Thursday, 29 November 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
4. Mr. Dukes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the reason the scheme for the allocation of additional milk quota to producers who had been involved in the farm modernisation scheme or the reduced interest scheme for farmers in financial difficulty during the early 1980s or who were affected by an outbreak of animal disease in their herds during the late 1970s, is limited to active milk producers; the reason it is limited to milk producers with a quota of less than 275,000 litres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30170/01]
Mr. Walsh: As part of the Agenda 2000 agreement, I secured an additional 32 million gallons of milk quota for Ireland. In determining criteria for the allocation of this quota, my main objective was to ensure that the quota was granted to small and medium sized producers as well as younger dairy farmers. In order to ensure that the additional quota allocations were fully utilised to the maximum effect, it was also a requirement for  eligibility that producers had shown their commitment to milk production by utilising their existing quota and by acquiring additional quota. Of the 32 million gallons, an initial amount of 20.5 million gallons was available for allocation with effect from April 2000. From this, 15 million gallons was allocated to over 21,000 small and medium sized producers. A further 5 million gallons was made available to younger small scale dairy farmers. In excess of 3,100 such farmers benefited.
Of the 11.5 million gallons granted with effect from April 2001, I introduced a scheme for an additional allocation to the younger dairy farmers who had benefited from the 5 million gallon scheme and to certain other younger farmers who had commenced milk production at a later date. Approximately 3,500 younger dairy farmers benefited from this allocation. In view of the number of producers who were encountering quota difficulties because of the animal movement restrictions arising from the foot and mouth disease crisis, I decided to make the remaining 7.1 million gallons available on a temporary basis during the current quota year to alleviate the difficulty of such producers. This remaining 7.1 million gallons will be allocated on a permanent basis, with effect from April 2002, while the recipients or their successors remain in milk production. In allocating this quota I decided to make specific provision for milk producers whose initial quota allocations were low as a result of certain circumstances. In that regard, I decided that producers who had been following dairying development plans under the farm modernisation scheme and reduced interest subsidy scheme for farmers in financial difficulty and producers whose milk deliveries during 1983, the quota base year, were adversely affected by an outbreak of animal disease in their herd in the period 1978 to 1980, inclusive, would benefit under this scheme. In setting down the criteria for eligibility in the allocation of this 7.1 million gallons, I adhered to the objective of providing additional quota to active producers in the small and medium sized category who had demonstrated their commitment to milk production. These are the broad criteria which I have used in allocating all of the additional quota available to Ireland under Agenda 2000.
Mr. Dukes: The Minister should concentrate on answering the questions I asked rather than what was not asked. Most of his answer relates to questions which were not put to him. I asked specifically why the 7 million gallons, to which he referred in the end, are being allocated only to active milk producers. Is the Minister not aware that the claim by the milk quota rights group was either for milk quota or for compensation in lieu of milk quota, for which there are precedents? Does the Minister agree that a number of the people who made that application had been in milk production prior to 1983 but have since been forced out of it, either due to financial difficulties at that time or, since then, because of the cost of acquir ing extra quota? Will he agree to review those cases and make some adequate equivalent form of compensation to those people who have suffered exactly the same problem as those who will benefit from the allocation of this seven million gallons?
Mr. Walsh: —and the general response to it has been one of welcome. It seeks to sort out the problem as fairly as possible. The proposed regime has been submitted to the European Commission and has been approved. There is an obligation under EU Regulation 39 50/92 that milk quota be made available to active milk producers. That is what I have done consistently and what I am doing in this case.
Mr. Dukes: Why has the Minister provided that this scheme is limited to milk producers with a quota of less than 60,492 gallons? Why at the same time does he require that the milk producers who will benefit from it must have increased their quota at some time in the past three years either by buying or leasing extra quota? Why were those limits set and why did the Minister make this requirement for an increase in quota in one of the past three years?
Mr. Walsh: It has been my objective to allocate milk quota to small and medium-sized active milk producers and everything I have done in the past few years has been geared towards that objective. I am consistent in doing that in this case. That is the reason I have included that limit, which is the limit for the medium-sized producer. In the restructuring scheme approximately 80 million gallons of milk quota have been allocated in the past two years, which is as much as was allocated in the previous ten years.
Mr. Dukes: I am asking the Minister about this scheme. Why did he set the limit of 60,500 gallons and why did he stipulate that people who were to benefit would have to have either bought or leased quota at some time in the past three years? What is the logic of the two requirements?
Mr. Walsh: It is my objective to seek to ensure that farmers in the small and medium-sized category get the first crack of the whip as far as  additional milk quota is concerned. In the EU criteria for the activity of the milk producers concerned, it would not be fair to allocate quota to farmers who had not made an effort to at least utilise all the quota they had and to seek additional quota where they could. Some farmers do not even use all the quota they have—
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