Written Answers. - Farm Retirement Scheme.

Tuesday, 15 February 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 514 No. 3

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  141.  Mr. McGrath  Information on Paul McGrath  Zoom on Paul McGrath   asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development  Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh   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): Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  The reduction in the rate of pension under the scheme of early retirement from farming arose from the revaluation of [689] 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.

This compensation was fully funded by the EU and compensation in the sum of £3,745,274.75 was paid to scheme participants at the end of January.

Two further reduced tranches of compensation are to be paid in due course in respect of 2000 and 2001. Details of these payments, including the amount to be funded by the EU, are yet to be finalised.

  142.  Mr. McGrath  Information on Paul McGrath  Zoom on Paul McGrath   asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development  Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh   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): Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe 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.

The terms of the scheme, including the elements outlined above, are subject to the approval of the European Commission.

  143.  Mr. McGrath  Information on Paul McGrath  Zoom on Paul McGrath   asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development  Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh   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]

[690]Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe 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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