Dáil Éireann - Volume 532 - 20 March, 2001

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

230. Mr. U. Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if he proposes to pay all outstanding balances for the year 2000 to applicants under the various livestock schemes operated by his Department, in view of the current difficulties resulting from the foot and mouth disease crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7699/01]

231. Mr. U. Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if he proposes to pay immediately all moneys due from the year 2000 extensification schemes for both suckler cow and special beef premiums as the present foot and mouth disease crisis could cause hardship if delays were to follow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7700/01]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 and 231 together.

The payments position in respect of the 2000 schemes is that some £654 million has already been paid under the various headage and premium schemes to date. This compares quite favourably with the position at the same time last year when £621 million had been paid. Since 1 January 2001, almost 352,000 cheques valued at over £163 million have issued to farmers under the various headage and premium schemes.

The commencement dates for payments as set out in the protocol on direct payments in respect of the main headage and premium schemes are quite specific and my Department's performance in this regard is such that all targets have been met and indeed surpassed in some instances.

In line with protocol commitments, balancing payments under the 2000 suckler cow premium [1139] scheme commenced on 31 January 2001 and 94% of applicants were paid within two days. The present position is that 96% of applicants have been paid over £154 million under this scheme.

With regard to the special beef premium scheme, balancing payments commenced on 7 February 2001 when the quota usage for the year of application was determined and 90% of January to November applications were paid within a few days. To date more than 97% of those applications have been paid. Balancing payments are continuing and December 2000 applications have now been paid their entitlements following completion of their retention periods. Overall, 97% of applications have attracted payments valued at almost £184 million under this scheme to date.

The final instalment under the 2000 ewe premium scheme was paid on 16 February 2001 – the earliest possible date following publication of the regulation setting the rate on 13 February 2001. In fact, 97% of applicants under this scheme were paid their final instalment in one day and over £77.4 million has been paid to sheep producers under the 2000 ewe premium scheme.

As regards the 2000 slaughter premium scheme, balancing payments cannot commence until the quota usage for the year of application is determined. Balancing payments are expected to commence under this scheme and under the national envelope scheme in April 2001 when the quota usage is finalised. It should be noted that almost £32 million has been paid to beef producers under these schemes to date.

Although no specific targets were set out in the protocol with regard to the headage schemes, nevertheless, payments commenced on 8 September 2000 and 96% of cattle headage-beef cow applicants and 94% of sheep headage applicants have been paid over £111 million. In addition, £0.616 million has been paid out under the 2000 goat and equine headage schemes.

In line with the targets set out in the protocol, payments under the 2000 extensification scheme are expected to commence in June 2001 and will be finalised by 30 June in line with EU regulations. In this regard it is worth noting that not all farmers have returned their census forms despite having been issued with reminders to do so.

The only outstanding balancing payments under the 2000 suckler cow premium and special beef premium schemes are query cases and payments will issue to those herdowners when the problems associated with their applications are resolved. It is my intention that payments under the various premium schemes will be completed in all eligible cases by 30 June 2001 in line with EU rules and protocol commitments.