Thursday, 15 July 1982
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Hyland: asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will take immediate steps to ensure that the Slievemargy area of South East Laois and the Slieve Bloom area of the county are designated by the EEC as disadvantaged areas for the purpose of qualifying for additional financial assistance to support farm incomes and to assist in the development of the agricultural resources of the areas.
Mr. O'Keeffe: asked the Minister for Agriculture whether he has examined the application to extend the disadvantaged area in South West Cork; whether he agrees that there should be an extension; and the up-to-date position in regard to that application.
Mr. Sheehan: asked the Minister for Agriculture the steps he has taken within the EEC to take account of disadvantaged areas over and above those already covered by the scheme in County Cork; and if the full South-West Cork constituency will be included in the scheme.
Mr. Deasy: asked the Minister for Agriculture if a submission has been made to the EEC for the inclusion of the mountainous and hilly areas of County Waterford in the disadvantaged areas  scheme; and if so, when a decision on the matter is expected.
Mr. Moynihan: asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will undertake to have the current review of the boundaries of the severely handicapped areas completed as early as possible so that farmers, who may be included in such enlarged areas, will qualify for the 1982 scheme of headage grant payments.
Mr. F. Fahey: asked the Minister for Agriculture the position in relation to the review of the boundaries of the disadvantaged areas in County Galway for the purpose of their classification as more severely handicapped areas.
Mr. Cooney: asked the Minister for Agriculture the steps if any, he has taken to have the disadvantaged areas extended to include land on the eastern bank of the Shannon particularly that contiguous to Athlone, County Westmeath, and which is subject to flooding.
Mr. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan-Monaghan) asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will arrange to have Counties Cavan and Monaghan designated as severely handicapped areas so that they may get the benefit of that scheme including headage payments for cattle and sheep; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Carey: asked the Minister for Agriculture when his Department will recommend the inclusion of full time farmers in County Clare who have been excluded from the severely handicapped area scheme by reason of their geographic location even though the quality and size of their holdings would make them otherwise eligible for EEC grant aid.
Mr. J. O'Leary: asked the Minister for Agriculture the present position in relation to the proposal to include the whole of the Dáil constituency area of South Kerry in the severely handicapped area within the disadvantaged areas scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter indicating when a final decision will be taken by the EEC.
Mr. Meaney: asked the Minister for agriculture the proposals that have been made to extend the disadvantaged area in County Cork; and if applications are actually now being processed from the county which are not district electoral divisions.
Mr. H. Byrne: asked the Minister for agriculture if he will include the Rathangan area of County Wexford in the disadvantaged areas scheme in view of the poor quality of the land and in view of the fact that the rateable valuation is extremely high and the farm income is less than two-thirds of the national average.
Mr. S. Byrne: asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will include that area enclosed north of the Mitchelstown / Cahir Road from Brackbawn Bridge to Cahir, the road to Toureen Cross on the Cahir/Bansha Road and the road from  Toureen Cross via Ardane and Stonepark to the county boundary with County Limerick, including the Galtee Mountain and Aherlow areas, in the disadvantaged area scheme because this land is less productive, is unsuitable for cultivation and is mainly used for pasture and that the average farm income is less than two-thirds of the national average.
A review of the boundaries of the disadvantaged areas, including the boundaries of the more severely handicapped parts of those areas, is at present being undertaken by my Department. This is the third national review conducted here since the basic Council Directive in the matter was adopted in 1975. This review will cover a large number of different areas of the country including the localities mentioned in the questions. For the purposes of this review it has been decided that consideration should be given to townlands or to groups of townlands rather than entire district electoral divisions, as had been the practice heretofore. The Minister and the Minister of State in my Department have in recent months met deputations from many parts of the country as part of the review process. The review will be completed as quickly as possible but, in view of the substantial amount of detailed field work involved, it is not expected that the results will be ready before early 1983. The position will then have to be considered by the Government before a submission is made to the EEC authorities for any boundary changes which may be deemed to be warranted. I have no means of knowing when a final decision in this matter will be taken by the EEC authorities.
