CREED RAISES FORESTRY PROBLEMS IN CORK NORTH WEST

Cork North West TD, Michael Creed has called for balance in the way state agencies engaged in the forestry sector engage with each other and stakeholders in the industry.  Speaking during a Dáil debate on the future of the forestry sector in Ireland, Deputy Creed made a broad ranging speech which made particular reference to issues being faced in Cork North West;

Commenting on problems being faced with potential growers in the Mullaghareirks Deputy Creed said; “there is an inter-agency impasse involving the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service with regard to the hen harrier. If one mentions the hen harrier in some parts of my constituency, certain individuals become very angry. There is a need to remove the artificial impediments that exist in order that people might get on with the job. I am not in favour of any diminution of our obligations in respect of biodiversity, etc., but a balance must be struck. I am of the view that such a balance does not exist at present”.

Addressing the broader issue of the future of Coillte Deputy Creed continued; “I refer to the issues of legitimate concern, one of which is that any future arrangement would not impede the annual flow of timber to sawmills because this would be a significant concern as it relates to the downstream employment opportunities. The Minister has clearly indicated that there is no point in the State getting a ball of cash with the consequences being that the cash would be absorbed in dealing with job losses and unemployment payments. It must make sense under all the other headings. These are not all economic issues because there are also social, recreational, environmental issues and issues of access, which are important also”.

“The Coillte public park in Gougane Barra in my constituency is widely recognised as one of the great recreational forestry areas. Many of these forestry estates do not have a commercial crop and buyers will not be interested in bidding for them. The quality of the wood is not as good. Some will say that a minority of Coillte’s forestry holdings have timber of significant commercial value. The proposal must be evaluated against a whole series of objective criteria such as the replanting obligation which is critical; the flow of timber to sawmills; the recreational open access issues”.

“We need to make haste slowly with regard to afforestation. Serious deliberation about the process is being undertaken. All the stakeholders will be consulted, including employees. I bring to the attention of the Minister a small cohort of former Coillte employees who have been disgracefully short-changed by the company’s pension policy. I am aware of someone who spent more than 30 years working with Coillte, who has a pension of less than one euro for every year he worked. That issue needs to be addressed because it is a festering sore on Coillte’s corporate image. Coillte had very highly paid executives and also people who gave blood, sweat and tears to build the company to what it is today but who are in receipt of disgracefully small pensions. That needs to be investigated and those issues need to be addressed in advance of a sale”.

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MINISTERS LETTER REVEALS GOVERNMENT DID NOT DO ENOUGH TO SAVE BEET INDUSTRY

Letter from Minister for Agriculture

Fine Gael TD Michael Creed has revealed that there is no legal impediment to establishing an ethanol production industry in this country as an alternative outlet for beet farmers, furthermore there is no quota requirement on beet growers when it comes to growing beat for ethanol production.  Commenting on the Ministers letter, Deputy Creed said;

“It is clear from the Ministers reply that there is no obvious impediment to establishing a viable ethanol production industry in this Country.  The Government however it appears did not have the will to incentivise the industry in order to provide an outlet for beet farmers to sell their produce”.

“It is important to note that the tax relief available for the production of ethanol which has been in place expires at the end of 2010.  The Minister must take stock of the situation and examine the feasability of establishing an ethanol industry.  If there is any possibility that Government can support the development of such an industry at this late stage it is crucial that they do so”.

TEAGASC CONFIRMS CATASTROPHIC FARM INCOME SLUMP

 

Fine Gael Agriculture Spokesperson, Michael Creed TD, has said figures published by Teagasc confirm that farm incomes feel by 30% last year and the overall decline in farm incomes since 2007 was 40%.

 

“These Teagasc figures follow on from a Eurostat survey which showed Irish farmers are suffering more than others in the EU. While EU farm incomes fell last year by an average of 11.6%, Irish farm incomes fell by 30%.

“Irish farmers are being squeezed out of existence by low prices, high costs and Government cuts. Promises from Fianna Fáil to address the imbalance of power between retailers and food suppliers have so far come to nothing. Fine Gael has produced legislation to outlaw unfair trading practices but the FF/Green Government has failed to adopt it. Measures to improve competitiveness by cutting business input costs are not on the Government’s agenda. By contrast, Fine Gael has published a Bill to cut Government costs by 5%.

“The Fianna Fáil/Green Government seems to be happy for the time to come when we’ll have no home-produced food. Fine Gael sees our food producers as central to economic recovery and is determined to support them. The Teagasc survey also shows the need for a real focus on CAP post-2013 and Fine Gael has prioritised this by holding public meetings around the country on this vital issue.”

 

 

21% OF 2007 REPS 4 PAYMENTS STILL OUTSTANDING TO FARMERS

Fine Gael Agriculture Spokesperson Michael Creed has highlighted the major backlog in REPS 4 payments to farmers participating in the scheme. Speaking after it was revealed that out of the 548 participants in the scheme who applied in late 2007, 117 are still awaiting payment for almost three years later. Deputy Creed said;

“Over 21% of REPS 4 applicants who subscribed to the scheme in the period between September and December of 2007, are still desperately awaiting payment six months into 2010. This situation is exacerbating an already critical cashflow situation at the farmgate”.

