Dáil Éireann - Volume 458 - 16 November, 1995

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

43. Mr. Hyland asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the reason farmers are being denied suckler cow premiums and are being penalised for having Friesian cows in their herds. [16968/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): In Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2066/92 the EU defined a suckler cow as a “cow belonging to a meat breed or born of a cross with a meat breed” for the purposes of the suckler cow premium schemes. EU rules list the breeds that are deemed not to be meat breeds and this list includes all kinds of Friesians.

Some Friesians were, however, allowed to be included in 1993 and 1994 under transitional EU rules to permit suckler producers with part — Friesian or mainly — Friesian suckler herds to change the composition of their herds from Friesian breeds to acceptable meat breeds instead. In 1995 this transitional period ended and Friesian cows were not longer acceptable for payment under the suckler schemes.

Where farmers, through a misunderstanding, showed Friesian cows on their 1995 suckler declared them as such, my Department simply deleted these cows from those claims and levied no penalties on the farmers involved as the errors involved were obvious and devoid of any fraudulent intent whatever.

In a relatively small number of cases, however, farmers declared animals on their 1995 applications as meat breeds which they had shown in their earlier years' applications as Friesian cows. In some cases these changes are justified because the cows are, for example, Simmential-Freisian crosses and these are acceptable meat breeds. In other cases [805] the changes are not acceptable because the animals are straightforward Freisian types and, therefore, the attempt to mis-declare them as meat breeds involves a prescribed EU penalty.

I have arranged in every such case for an on-farm inspection to be carried out to see whether the changes are or are not justified. Where they are, the correct breed is now being recorded for the animals involved and they will be paid the premium if the claim is otherwise in order. Where they are not, however, the applicants involved have to be penalised appropriately under the relevant EU Regulations.

44. Dr. McDaid asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the plans, if any, he has to increase the grant-aid for accommodation under the Leader Programme from its current level of 20 per cent in the border counties in view of the increase in visitors to the area. [16727/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates): As a general principle, Leader groups may not offer rates of aid for project development which are in excess of comparable rates under other schemes being co-financed by the EU under the Structural Funds. The maximum grant rate of 20 per cent assistance for eligible investments in tourist accommodation under Leader corresponds to the rate available under the agri-tourism grants scheme which is administered by my Department and which is supported under the Operational Programme for Agriculture, Rural Development and Forestry. There are no plans to review the position at present.