Wednesday, 1 July 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Finucane: I am most disappointed that the control of farmyard pollution scheme which was introduced in 1989 and due to operate until 1993 has now been suspended. I am concerned that new applicants who wish to participate in the scheme will now reconsider whether they should proceed with the work because of the financial implications and the failure to obtain grants.
This scheme has been very successful, given that over 25,000 farmers have availed of the scheme. We all remember the fish kills during the summers of the eighties. Thankfully, these fish kills have all but disappeared as the farming sector have responded positively by introducing effective pollution controls.
Farmers are now much more conscious of the need to contain slurry and silage effluents. It is imperative that the Minister re-introduce these grants as soon as possible in order to ensure that the achievements in this area over the years are continued. I call on the Minister for Agriculture and Food to re-introduce those grants immediately.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Hyland): I appreciate the Deputy's concern in raising this matter. As he is aware, the scheme for the control of farmyard pollution was introduced here in 1989 as an operational programme. The scheme was to last until 1993 and estimated expenditure was £94 million. A sum of £66.4 million was allocated out of the Structural Funds to finance this expenditure.
To date, 27,000 farmers have applied for the scheme and approvals have issued in 25,000 cases, leaving over 2,000 to be dealt with. These approvals exhaust the estimated expenditure of £94 million and the corresponding expenditure of £66.4 million from the Structural Funds.
It is possible that all the outstanding approvals will not reach completion this  year, in which case there would be money available to finance some more approvals. It has been decided, therefore, to cancel those approvals where the completion date has expired in an effort to find out how many approvals are likely to be completed.
It is expected that the situation will be clarified shortly. If by then it is established that a certain number of applicants are not going ahead with their approved work additional approvals can be issued. While it is too soon yet to make a definite forecast of the outcome it is likely that it will be possible to deal with a substantial number of applications on hands within the current financial allocation.
I am aware of the importance of this scheme in the control of farmyard pollution and the interest which farmers have in it. For this reason, in the programme being prepared by the Government for submission to the European Community for a new allocation of Structural Funds, additional finance for this scheme will have priority. I can confirm that both the Minister for Agriculture and Food and I will do everything possible to secure additional funding under this heading.
Mr. McGrath: Towards the end of 1991 the Department of Agriculture and Food invited dairy farmers to opt for a Community milk quota buy-up scheme which is funded by the European Community. Applicants had to submit completed documentation to the Department of Agriculture and Food before 15 January 1992, while successful participants had to cease milk deliveries by 31 March 1992. According to the explanatory memorandum that was issued by the Department with the application forms “payment of the first premium will be  made as soon as possible following the required discontinuation of milk deliveries by 31 March 1992”.
Farmers believed this to mean that the first instalment of their payment would arrive soon after 31 March but I suppose this could be interpreted to mean either April or at the latest May. One can realise their annoyance, therefore, when this phrase was translated by the Department to mean “August or, more than likely, September”. This delay is causing cash-flow problems for some of the participants in this scheme, especially for those who have bank repayments to meet.
At a time when farm incomes are in decline and considering the many expenses incurred by farmers at this time of the year I call on the Minister of State, Deputy Hyland, and the Department to review the scheme and to make the promised payments to these farmers immediately or at the least to those farmers who are in financial difficulty because they misread the scheme.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Hyland): The Community milk quota buy-up scheme provides for the payment of five annual instalments of 41p per gallon to the producers who offered their quota for surrender under the scheme. I have instructed my officials to ensure that the initial payment is made as early as possible this year and I hope to be in a position to proceed with the first payment before the end of August. However, the timing of the payment date is determined by a number of factors.
Before payment can be made, it is necessary to verify the details provided by the applicants relating to quota and land ownership. In addition, there is a legal obligation on my Department under the Community regulations to ensure that verification checks are carried out to confirm that the production of milk has been totally and definitely discontinued.  I have asked my officials to have these checks concluded as quickly as possible.
When the payment system is put in place, I will review the timing of the payments for future years. If it is found to be possible to bring forward the payment date the necessary arrangements will be made.
