Department of Agriculture to spend €1.2bn this year

The Department of Agriculture has projected spending 1.2bn for 2013, which was discussed at an Oireachtas Agriculture Committee yesterday afternoon.

Here’s a snapshot:

€171m in staff pay
€7m in travel & subsistence expenses
€150k for consultants
€4m for lab services
€1.3m for EU Presidency
€111m for Teagasc
€884k for Cattle Breeding Authority
€28m for Bord Bia
€13m in Marine Institute
€12m Bord Iascaigh Mhara
€9m World Food Programme, Food Donations
€95k Quality assurance scheme
€49m Horse & Greyhound Racing Fund
€222m Food Safety, Animal Health/Welfare, Plant Health
€148m REPS
€51m AEOS
€14m Early retirement scheme
€950k Forestry NDP support schemes
€23m market supports eg, school milk scheme, invention products
€195m income support in disadvantaged areas

Total spend planned for 2013 €1.241bn

Some highlights

* Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney welcomed the CAP Reform negotiations. He said the outcome was historic and very positive for the sector. He said direct payments will now be more equitably distributed and his Department is working on the roll-out.  The minister said the budget for the Department of Agriculture was tight and discipline and strategy was required.

* The minister said the Department’s priority was to protect the income of family farms and support farmers in disadvantage areas, to achieve the objectives of Harvest 2020, job creation and investment in food safety and animal health.

* In addition, priority areas are stock relief for young trained farmers, supporting new farmers, structuring initiatives to pave way for the dairy sector post-quota, an extension of the farm partnership scheme and a reduction in excise duty on petrol for road haulage companies.

* Staff numbers reduced by 300 last year. The minister conceded that the department of Agriculture was “doing more with less”. “The priority is to reduce the Department’s cost first before farmer’s payments,” he noted.

* Adminstration costs account for 6.7 per cent of the department’s spending for this year. “It is one of the lowest in Government,” said the minister.

* IT. The Department’s information technology systems on payments, mapping, enforcement, testing and on on is all provided in-house, the committee was told. “Expensive but worth it,” the minister said.

* Teagasc plays an important role in research and development to make Ireland a world leader and major player in the agri-food agri-business market, the minister said. “But it has an obligation to be consistent with government policy and the Harvest 2020 plan, and spend its funding accordingly.”

* The recent fishing tragedy in Passage East was discussed where three brothers died in a drowning incident. The minster said grant aid, training and additional fishing safety initiatives are currently being discussed further with an announcement next Monday.

* The Department’s World Food Programme provides feeding support to starving people, the committee was told, in terms of money donation not food donations. It is also running a cosponsored venture with private businesses to set up agri-food companies in Kenya and Tananzia, the committee heard.

* The committee heard there was a reduction of €14.36m in food safety and animal welfare since last year. The minister explained that the rates of BSE and TB in Ireland has considerable reduced, hence the reduced money to that area this year, the committee was told. In particular the practical elimination of BSE and the levels of TB in herds is now at its lowest since 1953, the minister said.

* The committee was told that €500k was allocated to the DNA testing of frozen beef products alone this year with regard to the horse meat scandal.

* The committee heard of the low uptake of Targets Agricultural Measures and as a result multimillion EU funding is not being drawn down whatsoever. “We are going to have to change tact,” the minister conceded. With a lot of programmes in pig investment, poultry, water harvesting, dairy, funding has not been drawn down, he said, mainly due to farmers having to match the funding themselves. He said there was no panic as it has €60m of funding to spend by 2016.

* Grant aids for slurry storage facilities will be examined, in terms of the cost benefits for nitrogen use. This may be linked to dairy expansion for large farmers, the committee heard.

* In general the update of the school milk scheme is relatively poor. The minster concedes some schools have admin issues in terms of delivering the service and staff issues, but the department does provided a subsidy for schools to encourage milk consumption. In total the department plans to spend €720k this year with the school milk scheme and will even provide free fridges.

* Also everyone at the meeting wished the chairman Deputy Andrew Doyle TD a happy birthday, it is not yet known how old he is.

A video clip of the meeting is available here.

A copy of the 2013 Budget Estimates is available here under Revised Estimates.

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