Coveney Outlines Main Features of 2012 Estimates for His Department PDF Print E-mail

Monday, 5th December 2011 (Source:  Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Press Office)

Announcing his expenditure estimates for 2012 today the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD said that despite the on-going serious difficulties in the public finances, today’s expenditure announcement was a strong statement of support for the agri-food sector and a recognition of the contribution which the sector can make to economic recovery and future growth in the Irish economy.

Priorities
a) To protect farm incomes targeting existing resources at active farmers
b) To support productivity and the up skilling of farmers and the food sector
c) To ensure the development of the agri-food sector incorporating investment in R+D, food safety, animal welfare and enterprise development in line with Food Harvest 2020*
d) Reform and continued drive for efficiency and better service delivery within the Department and associated agencies

Funding for 2012
A total funding of €1,312m is being provided in the Department’s Vote in 2012, €1,144m in current and €168m for capital expenditure. On the capital side, the Minister said that the 2012 capital allocation represents an increase of €18m on the National Recovery Plan expenditure ceiling and that this will be boosted by a further €27m by way of carry-over of savings from 2011 to provide total capital funding next year of €195m. This is a very substantial increase on the original NRP allocation of €150m and will allow a very worthwhile capital programme to be implemented next year. The funding announced today does not include the €1.3b in payments under EU funded schemes which are administered by the Department.

*Definition of Food Harvest 2020 –Government blue print for Agri-food sector developed with the food and drinks industry and chaired by the Minister

• Food Harvest 2020 related measures
The Minister has announced a range of measures which will support the Food Harvest 2020 objectives, contributing to jobs and growth in the agri food sector.

Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme: The Minister confirmed the continuation of the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme and was pleased to be able to fully fund the scheme from national funds. In particular, the Minister said that despite the financial constraints he faced, he will continue to provide the necessary funding to meet all payments due in 2012 at the current rates.

Beef Discussion Groups:
The Minister has allocated €5m towards the establishment of a Beef Technology Adoption Programme which will build on the work done to date under the Better Farm Programme. This will give beef farmers additional skills to increase productivity.

The Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes:
The Minister announced the re-opening of a range of Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) which had been suspended earlier in the year because of the uncertain budgetary situation. The Minister said that he was providing funding in 2012 to enable all of the schemes to re-open, – Poultry and Pig Welfare, Dairy Equipment, Sheep Handling and Rainwater Harvesting Schemes, as well as the Bio-energy scheme. In addition to providing an incentive for farmers to invest in their enterprises and secure their futures, these schemes will make a worthwhile contribution to job creation and to the maintenance of existing jobs in rural areas.

Forestry:
In forestry, the Minister said that he was anxious to deliver on the Government’s commitment to afforestation and to support a sector which contributes to job creation and to the maintenance of jobs in rural areas and which has a vital climate change role. Overall Expenditure for Forestry will be higher than the published figures and will amount to €111.76 million when the Estimate published today of €84.86m is boosted by a further €27m by way of carry-over of savings from 2011. This increased forestry funding of €112 million will allow afforestation to continue at roughly 7,000ha per annum as well as providing for the building of forest roads. There is no change in relation to the rate of payment of forestry premia, which continue at current levels.

Seafood sector:
The marine and fisheries sector is particularly important to coastal communities. In addition to funding for investment schemes in the processing sector, aquaculture development and fishery harbours, the Minister said that he is providing for an increase in the grant-in-aid for BIM in recognition of the on-going valuable role which it plays in the development of the fishing sector but also in view of the added responsibility which it will have in relation to the deep sea aquaculture.

Milk levy:
The Minister is beginning the consultation process for the introduction of a milk levy in the new year. The funding will be ring fenced for dairy products promotion through Bord Bia, including identifying new markets and opportunities to cater for the expanded output from 2015.

Animal Health Initiatives:

The Minister has announced a number of initiatives in relation to animal health including:
• A voluntary BVD eradication programme
• A new initiative to tackle Johnes Disease
• Changes to the brucellosis testing for dairy herds (See annex for further information)

Protecting farm incomes targeting existing scheme resources at active farmers
Disadvantaged Areas Scheme:
The Minister announced that there would be no changes in either the rates or the eligible areas qualifying for a disadvantaged area payment, despite the fact that expenditure would be reduced by some €30 million in 2012. This lower financial limit would be achieved by the introduction of targeted reform in the Disadvantaged Areas Payments, which will be achieved through reform of the stocking density, retentions period and other elements of the scheme. The changes being introduced will favour active farmers and are subject to clearance by the European Commission.

REPS 4 while the agri-environment schemes makes an important contribution to protection of the environment, the Minister said that he had no option, due to the financial pressures, but to reduce payments by 10% in future years. This change is subject to approval by the EU Commission.

AEOS The Minister announced that he would consider the question of the re-opening of AEOS in 2012 on a limited scale early in the New Year. The full year cost of funding a new scheme will fall to be met in 2013 and the Minister said that the decision to re-open for applications in 2012 will be taken in the context of the Department’s expenditure ceiling for 2013 as agreed by Government and, in particular, on how a new scheme might be funded within the reduced funding and the resulting pressures on the Vote in 2013.

• Reform
The Minister is determined to ensure that all schemes and services are delivered by the Department as efficiently and effectively as possible. The Comprehensive Expenditure Review which was completed earlier in the year was a rigorous exercise involving a thorough review and analysis of all elements of expenditure. Between the Department and State bodies there will be a saving of €18m.

