Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. D. Gallagher: asked the Minister for Agriculture if a survey has been carried out in relation to flood damage in County Mayo; and if he will make funds available immediately to compensate for the serious damage caused.
Mr. D. Gallagher: asked the Minister for Agriculture if, in view of the serious problems facing the farming community in County Mayo because of recent flooding, he will ensure that adequate provision is made by the Government to compensate these farmers for their losses.
Mr. Deasy: I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 35 together. Due to the limited Exchequer resources available, assistance for flood damage victims had necessarily to be confined to farmers in areas of the Shannon Valley most severely affected by flooding. However, farmers in County Mayo and in other parts of the country who have been unable to conserve adequate winter fodder for their livestock were in a position to benefit from the winter fodder scheme 1985 and also eligible for the feed voucher scheme, details of which were announced earlier this month and which is due to close tomorrow.
Mr. D. Gallagher: The Minister mentioned the Shannon area, and we are not objecting to help being given there, but there are areas in Mayo and elsewhere where land is covered by sand, bog and grit of all sorts. When the Shannon subsides at least the farmers will have land but in many instances the farmers in Mayo will have no land left and they can get no help by way of grant to get their land back into production. The Government should alleviate the problem of these small farmers.
Mr. Deasy: My attention has not been drawn to any particular difficulty in Mayo which is not apparent elsewhere. If there was an area which might have been included it is that area adjacent to Dowra, County Cavan, where there was flooding of a nature which might have merited aid. That was not included because it came to light after we had decided on the areas to be included in the relief for the Shannon Valley. During the past summer and early autumn everyone had trouble as regards flooding, but unless there was something exceptional about the degree of flooding, we did not even examine the question of making relief available.
Mr. Deasy: As much as I would like to do that, the fact is that by extending the date I would run into difficulties issuing the vouchers. I cannot start issuing vouchers until I know the total number of applicants. The sooner I know that the sooner I can get the scheme working. The original closing date was 20 November and it has now been extended to 27 November. I want to ensure that people get these feed vouchers as quickly as possible. Therefore, I do not think it fair to ask for a further extension because the week's extension is sufficient.
Mr. Deasy: I could give a guesstimate, but not all the people who applied will be deemed eligible, although I hope they will. Obviously a certain percentage will probably be disqualified for various  reasons, such as income level and so on. The latest figure is approximately 60,000.
Mr. D. Gallagher: Do I take it from the Minister's reply that if it is possible to make a case that land in Mayo has been destroyed because of flooding, he would be prepared to receive representations and would be disposed to give some help?
Mr. Deasy: As much as I sympathise with the Deputy, I would not like to give him false hope because I might have to look at many similar areas. I have an additional problem: we allocated £2.5 million for the winter fodder scheme on 8 August. One million pounds of that was for fertiliser and £1.5 million was allocated for first time silage makers. We estimated that the maximum number of people who would avail of the first time silage making scheme was 8,000. It transpired that something like 30,000 have availed of that scheme. As a result our estimate has gone through the roof. Instead of spending £1.5 million, we will spend something like £6 million. It is proving extremely difficult to find that extra money and, therefore, it will be extremely difficult to find additional money for cases similar to that mentioned by the Deputy.
Mr. Farrelly: In view of the fact that there are about 30,000 people availing of that scheme, will the Minister increase the number of inspectors so that they can deal with these applications as quickly as possible? When does he envisage payment will be made?
Mr. Deasy: We have diverted every available resource to working on these emergency schemes. As regards payment, I cannot tell the Deputy at the moment. All I can say is that payments to the Shannon Valley have already commenced.
Mr. N. Treacy: As a result of the Minister's replies, particularly having regard to the large take-up on the first time silage making, will the Minister give a commitment that he will make a good grant available for the provision of silage plants in 1986?
Mr. Deasy: Assistance to farmers who faced serious winter fodder problems as a result of flood damage is confined to people farming in parts of specific district  electoral divisions in the Shannon valley area. The scheme is limited to those mainly dependent on farming with not more than 60 livestock units who have suffered fodder or, in some cases, crop losses. The maximum subsidy is £500 per farmer.
Mr. Naughten: I am delighted at the way in which the scheme is operating but is there a possibility of giving special assistance to farmers in that area which is classified under the Shannon valley and the Suck valley aid scheme by way of an additional grant?
Mr. Deasy: The reply to Deputy Naughten's question is the same as the reply I gave to Deputy Gallagher. I would love to have the resources but because of  the overspending on the silage scheme it is proving particularly difficult to make additional areas qualify for the scheme.
Mr. J. Leonard: For the sake of goodwill would the Minister not agree that it is important to make an effort? West Cavan and other areas mentioned earlier have suffered as severely from flooding as areas around the Shannon.
Mr. Deasy: There is not a lot extra available to people in the Shannon valley or the other affected areas compared with the general run-of-the-mill farmer who has fallen on difficult times. The maximum that can be paid under the Shannon valley scheme is £500. We hope to be able to pay £400 or its equivalent through the fodder scheme depending on the number of applicants. If the number of applicants is less than anticipated we may be able to pay more.
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