms, that is a significant decrease. Under Pillar 2, the funding allocated across all areas under the old CAP was €4.258 billion. Under the new CAP, that figure will be €3.861 billion. In constant terms, there is a decrease in Pillar 2 payments. The proportion relating to co-financing is increasing and will include the €1.5 billion from the so-called carbon tax fund that the Minister committed would not form part of carbon tax. Does the Minister accept that Irish agriculture will be worse off under the next CAP because of the EU budget to which he agreed?
It will be much better off with this Government in place. I refer to the proposals in the alternative budgets put forward by Sinn Féin. Even though it proposes much more spending economy-wide in its fantasy budgets, agriculture always gets short-changed. The proposals in the Sinn Féin fantasy budget for last year-----
-----came nowhere near the 11% increase I delivered last year. Agriculture was short-changed even in the massive spending proposed in the Sinn Féin manifesto before the most recent general election. I am glad-----
Obviously, as regards budget pressures at European level, we fight that battle to try to keep that budget up. We got it narrowly increased after a big battle. As regards matters within our control, we are delivering a 50% increase in national funding.