Tuesday, 15 February 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
141. Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if the 5.055% reduction in farm retirement pensions which occurred in 1999 has been paid in full to all retired farmers participating in the scheme; if this back money was paid by the EU; the total amount paid in arrears; if the EU has agreed to fund the shortfall for 2000; and the reason retired farmers will have a shortfall in their pensions for 2000. [4086/00]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): The reduction in the rate of pension under the scheme of early retirement from farming arose from the revaluation of  the Irish pound on the introduction of the euro in January 1999 and will continue to be reflected in the rates paid.
Full compensation for the 1999 reduction was paid at the end of January this year to eligible current scheme participants. The remaining cases have to be calculated on an individual basis and it is hoped to have these paid in the next month or two.
142. Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if he has submitted a new scheme of early retirement from farming to the EU for approval; if so, when this plan was lodged; the proposals submitted to the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4087/00]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): My Department submitted a draft rural development plan, which included proposals for a new scheme of early retirement from farming, to the European Commission on 27 December last. The Commission has six months to consider and approve the plan.
The proposed new early retirement scheme is different in some respects from the scheme which ended on 31 December last. The former requirement to enlarge the transferred holding is replaced by a viability criterion and the requirement that the transferer and transferee be engaged in farming as a main occupation is no longer specified. Other changes include an income ceiling for certain transferers and a limit on transferees' off-farm income, a phased reduction in the upper age limit for receipt of payments and a phased reduction in the upper age limit for transferees. New agri-environmental conditions applying to transferees are proposed. In addition, the proposals provide for an element of indexation of payments.
143. Mr. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the amount allocated in the National Development Plan 2000-2006 for the early retirement scheme from farming; the number of retiring farmers who could be facilitated annually by this money; and if he has satisfied himself that all farmers wishing to avail of the new scheme can be accommodated in view of the uptake of the earlier scheme. [4088/00]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): The amount allocated for the early retirement scheme in the national development plan for the years 2000 to 2006 is £565 million. On the basis of information available to my Department some 8,000 applicants are anticipated over that period. Proposals for a new scheme of early retirement, which are at present being considered by the European Commission as part of my Department's draft rural development plan, have taken account of the expected level of uptake and the funding available.
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