Tuesday, 8 February 2022
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
842. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the funding allocated to the pilot soil sampling scheme; the number of places within the scheme this was intended to facilitate; the number of successful and unsuccessful candidates by county; the basis on which applicants were selected or refused; the number of successful applicants affected by reported delays by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6724/22]
A budget of €10 million has been allocated to the pilot Soil Sampling and Analysis Programme.
The Programme aims to cover the cost of approximately 80,000 to 100,000 soil samples at an average cost of €105 per sample. With a maximum of 16 samples per farm, it was anticipated that over 7,500 applicants would be accepted into the Programme.
The application period closed on 8th October 2021. Due to oversubscription, 7,879 successful applicants were selected from a total of 15,820 applicants. Table 1 below shows the number of total applicants and successful applicants by county.
Applicants were selected for the programme on a first come first serve basis with additional steps to ensure appropriate geographic and sectoral spread. Nationally, applicants were grouped according to their NUTS 3 region (7 regions) and their relevant self-selected farm enterprise type (5 types). CSO Farm Structure Survey data provided the relative spread of enterprise type per NUTS 3 region. This was scaled down from National figures allowing comparison with the Soil Sampling Programme figures to ensure representative approvals.
The pilot Soil Sampling and Analysis Programme is a substantial and ambitious programme. Soil sampling is ongoing and taking place across all counties. Farmers who were approved into the Programme were informed that their sampling contract runs to 31st December 2022. Approved participants who do not have their soil sampled this spring will have a further opportunity to have samples taken in the autumn if they wish.
Table 1. Number of total applicants and successful applicants by county
|County||Total Applications||Total Successful|
843. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to delays within the pilot soil sampling scheme; the consequences for farmers spreading lime, fertiliser or slurry prior to sampling taking place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6725/22]
The pilot Soil Sampling and Analysis Programme is a substantial, innovative and ambitious programme with over 7,800 farmers approved to participate. The Letter of Approval issued to approved participants informed them that their Soil Sampling contract runs to 31st December 2022.
I am fully aware of progress under this pilot through my Department's regular engagement with the service provider. I acknowledge progress has been behind expectation, however soil sampling and analysis is continuing and progress is accelerating. The progress to date has not been good enough and my Department has engaged with the service provider to increase output in the scheme.
The service provider is managing the list of farmers approved for sampling. They are contacting each farmer prior to sampling. If a farmer has applied lime, slurry or fertiliser (other than straight nitrogen), they should advise the person who will be taking the samples when they make contact to arrange sampling.
In accordance with normal soil sampling requirements, as outlined in the Teagasc Publication “Major and Micro Nutrient Advice for Productive Agricultural Crops,” land that has received phosphorous or potassium, (or slurry) should not be sampled for 3 to 6 months after the last application of phosphorous and/or potassium. Where lime has been applied to correct soil pH, the advice to farmers is to allow a time lag of up to two years before soil sampling to determine lime requirements.
Even if nutrients have been applied to some fields, it may still be possible to take soil samples in other fields on an approved participant’s farm this spring. Approved participants who don’t have their land sampled this spring will have a further opportunity to have samples taken in the autumn if they wish.