Mr. Flanagan: Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me to raise a very important matter. It is exactly one year since the appeal forms were to be submitted, in accordance with departmental regulations for the appeals system, under the disadvantaged areas scheme. I wish to put some points to the Minister of State. The appeals panel has sat and I understand the computations and figures are being collated by way of computer input. Will the appeals panel go to the farmers and explain the failures in areas where the benefits under the scheme are less than satisfactory or will the Official Secrets Act be applied? I urge the Minister to consider introducing a procedure similar to that which operates under the driving test scheme. If there is a difficulty it should at least be explained to the aggrieved farmer.
I am raising this question not only on my own behalf but on behalf of a large number of farmers in the Minister's constituency. The Minister should clear the air as far as this confusion and delay is concerned.
The Minister will be aware that farmers are uncertain regarding the appeals system and I ask the Minister to clarify the position concerning payments. It is not so long ago that a predecessor in the Department, Deputy O'Kennedy, gave a guarantee that payments would be made under the appeals system in respect of 1991. However, not only are the payments in respect of 1991 in doubt but so  also are those in respect of 1992. In fact, it may be that the submission will not be made to Brussels until 1993. If that is the case undoubtedly the farmers and people in the agri-industry will be in a very precarious position.
In response to a recent parliamentary question it was stated that the inputting of these figures into computer would take until the autumn. With the advanced technology available to the Minister in the Department, it may not take as long as five or six months to input these figures. When will the submission go to Brussels for final approval?
Mr. Hyland: I appreciate Deputy Flanagan's concern in raising the question of the disadvantaged areas because both he and I have been over the course in relation to the problems of the disadvantaged areas. I am glad to have the opportunity of responding to his question. As the Deputy said the appeal panel has completed the three preliminary phases of the appeals procedure in respect of areas not included in the recent extension of the disadvantaged areas. These phases consisted of the receipt of some 1,600 appeal applications from farming representatives and the processing of these applications and the arranging of a survey by Department inspectors of the areas from which appeals were submitted. In addition, the panel has carried out visits to various centres in the country and has met with representatives of farming groups who submitted appeals.
The next phase involves the processing on computer of all data from the 40,000 farms inspected in the survey. The Deputy will acknowledge that in this survey we collected data from all the 40,000 farmers who made applications under the appeals system. When this task is completed the panel will examine the survey results and make recommendations to the Department as to areas to be included in a submission to Brussels.
 The panel has also invited appeal applications in respect of reclassification. About 700 applications have been received. When the listing and processing of these appeals is completed at the end of this month the panel will review each area under appeal and assess the situation in regard to reclassification. I assure Deputy Flanagan that there will be no delay in bringing this appeal procedure to what I hope will be a successful conclusion.
We set targets in relation to the various stages of the survey and we are on target in relation to each of these phases. Much care and attention has been given by the field inspectors of the Department and that has been recognised by the farmers visited by these inspectors. Farmers acknowledge that we have done everything possible to ensure that all the information required for the appeals system has been put on file. I assure the Deputy there will be no delay in bringing this matter to what, hopefully, will be a satisfactory conclusion both for the farmers and the country.
Mr. M. Kitt: I wish to raise the question of advance factory facilities in the town of Tuam, an issue I raised in the House on many occasions. I received a written reply from the Minister for Industry and Commerce on 20 February 1990 stating that the IDA were in discussion with private developers regarding the provision of a 20,000 square feet advance factory in Tuam. Later that year the IDA confirmed that they had finalised details with Irish Sugar Company and a private developer for the construction of this advance factory. However, there was a problem in that the factory was to be built in Airglooney where there were no proper water and sewerage facilities.
We had to wait until there was a revised agreement between Greencore and the Tuam Community Group on 13 Febryuary 1992 which indicated that there was an arrangement to have the construction  of this advance factory on the IDA site at Dunmore Road, Tuam. The importance of this site is that it already has public water and sewerage services. The announcement was very welcome. It was also good to hear Greencore say they were going to underwrite the rent of the factory for three years or, in the event of private funding not being forthcoming, the company would directly pay for the construction of the factory from the £2 million Tuam investment fund. That money was promised by the Sugar Company when they left the town of Tuam. They were also going to assign executives, Mr. Marius Martin and Mr. Richard Ryan, to work with the IDA to ensure that the factory was occupied. I would like to pay tribute to those two gentlemen.
