The Times reports that Phil Hogan has been made a presentation for services to Austria. Hogan served as Irish Minister for water services before his appointment as EU Commissioner for Agriculture. The nature or extent of the work for which Austria has recognised him is not mentioned in the report.
‘Many older rural fans left unable to see crucial matches.’
Sligo News File
ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has called on the GAA to reflect on its decision to only show certain matches on Pay-TV, a decision which, he said, has left many unable to see crucial games.
“The Championship is now heading into the knockout stages, and every game will be fiercely contested and for many older fans living in rural areas free-to-air TV was their only opportunity to witness the game.
“The decision to tie themselves into a multi-year deal with SKY showed a complete lack of empathy on the part of the GAA towards older people living in rural Ireland, many of whom are lifelong stalwarts of the association.
“I am very disappointed with the GAA’s attitude of putting profit before its patrons, and denying so many the chance to enjoy our native games.”
Branding it as as “a terrible decision,” Mr Sherlock added that the deal “…should be abandoned at the earliest possible stage.”
Majority of farmers had no hand, act or part in the burning.
Questions over legality of Government threat.
Sligo News File
ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has questioned the legality of penalising farmers through the Basic Payment Scheme whose land has been burned unless there is absolute proof that the farmer was guilty of causing the fire.
“It is abundantly clear that the rapid spread of fires in recent weeks means that the majority of farmers had no hand, act or part in the burning and were in fact, victims of collateral damage caused by the carelessness or recklessness of a few. In fact, we have no proof that any farmer deliberately started a fire.”
Mr Sherlock was speaking following a statement by Minister of State Andrew Doyle that satellite imagery would be examined to identify land as burnt illegally which would then be deemed ineligible under the 2017 Basic Payment Scheme and other land based schemes.
Mr Sherlock said “Fires are caused by a variety of reasons and can spread into parcels of land owned by many individuals. There is the potential that a cohort of farmers will face penalties through no fault of their own.
“The Basic Payment is too important an income source to be raided in this manner.”
Eligibity for payments to be based on specified bio-physical criteria
Sligo News File.
Eligible areas of Natural Constraints must be in future classified using what Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has described as bio-physical criteria.
Sinn Fein spokesman on Agriculture, Martin Kenny asked him about the stage at which it was decided the State could not meet its obligations regarding maps promised in mid-2017 in the review of the areas of natural constraint scheme.
Creed said that from 2018, eligible areas must be designated “using a set list of bio-physical criteria.
“In cases where a Member State does not introduce this new system for payment, the existing scheme, based on a range of socio-economic factors, remains in place but payments must phase out on a digressive basis.”
The bio-physical criteria set out in the legislation to underpin the new system of designation are, he said:
– Low temperature
– Excess soil moisture
– Limited soil drainage
– Unfavourable texture and stoniness
– Shallow rooting depth
– Poor chemical properties
– Steep slope.
“My Department has commenced work on this project, and relevant technical experts are currently working on sourcing and analysing the data in relation to the new criteria. Department officials have also been in contact with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and DG Agri in the EU Commission in relation to technical issues arising. This analysis will identify areas deemed to be facing natural constraints, which will in parallel be subjected to a refinement process.”
He added that at recent EU meetings, “a proposal to introduce an optional extension of the 2018 deadline was introduced by another Member State. This proposal for an optional extension has not yet been agreed at EU level.”
No decision taken by Department of Agriculture to date.
Sligo News File
The Department of Agriculture is considering a report on the future of the North West and other regional veterinary laboratories.
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said the review by a working group headed by Alan Reilly had made a number of recommendations concerning the facilities.
He identified these as
– Oversight and co-ordination of the laboratories activities
– Reorganisation of Divisions and support functions within the Central Laboratory complex
– Options for the future development of the Regional Laboratories – with a view to improving disease investigative and surveillance capability but with the over-riding imperative of maintaining and enhancing services to farmers and
– Human resources management within the laboratories – with a focus on grading structures, career development opportunities and workforce planning.
So far, no decision has been taken in respect of the options proposed for the Regional Veterinary Laboratories, including Sligo.
His Department, he said, is currently completing a consultative process with all relevant stakeholders on the Working Group report (including on the options for Regional Veterinary Laboratories).
“A cost-benefit analysis of the various options proposed will be undertaken.” Any decision made will be informed by the consultative process and the outcome of the cost-benefit analysis, he added.
Applications must be sent online at a loss to rural post office service.
Sligo News File Online.
The survival of post offices may be threatened, but that hasn’t stopped the Government from ordering farmers to abandon the network.
Under regulations announced by Agriculture Minister Michael
Creed, farmers must in future go online to obtain the EU Basic Payment.
Although farm bodies are beginning to wake up to what’s happening, Creed is understood to have motioned that he is not for turning on the issue.
The decision is binding on all applicants – even those in rural areas where there is no internet connection must conform to the dictate.
A letter circulated by Creed’s department categorically states that “…100% of BPS applicants will be required to apply for BPS by submitting an online application from 2018 onwards.” No ifs or buts, that’s the decree as issued by Creed. He describes the measure as an EU regulation.
Of course, the move will not mean the same for every farm family; some will already be using the online facility. But what of those who don’t have online? As well, many farmers in places where online is available are not necessarily familiar with the operation of the system.
