Dáil Éireann - Volume 358 - 21 May, 1985

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers - Farm Modernisation Scheme.

4. Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture the amount which has been collected from the inspection fees under the farm modernisation scheme since their introduction.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Connaughton): Since the charge for visits in connection with the farm modernisation scheme was introduced on 1 March 1983, £687,600 was collected up to 31 March 1985.

Mr. Kirk: Having regard to the enormous amount that has been collected under the heading of inspection fees and the fact that that money has come directly out of the pockets of farmers, thus leaving that much less to invest in holdings that were in the process of development, will the Minister of State not agree it is time that the collection of such fees was reviewed with a view to eliminating them?

Mr. Connaughton: That was a budgetary matter in the year in question. The number of visits and the obvious activity in that section proves that there were many farmers interested in the scheme in the period under review.

Mr. Kirk: Will the Minister of State say the average number of visits per grant application?

Mr. Connaughton: I am sorry I have not that information. However, every effort has been made to ensure there is the least number of visits for obvious reasons.

Mr. Kirk: I suggest that the number would be in excess of two or three per grant application. This would mean a total of at least £60 per application to be collected in respect of inspection fees.

Mr. Connaughton: That is a separate [1465] question and, for obvious reasons, I am not able to answer it. My understanding is that the average is about two.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick West): Will the Minister of State say if it is envisaged that these charges will be continued when the revamped farm modernisation scheme is introduced at the end of this year?

An Ceann Comhairle: That is a separate question.

Mr. Connaughton: In any event I am unable to answer it because we have not finally decided on the format of the new scheme.

5. Mr. H. Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture the detailed proposals he has for the new farm modernisation scheme; and the number of farmers who will qualify.

Mr. Connaughton: In reply to a question on 7 May I gave details of the new Community structural policy. I indicated that a scheme to implement the new policy is being drawn up and that it is intended to have it operational by 1 October. Pending the finalisation of the scheme, it is not possible to estimate the numbers who will qualify for aid.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick West): Will the Minister of State indicate to the House the cost to the Exchequer of this scheme?

Mr. Connaughton: It is not possible at this stage to give that detail.

Mr. MacSharry: Will the Minister of State say if people may make applications for consideration under the scheme as of now?

Mr. Connaughton: No.

Mr. MacSharry: Will the Minister of State say if people may make applications may be made?

Mr. Connaughton: That has not been [1466] decided yet. However, I should like it to be known in the House that the old scheme is still in existence and that applications are being taken for it.

Mr. MacSharry: Is the Minister aware that because of the hiccups in the old scheme in recent years very few people are applying and that many are awaiting the outcome of this so-called new or revamped scheme? Can he give any indication when it may begin?

Mr. Connaughton: The scheme will begin on 1 October. I wish to make it clear that a significant number of farmers are applying under the extended old farm modernisation scheme.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick West): Will the Minister of State give consideration to farmers who applied to participate in the slimmed down existing scheme but whose applications were not approved? Is there any hope for them in the new scheme?

Mr. Connaughton: Perhaps I am now prejudging the final outcome of our deliberations but from my reading of the situation there would be certain categories of farmers who would not have been included for grant aid under the old scheme but who will now be included in the new scheme.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick West): That is not the question I asked. I was referring to work commenced by farmers but which had not been approved——

Mr. Connaughton: The work must have prior approval.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick West): Therefore, all those farmers who received such short notice of termination of the previous scheme will have no hope of being included in the forthcoming scheme?

An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot discuss the old scheme now. I am calling Question No. 6.

Mr. N. Treacy: I should like to ask a [1467] supplementary question on Question No. 5. Will the Minister of State take into consideration the amount of capital investment made by farmers who got verbal sanction from agricultural officers to go ahead with projects——

An Ceann Comhairle: That is a different question.

Mr. N. Treacy: Will these farmers be included in the proposed revamped scheme?

An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot discuss what will be in the new scheme.

Mr. N. Treacy: This is a very serious and important matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: I have called Question No. 6.

Mr. N. Treacy: The silence of the Minister of State tells us the answer is in the negative.