Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Éamon Ó Cuív has welcomed the u-turn by Minister Simon Coveney about the rules governing the Knowledge Transfer Programme. The Minister had originally stated that farmers must attend the knowledge transfer sessions and would not be able to nominate someone to go in their place. However he has now reviewed this situation following staunch opposition from the farming community and has decided that a named nominee will now be able to attend in cases where the farmer is otherwise engaged. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív explained, “I am glad that Minister Coveney has seen the light and has decided to adopt a common sense approach to this issue. The Knowledge Transfer Programme is a valuable asset, however due the huge demands and workloads, farmers are not always available to attend every session and have sent nominees in their place in the past. The Minister’s lack of understanding of agricultural matters has been exposed in his pursuit to change the workings of this programme but I am glad that he has now finally seen sense. “This will allow spouses, siblings or children, who have an interest in or work on the farm, to part-take in the Knowledge Transfer sessions and bring back the information they learn to the farmer and farm workers”.
Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West Éamon Ó Cuív has called on the Minister for State at the Department of Social Protection Kevin Humphreys to outline whether the Rural Social Scheme will continue to exist in its current form. Officials from the Department recently indicated that the programme could be amalgamated with the TÚS Scheme, the CE Scheme and the Gateway Scheme. Following questions from Deputy Ó Cuív in the Dáil earlier this month, Minister Humphreys said that while no plans are in place to amalgamate the Rural Social Scheme with others, however he conceded that this could change in line with rationalisation and resource commitments. Deputy Ó Cuív explained, “Minster Humphreys needs to make it clear that he understands that the Rural Social Scheme is not an “activation scheme”. It is a support programme for low income farmers, who are willing to give a valuable contribution to their communities, in return for a modest payment. Its flexibility is conducive to farm work and has been key to the success of the scheme, providing long-term financial and social stability for recipients. “However, it would appear that the Minister and his Department do not fully understand to workings of the scheme, which they appear to categorise as a training programme for people to get back into full-time employment. Farmers who qualify for the Rural Social Scheme are already employed on their farms and are not seeking another full-time job. I am urging the Minister to protect this scheme and ensure that it remains as a stand-alone programme, which will continue to operate under the values on which it was founded. “The one good piece of news that came out from the Minister’s statement is that it would appear that it is very unlikely that any change will take place before the next general election. This will provide an opportunity for participants in the scheme to explain to General Election candidates the importance of maintaining the integrity of the programme in its current form”.
- October returns show Minister’s department €100m behind target –
- 75% increase in delay issuing direct payments is another hit on farmers –
Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Éamon Ó Cuív has slammed Minister Simon Coveney for the huge drop off in expenditure in his Department this year. He has also hit out at the increased delays in CAP payments for farmers.
Deputy Ó Cuív explained, “The monthly exchequer returns for October show that gross expenditure in the Department of Agriculture is nearly €100 million behind target for the first 10 months of 2015. €75 million of this is current expenditure is as a result of the significant delays in direct CAP payments due to farmers under the basic payment scheme. The Capital Allocation is also running €20 million behind target for the first 10 months of year.
“The Minister’s failure to follow up on the applications processes for various schemes under his remit has resulted in €200m in delayed payments. Reports today reveal that over the past year there has been a 75% increase in outstanding basic payments to farmers. This is being compounded by the fact that there are 15,000 payments under the Areas of Natural Constraints scheme still outstanding.
“I am now calling on the Minister to expedite these payments to ensure that farmers can manage cash-flow and income volatility issues. Every day I and other colleagues receive calls from frustrated farmers, wondering when they will get their payments, informing us that they have not been told to-date of any difficulty with their payment. Many of them are under serious financial strain and are dependent on these payments to ensure that the bills are paid.
“Minister Coveney appears to have no understanding of the hardship that the delay in payments is causing. Time and again he has boasted of advancing payments. However, this is no good if large numbers of farmers receive no payment, due to minor queries on their applications.
“These latest figures highlight what I have being saying for a long time. There will likely to be a major underspend under the Rural Development Programme, which will become more apparent in the coming months. This untrustworthy government continues to leave farmers and rural communities behind. No spinning can untangle this”.
On a radio programme on Tuesday 27th of October 2015, Sean Kyne T.D. stated that the Minister for Health had indicated that he was willing to meet a delegation from Leenane and Maam Ambulance Steering Group. I have to say that I find this statement extraordinary, in view of the fact that on the 21st of October 2015, the Minister wrote to me in the following terms.
Thank you for your recent letter inviting me to meet a delegation from Leenane and Maam Ambulance Steering Group, to discuss the lack of ambulance services in Connemara
I have passed your correspondence on to Martin Dunne, Director the National Ambulance Service in the HSE for his consideration and direct reply to you.
Leo Varadkar, T.D. Minister for Health.
I have now contacted the Minister as a matter of urgency, asking that he clarify whether he is indeed willing to meet a delegation as stated by Sean Kyne, T.D. and if he is, why he wrote to me saying that he had passed on the letter to Martin Dunne, Director of the National Ambulance Service, rather than indicating to me that he was indeed willing to meet a delegation. This matter needs clarification, as there is an absolute duty on the Minister to treat all public elected representatives equally and to also give them accurate facts.
Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Éamon Ó Cuív has welcomed clarification that grants to convert existing sheds to slatted units is covered under the TAMS2 Scheme.
The Galway West TD sought clarification on the issue from the Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who has confirmed that funding is covered under the TAMS2 programme.
Deputy Ó Cuív commented, “I had been contacted by a number of farmers who were unsure if they could apply for a grant to convert existing hay sheds and other similar sheds to slatted units. Having submitted questions to the Agriculture Minister, he has now confirmed that in the case of existing loose houses grant aid is available for installing both slurry tanks and slats.
“This will be of major interest to many farmers, as the conversion of sheds could prove a much more cost economic way of converting sheds, than the building of new sheds. It could also, in certain circumstances, be easier to get planning permission for a conversion rather than a new build.
“I would encourage farmers thinking of taking up this option to apply for the TAMS2 scheme without delay to ensure you comply with the specifications laid out under the scheme. However, the grant could provide an ideal solution for farmers who want to extend their available space without having to construct new buildings”.
Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Éamon Ó Cuív is putting renewed pressure on the Agriculture Minister to review the current Beef Data Genomics Scheme. New figures released to the Galway West TD reveal that almost two-thirds of farmers have not submitted the relevant data to qualify for the programme.
Deputy Ó Cuív explained, “Following a series of questions, Minister Coveney has confirmed that only 10,542 herd owners have submitted genotype samples to the laboratory. More than 27,000 farmers applied for the scheme but many have not followed up with the required lab and paperwork. Not only has the Minister failed to meet his own target of 35,000 farmers on board with the scheme, those who have applied are being turned off because of the large volume of paperwork and specimen requirements.
“It is quite obvious from this data that there are still a lot of farmers who are very sceptical about the scheme and are particularly concerned about possible penalties in years to come. A budget of €300m has been allocated for the programme over the next six years; however, this information would indicate that less than €10m will be spent on the scheme this year.
“Minister Coveney needs to seriously re-evaluate the programme. It is not working in its current form. Targets are already being missed and farmers are not being incentivised to take part in it. These figures should act as a wake-up call for the Minister. I am urging him to undertake a review of the scheme in order to get more farmers to participate and to ensure that it is successful”.