 “The Minister attributes this delay to a Computer glitch in his Department. The Minister stated that the “REPS computer system requires some modification before the outstanding payments can be released”. This poor excuse will carry little weight with farmers who have been waiting almost three years for their funding”. “The past twelve months have been a turbulent for farmers with the average farm income collapsing by 30%. This situation has not been helped by the failure of the Government who have continuously cut farm gate schemes in successive budgets. The Ministers failure to ensure payment of REPS 4 on time merely adds fuel to the fire of financial difficulty”.

 “Minister Smith must now take personal responsibility to ensure the outstanding payments are issued as swiftly as possible. Many farmers are struggling to get information from the Department on why their payment has been delayed. The very least participants in REPS 4 should expect is a straight answer as to why they haven’t been paid, and when they will be”.

Govt U-turn on ‘Lost At Sea’ highlights previous FF contempt for accountability

Fine Gael Agriculture Spokesperson Michael Creed TD has welcomed the decision of the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Agriculture to invite the Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly to make a presentation on the Special Report on the Lost at Sea Scheme.

“This is a welcome U-turn on behalf of the Government parties to finally allow accountability have its day. It is regrettable to say the least that Fianna Fail has procrastinated since December on this matter. This episode has done untold damage to the credibility and authority of the Ombudsman’s office. The fact that the Ombudsman had to resort to a high profile media campaign in order to compel Fianna Fáil and its coalition partners, the Greens, to allow justice take its course reflects the contempt this Government has for accountability and transparency.

“The true motivation of this eleventh hour decision further highlights the cynical way Fianna Fáil has handled this matter. The fact that it took the intervention of Minister Gormley on the eve of a Seanad Private Members’ Motion on the Lost at Sea Scheme, shows that it was not a thirst for truth that has lead to this development but rather political preservation.

“It is not sufficient at this point for the Ombudsman to merely make a presentation on this matter. There now needs to be a full Oireachtas Committee investigation into the Lost at Sea Scheme, where the Department officials the complainant, the Ombudsman and former Minister Frank Fahey can be questioned.”

Creed secures review of carbon tax exemption for farm diesel from Finance Minister

Fine Gael Agriculture Spokesman, Michael Creed TD, today secured agreement from the Finance Minister to reconsider Fine Gael proposals to exempt agri diesel from a carbon tax before final legislation is passed. Deputy Creed raised the issue at the Committee Stage of the Finance Bill 2010 today.

“To date the Government has missed an opportunity to take account of the difficulties facing farming and rural communities. CSO figures show farm incomes fell by more than 30% this year and farmers are struggling in the aftermath of poor weather conditions.

“The introduction of a carbon tax is aimed at changing attitudes towards energy and fuel consumption but it is clear that farmers don’t have any alternative open to them to replace using a tractor or other farm machinery in their daily work.

“The tax on farm diesel is going to cost farm families a total of €12.5 million, not to mention the cost of paying for the tax on solid home fuels which will cost the average family up to €144 per year.

“Rural households have limited access to the alternatives that could cut their carbon tax costs. They have a more limited opportunity to switch to fuels like gas which would attract a lower carbon tax. They also suffer from the unavailability of rural public transport with 50% of people in rural areas reporting difficulties in accessing transport compared to 11% in urban areas.

“I welcome Minister Lenihan’s agreement to reconsider this matter. It is now up to Fianna Fáil backbenchers to stand up for the farmers and pressure the Government to accept Fine Gael’s proposal.”

 

HANAFIN PICK POCKETING OF FARMERS PENSIONS A CYNICAL MOVE

Fine Gael Agriculture Spokesperson Michael Creed T.D. has accused the Minister of Social and Family Affairs of engaging in a smash and grab raid on farm spouses, who had been awarded pensions retrospectively, but are now being asked to refund what has been awarded to them by the Department. Deputy Creed said;

“Hundreds of pensioners, who have been awarded a contributory state pension in recent years, are now being asked at the behest of the Minister to refund the sum of their pensions to the Department. This despite the fact that in all cases the Department granted the pension, and in many cases demanded a PRSI contribution be paid retrospectively by the applicant.”

“This situation arises due to Minister Hanafin reneging on a commitment made to farming organisations which allowed applicants claim, despite having passed the age threshold of 66 years of age as described in the legislation. In all these cases the Department first required applicants prove that a farm partnership existed, and also sought a payment from the applicant to reconcile their PRSI record. This figure often amounted to thousands of Euro. The legislation clearly empowers the Minister to ignore the 66 year threshold and award the pension, as has been the case to date”.

“For the Minister to turn around and seek repayment from hundreds of pensioners is nothing less than vulgar and cynical. I will formally call on Minister Hanafin to reverse this appalling decision next week when the Dáil resumes”.