Mr. Dukes: What happened to the proposal put to the EEC Commission by the Government at the end of last year to extend the areas covered by the disadvantaged areas scheme by 375,000 acres and reclassify half a million acres of the present disadvantaged areas as severely handicapped areas? Would the Minister agree that pursuance of that proposal  would have enabled him to go some way towards completing the review?
Mr. Cowen: The Deputy is aware that in the review consideration will be given to townlands as against district electoral divisions. On that basis it will take some time to have the revised scheme brought into effect.
Mr. Dukes: I appreciate the Minister's point and I am glad that he is continuing with that approach to the scheme which was set up by Fine Gael when in Government. What happened to the proposal made to the EEC by the Government at the end of last year in the context of the prices package to extend the total area covered by the disadvantaged areas by 375,000 acres and reclassify half a million acres of the existing disadvantaged areas as severely handicapped areas?
Mr. Cowen: The proposal is still with the EEC, I imagine. We are continuing on the lines that an extra half a million acres will be reclassified as severely handicapped and 375,000 acres classified as disadvantaged areas.
Mr. Dukes: The Minister is showing a great deal of imagination. I want to know what has happened to the proposal? Is it being actively pursued, has it been actively pursued in the context of the farm prices package and, if not, why not?
Mr. O'Keeffe: The Minister says it is being actively pursued. My understanding is that it was presented to Brussels by the last Government. What active steps have been taken since the change of Government to secure agreement on the figures which were presented by the last Government?
Mr. Cowen: The position is that the EEC are prepared to accept a revised scheme which would involve a further  half million acres being classified as severely handicapped and a further 375,000 acres as disadvantaged.
Mr. O'Keeffe: Is the Minister aware of the very strong claims in West Cork for a major extension of the disadvantaged areas there? Will the Minister ensure that as soon as an extension takes place the claims of West Cork will be fully and properly considered?
Mr. Leonard: Would the Minister agree that it is hard to understand how some areas in western counties can still remain unclassified while they qualify under the western drainage and other schemes for the 12 western counties? Is it not time all those counties were included?
Mr. J. Walsh: Does the Minister agree that the implementation of this scheme has been unsatisfactory so far? I cannot understand why one farmer can avail of a grant because he is in a district electoral division or now, as is proposed, in a townland and another farmer although he is in a transitionary category cannot avail of this grant. As there is such a high percentage of farmers categorised now the scheme should apply nationally to at least all transitional farmers.
Mr. Cowen: I have given the total  acreage it is hoped to involve in this division, both from the point of view of the acreage that will be reclassified as severely disadvantaged and the acreage which we hope would be added to the existing acreage and classified as disadvantaged.
Mr. Sheehan: Would the Minister agree that, in view of all the statistics there are in his Department with regard to farmers in those areas, it is only a waste of time and money to be indulging in making further investigations? Would he now appeal to the EEC to get all the specified areas into the scheme?
Mr. Cowen: As I stated earlier, previous revisions were carried out mainly on a district electoral division basis. I think there will be more concentration on townlands in this division and that it will be of benefit to people who have been left out in past revisions and who may be included now.
Mr. Dukes: It might be dangerous to get in among Corkmen, but I would like to ask the Minister if he is aware that the original purpose of specifying 375,000 acres and half a million acres respectively in the scheme to which I have referred, was precisely to ensure that he could carry on with getting the job done in some areas while a review was being carried out in other areas? In that event, would he not now agree to push this proposal energetically, because my information is that it has been treated in a very lukewarm fashion? Would he agree to push this proposal so that in areas where the review has been carried out, action can be taken now without having to wait for the review to be carried out in the rest of the country? Is the Minister suggesting that there must be a hierarchy of areas throughout the country and that the last must wait until the first has been considered?
Mr. Cowen: We may not be confined to the figures mentioned by the Deputy in the revision. We may have more than half a million acres reclassified as severely disadvantaged and we may have more  than 375,000 acres classified as designated. Everything possible will be done to speed up the scheme.
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