In prescribing online as the only avenue through which applications for the Basic Payment Scheme will be entertained the Fianna Fail partnered Government is also backing away from its claimed commitment to the future of the rural post office service. Thousands of farmers have submitted applications for the EU payment through post offices up and down the country. Now, that has been kicked to the side – farmers who refuse or fail to take the internet route will apparently lose their entitlement to payments or have to employ consultants to do the uploading for them. No financial support from the Government or the EU will be available to cover the cost of the consultancy work.
Those who care to look through the documentation will find that Creed or his Department is also demanding farmers must give their PPSN. This and date of birth is confidential information protected under date protection laws. The issue arises where he explains about applying online for the EU Basic Payment. The letter from his department stipulates that where seeking assistance about the online application process “…you must have your PPSN to hand and be an account holder.”
Case Study 5 is an account of the ruling issued by the Data Protection Commissioner in 2007 concerning “Excessive Personal Data on EU Single Payment Scheme Application Forms.”
The Commissioner’s report states:
“I received a complaint that the EU Single Payment Scheme Application Forms, which are issued annually by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, contained pre-printed data in respect of the date of birth and PPS number of the farmers to whom the forms are issued. A farmer informed my Office that he, and many other farmers, would usually need to get professional assistance from Teagasc or other qualified agents in the completion of these forms.
“He pointed out that the pre-printing of this personal data on the forms infringed his privacy as he had no means to restrict his professional adviser from viewing his date of birth and PPS number. He also stated that it would be normal for those professional advisers to retain copies of the completed forms in case the Department of Agriculture & Food raised queries which might need to be referred back to the advisers at a later stage.
“In contacting the Department on this matter, we highlighted that both PPS numbers and dates of birth constitute personal data and are, therefore, subject to the protections set down in the Data Protection Acts, 1988 and 2003. We went on to state that in a situation where the Department sends out forms with personal data pre-printed on them and is aware that the recipients may need the assistance of third parties to complete them, the Department must make every effort to ensure that only the very basic personal details – such as name and address – are pre-printed.
“We pointed out that the problem with pre-printing other personal data is that it gives the recipient only one choice in terms of safeguarding it – that is that he/ she could blacken it out or otherwise delete it prior to showing it to a third party. We expressed some doubt about whether the Department would welcome the return of completed application forms which were somewhat defaced. Finally, we drew attention to the potential risks to the privacy of an individual where their personal data, such as a PPS number, fell into the hands of a third party.
“The Department examined the matter, and it immediately set about taking into account the concerns which my Office had expressed. In the drafting of the Application Form for 2008, the Department commendably removed completely the data fields concerning the applicant’s date of birth and PPS number.
“This case demonstrates how common it is for public bodies or other authorities to fall into the practice of processing categories of personal data even where such data is not needed to administer the scheme or application in question. Greater care must be taken by all concerned to ensure that only the minimum amount of personal data necessary is processed in the administration of schemes run by public bodies. In particular, I strongly advise public bodies which are authorised to use PPS numbers to do so sparingly and with extreme care.”
‘Levies designed to protect member states with indigenous fertiliser industries.’
Political intervention ‘does not have widespread support.’
Sligo News File Online.
The EU is forcing up the cost of Irish farming with sweeping import tariffs and taxes on fertilisers.
Nitrogen prices have increased by up to seven times within the space of the last nine months alone, Cork Independent TD Michael Collins has told the Dail. As a result, nitrogen is around €60 per tonne more expensive than last summer.
Collins, a livestock farmer, said that currently tariffs and taxes are costing the country’s farming industry €32 million annually.
“This is making Irish commodities uncompetitive against imports from outside the EU. It is also affecting dairy farmers, who had a desperate year last year because of low milk prices, and grain farmers, many of whom are in danger of going out of business. Beef and sheep farmers are badly affected too, as are the 8,000 or so GLAS farmers who are still awaiting their payments from the Department.”
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said that a report published by the International Food and Policy Research Institute in 2016 “concluded that the protection afforded to EU manufacturers by the application of anti-dumping duties and customs tariffs is costing farmers up to €1 billion per annum.
“Against this background, I asked the Commission to consider a temporary suspension of customs tariffs and anti-dumping duties on fertilisers in the lead-up to the March 2016 meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. I actively pursued this issue at Council level throughout 2016 with the Commission and in
consultation with Council colleagues. I raised the issue again at the January 2017 meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, when I asked the Commission to address the significant overpricing of fertilisers in the EU brought about by the imposition of anti-dumping duties on imports. Commissioner Hogan acknowledged the desirability of bringing about lower prices but indicated that it was proving difficult to achieve, despite considerable efforts on his part with other member states and internally within the Commission.”
Creed said that “Commissioner Moscovici, rather than the
Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Hogan, is responsible for anti-dumping tariffs because it is a competition issue. Obviously, this issue has been raised by Commissioner Hogan at Commission level.
“I would be less than honest if I failed to acknowledge that this initiative does not have widespread support. There are member states with significant indigenous fertiliser industries that are protected by these tariffs and anti-dumping levies. That adds a cost to agriculture. Nonetheless, I am personally committed to continuing to raise this matter. I do not think it would be accurate to say this issue lends itself to an easy solution.”