They further stated that when factory number one had secured a tenant the company would proceed with the development of a similar factory also on the IDA site on the same basis. Greencore were also not forgetting the site at Airglooney where they allocated 22 to 30 acres for other development if that was needed.
Unfortunately, the announcement carried by the Tuam Herald on 22 February seemed to indicate that this work would commence within a month and I hope we will soon have an announcement from the Minister. I wish to thank the Minister and, indeed, all he people who went on the delegation to Greencore, particularly the State agencies, the IDA, the county development team, Galway County Council, FÁS. I wish to thank the Ministers of State for their work to date.
Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce (Mr. M. Ahern): I thank Deputy Kitt for raising this important matter and note his continued interest and concern for the provision of advance factory facilities and his genuine concern for job creation in Tuam and its environs.
The decision by the Government on 2 August 1990 to restructure the Irish  Sugar Company stipulated that the company should give an undertaking to provide a free site and a contribution of £2 million towards the establishment of a new industry in Tuam. As a consequence of the Government decision an agreement between the Sugar Company and Tuam Community Group was arrived at on 13 November 1990 and was revised in February 1992. Under the terms of the revised agreement, the Irish Sugar Company undertook to submit a planning application for the construction of a standard 20,000 square foot factory on an IDA serviced site at Dunmore Road, Tuam and to underwrite the rent of the factory for three years. In the absence of private funding the company agreed to pay directly for the construction of the factory out of the £2 million fund and to assign two of its executives to work with the IDA to ensure that the factory is occupied.
The company also agreed that following the placing of a tenant in the first factory it would develop another similar type factory on the IDA site on the same basis as the first one. Following the occupation of the two factories the company will meet with the Tuam Community Group to consider further investment taking into account progress and expenditure to date.
In addition should other sites be required for factories the company will allocate 22 to 30 acres for development at the old Sugar Company factory site in Airglooney. The contribution to Action Tuam Limited of £250,000, from the £2 million commitment for the construction of an enterprise centre at Weir Road, Tuam is retained in the revised agreement. The company will also favourably consider further investment in Tuam additional to the £2 million committed, where viable and suitable projects are proposed.
As private funds were not forthcoming, Irish Sugar is to have a factory constructed on the IDA site at Dunmore Road. The company will own the factory  and so will be renting it out to the occupier, that is it will not be underwriting the rent for three years as set out in the agreement, which only applied in the case of a private developer having developed the site and serviced it as necessary. Notification of a decision under Article 28 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts, granting planning permission was sent by Galway County Council to Irish Sugar on 3 June 1992. I understand that Irish Sugar will be inviting tenders next week from suitable applicants for the erection of the factory, and it is hoped that building will commence by the end of August next. The factory will be marketed by the Industrial Development Authority and it is expected that the factory will be ready for occupation early in 1993.
The amount allocated by the company from the £2 million commitment to Action Tuam Limited to go towards the purchase and construction of the enterprise centre at Weir Road, Tuam is £250,000. To date, about £200,000 has been paid over to this organisation.
In so far as employment prospects generally are concerned, IDA supported manufacturing and internationally traded service companies in the west region, both large and small, performed well in 1991 despite the difficult economic climate and in the process created almost 800 new first-time jobs in counties Mayo and Galway. In a year which saw the continuation of the international recession and employment decline amongst our main trading partners, the numbers of people in manufacturing and international service businesses actually increased in the west region. The IDA are operating a number of specific programmes with Irish companies to achieve defined growth targets. The continuing growth of several companies around the region is testimony to the success of this approach — Poldy's Fresh Foods in Portumna, one of the most successful companies in the region, Dubarry Shoes in Ballinasloe, who are operating in both  the national and international markets very successfully and Connaught electronics at Tuam who manufacture a range of car alarms for a number of European markets.
Despite the turbulence of the international marketplace, the electronics and engineering sector also saw progress during the year with many companies recruiting additional employees around the west region. In Tuam, Pulse Engineering  have shown their commitment to enhancing their business with further expansion of their research and development activity. The IDA have assured me that they will continue to promote Tuam as a location for investment and to work closely with local industry and local groups to increase industrial development in Tuam.
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