Dáil Éireann - Volume 492 - 09 June, 1998

Priority Questions. - Crop Losses.

6. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will give a breakdown of where the £1.3 million funding under the 1997 weather related crop losses scheme was allocated on a county by county basis; the reason no funding was approved for applicants from County Mayo in view of the financial losses they incurred during the flash flooding in June 1997; if the scheme was implemented on a national or south of Ireland only basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13566/98]

Mr. Walsh: I propose to circulate a table detailing grant assistance by county under the scheme of assistance for weather related crop losses in 1997 in the Official Report. The scheme was introduced following an on-farm assessment by Teagasc of unharvestable crops and associated losses on some farms in the worst affected areas of the country. The scheme was targeted at growers whose main source of income was from arable crops, potatoes, horticultural crops and grass seed, and whose crop losses seriously threatened the viability of their farms. While fodder crops and other such losses did not come within the primary scope of the scheme, I am having these applications reassessed in the case of individual applicants who meet the general criteria of the scheme and who have incurred significant hardship

County

Total eligible applications

IR£

Carlow

5

14,681

Cavan

Clare

Cork

39

209,542

Donegal

Dublin

13

31,964

Galway

1

1,270

Kerry

4

23,270

Kildare

6

13,640

Kilkenny

9

65,345

Laois

7

26,837

Leitrim

Limerick

4

9,239

Longford

Louth

3

9,778

Mayo

1

2,290

Meath

10

[11]37,714

Monaghan

4

13,270

Offaly

2

3,415

Roscommon

1

2,812

Sligo

1

2,214

Tipperary

7

24,387

Waterford

8

68,119

Westmeath

1

2,225

Wexford

102

388,355

Wicklow

10

35,407

Mr. Ring: I thought I would have got the list this morning setting out where the money was spent before this question came before us. I am sure it will make interesting reading. How much money was allocated to Wexford, Cork and other counties along the south coast? I am disappointed I did not get the answer to my question. I will have to wait until tomorrow to get that information which I should have now.

A number of farmers in Mayo submitted applications under this scheme. The second highest number of applications came from County Mayo. Those applicants received letters from the Minister last week stating they did not qualify for the scheme. Has the Minister approached the Minister for Finance to seek extra funding? Why were those farmers from County Mayo excluded from the scheme? A farmer from County Mayo who is at the loss of £1,000 is comparable to a farmer from the south coast who is at the loss of £5,000.

Mr. Walsh: I do not have responsibility for giving out replies, but I understand they cannot be circulated until the end of Question Time. If the Deputy wishes to check any aspect of this matter, I will be glad to let him have a copy of the tabular statement. There is a problem with this scheme in that it does not provide for any allocation for crop damage or damage to farming enterprises as a result of bad weather. All we can do is try to make savings in the Department and allocate a relatively small amount of money in that regard. Farming organisations should consider setting up some type of insurance operation to address this type of problem because inevitably every year there is flood damage, frost damage or damage caused by storms or something else. We have to look for savings in the Department and such savings are inadequate to meet the various applications for assistance.

The difficulty with the applications from Mayo is that those applicants did not suffer the same extent of damage to their arable crops, potatoes, horticultural crops and grass seed as that suffered by those in the grain producing areas of Wexford, Waterford and the southern part of the country and horticulture growers in north Dublin. I asked my Department officials to re-examine all the cases involved, particularly those in the Bangor Erris area, to ascertain if hardship is demonstrated and where applicants come within the [12] general criteria of the scheme, we will see if we can help them out.

Mr. Ring: Has all of the £1.3 million been allocated to applicants or is some of that money still in the Department? Has the Minister approached the Minister for Finance to seek extra funding? Has he had meetings with his backbenchers on this because they have made many announcements to the effect that their constituents will be paid, but they have now had to pull back from that.

Mr. Walsh: Eligible applicants who met the scheme criteria have been given an allocation from the £1.3 million. That sum has not been fully exhausted, although it has been virtually exhausted. I have approached the Minister for Finance to seek additional funds as, I am sure, have many of my colleagues in relation to many shortfalls in their areas. I have regular meetings, at least once a week at parliamentary party level, with my backbenchers. If a backbencher from any party seeks a meeting with a Minister, I am sure the Minister is pleased to have a chat with them, as Ministers do on a fairly regular basis. I hope the Department officials examining applications from farmers in the Deputy's constituency will be in a position to make recommendations shortly. I also hope we will be able to find some resources to alleviate some of the hardship they have suffered.

Mr. Ring: This is a national scheme but, as implemented by the Department, it seems to be a south of Ireland scheme. The Minister said he would give me the information on allocations made under the scheme and I will check to see where the money has gone. The people of Mayo are outraged by the failure of anybody in the county to qualify. Some people have applied for the scheme but have——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy must conclude.

Mr. Ring: I ask the Minister to make every effort to ensure Mayo is included in terms of funding.