Department Review of Expenditure:
The Department is engaged in a major and ongoing programme of significant re-organisation at all levels which will result in further significant reduction in the Administrative Budget in 2012. This has been facilitated by: changes in the manner in which schemes are administered by the Department; considerable reductions in disease levels resulting from more intensive and targeted controls; the advanced use of information technology; and a programme of internal reviews of business units, including a root and branch review of the local office network, which has led to improved business processes and greater operational efficiency. As a result of this re-organisation is the following:
• Reduction of €12m in administration costs of 2012
• Reduction of €6m by States agencies costs
• Reduction in Department staffing levels; from 4,800 in 2005 to less than 3,600 today, a reduction of over 25%.
• Reduced the cost of running the Department; by some €60million, or approximately 20%, since 2008.
• Reduced the number of local offices; when fully completed in 2012, the Local Office Re-organisation Programme will reduce the number of offices from 58 to 16.
• Commenced a shared services programme for its agencies and other Government Departments.

Semi State Bodies
• A €10m dividend payment by Coillte
• €18m reform and savings programme in Teagasc (within a 5 year programme)
• Bord Bia and BIM - €2.2m (within a 5 year programme)

Horses and Greyhound Fund:
The Minister signalled his intention to review the structure and management of the horse racing industry to provide a renewed impetus to future development of this world class sector. Concluding, Minister Coveney said “I remain extremely upbeat about the prospects for the agri food sector in 2012 and beyond. All the indications are that the sector will continue to outperform other sectors of the economy and continue on an upward trajectory, creating new jobs and building further on the outstanding export performance in 2011”.

Annex to Press Release:
Animal Health Initiatives:
Eradication of BVD With a view to boosting participation in the voluntary phase of the BVD Eradication programme, the Minister will introduce a scheme of assistance towards the disposal of the Persistently Infected (P.I.) calves. There would also be a contribution towards the replacement cost of P.I. suckler calves that have been removed from herds. Funding will be limited to the one year voluntary period. The scheme will move to its compulsory phase in 2013 where mandatory movement restrictions would apply and funding would no longer have a part to play. Details of the financial assistance to apply during the voluntary phase of the BVD eradication programme will be announced at a later date.

Brucellosis:
Brucellosis testing for dairy herds will go from 50% to 20% in 2012. While Ireland is now recognised as officially free from brucellosis, the Department is obliged to continue screening a proportion of the national herd for evidence of the disease for the next few years with 50% of beef herds and 20% of dairy herds being tested in 2012.

Johne’s disease:
Sampling of herds for brucellosis presents an opportunity for the Department to assist Animal Health Ireland in kick-starting an industry-led control programme for Johne’s disease in 2012. This is an important move in that it is quite likely that with expansion of the national herd and in the absence of such a control programme, Johne’s disease would become more widely established within the Irish cattle population with consequences for animal health, welfare, production and trade. Owners of herds that are blood sampled for brucellosis during 2012 will be given the option of having their herds screened for Johne’s disease. Under the proposed arrangements the brucellosis blood samples will also be tested for antibodies to the causative agent of Johne’s Disease. This additional test will be offered on a voluntary basis with the herdowner paying a fee for the additional test and agreeing that the test data is transferred to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation database.

Changes to Disadvantaged Areas Scheme:
• The minimum stocking density has been increased from 0.15lu/ha to 0.30lu/ha.
• The minimum retention period has been increased from 3 months to 6 months and will be calculated over 12 months.
• There will be a reduced rate of aid where applicants hold both Disadvantage and non-Disadvantaged Lands.
• Exclusion of horses from the stocking density calculation.
• There is an exclusion for land more that 80 kilometres from a farmer’s main holding.

Beef Efficiency:
The establishment of a Beef Technology Adoption Programme, linked to an expanded better Farm Programme, with a country wide network of Better Farms, was a key recommendation of the Beef 2020 Activation Group. The Dairy Efficiency Programme has doubled the numbers participating in the discussion groups to approx. 6,000. If the target were to triple the numbers participating in the Beef Discussion Groups in the first year, this would bring the total number of participants to approx. 4,500.

Harbours:
The Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Capital Programme provides funding for works at the six State-owned Fishery Harbour Centres, (Howth, Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Dingle, Ros a Mhíl and Killybegs) as well as other Local Authority owned harbours and landing places around the coast. Funding allocated under this programme will be used for the improvement of the Fishery Harbour Centres to ensure the future viability of the fishing industry, bring the Fishery Harbour Centres up to a best in class standard, reduce congestion and improve safety for all harbour users. This programme enhances harbour infrastructure, provides much needed employment in coastal communities during the construction phase and establishes a platform to create and support sustained employment in the fishing, aquaculture and marine leisure sectors.

State Boards:
The State Boards under the aegis of this Department have carried out a number of efficiencies. Some examples of these are:

Bord Bia: Staff reduced by approximately 10% saving €900,000 per annum
Bord Iascaigh Mhara: Reduced rental and storage costs saving €138,000 per annum.
Marine Institute Internal redeployment saving €304,000 per annum.
Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) Revised arrangements for meetings & communications with port offices saved €300,000 per annum

Teagasc
• By the end of 2011, Teagasc estimate that they will save €18 million compared to 2008 levels. Reduction in staff numbers,
• including the implementation of a voluntary redundancy scheme.Implementation of new senior management structure,
• restructuring of the Advisory Area Unit and rationalisation of Advisory Offices