Agriculture/Animal Welfare, Dáil Issues, Oral Questions

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he has taken for developing plant science here.

– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 12th December, 2013.

Ref No: 52921/13 Lottery: 13 Proof: 13

REPLY

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney)
Research
My Department remains committed to funding plant science through our competitive funding programmes: Stimulus and CoFoRD (Competitive Forest Research for Development Programme). My Department’s industry derived strategic research agenda called ‘Stimulating Sustainable Agricultural Production through Research and Innovation’ contains a dedicated chapter on Crops (tillage) and a section on grassland management and breeding and, almost exclusively, this agenda informed the content of the Department’s last two research calls. Furthermore, a strategic research agenda on Forestry research is nearing completion which will focus on all aspects of forestry research including tree breeding.

Cereals
The Irish tillage sector has benefitted significantly from developments in plant science in recent years. Over the last thirty years or so the average commercial gains in the yield of cereals on Irish farms has been between 1% and 2% annually. Half of this gain has been due to the selection of superior varieties for Irish conditions through intensive testing in my Department’s Crop Evaluation Programme. Cereal yields here are now among the best in the world.

The same intensity of progress in the sphere of plant science has taken place in Irish grassland production. Some of the most successful grasses used in our high performing pastures have been bred by Teagasc and there are further improved varieties, uniquely suited to our conditions, in the pipeline.

Potatoes
Ireland has enjoyed much success both here and abroad in producing new improved potato varieties. Teagasc is the main potato breeder in Ireland and its breeding programme has been particularly successful. In its partnership with Irish Potato Marketing, 39 varieties have been released and at least 25 of these are still being marketed commercially in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The variety Rooster, released in 1990 and probably the best-known of the Teagasc-bred varieties, now accounts for 56% of the total potato area grown in Ireland

Horticulture
In the horticultural area, the bulk of work in the development of plant science occurs in either Teagasc or the various Universities. The Teagasc research programme in this area is mainly concentrated on the management, screening and evaluation of a range of ornamental species for suitability as cut foliage.

Forestry
In partnership with a number of other organisations, my Department also supports the forest genetic resources aspects of plant science through grant aid funding for the work of Teagasc on the improvement of alder and birch, the work of the Future Trees Trust on the improvement of ash, birch, oak, Spanish chestnut and sycamore and the involvement in the work of the European Network on Forest Genetic Resources.

Teagasc
Teagasc have a group of plant scientists and biotechnologists based at Oak Park in Carlow, employing the latest plant science technologies for the improvement of crops for Irish agriculture, with the work targeted at those likely to have the biggest impact on the agricultural sector with a view to supporting the objectives of Food Harvest 2020. Currently the work is focussed on; the development of genomic selection in Perennial Ryegrass, improving disease resistance in cereals, accelerating the rate of genetic improvement in potatoes through the development of marker assisted selection and the production of biomass from marginal lands.

Parliamentary Question No.32

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he has taken to deal with some recent shocking cases of animal cruelty, neglect and abandonment; and if he is satisfied that the relevant authorities have sufficient resources to ensure compliance with the new Animal Health and Welfare Bill.
– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 12th December, 2013.

Ref No: 52922/13 Lottery: 30 Proof: 30

REPLY

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney)
Recent issues in relation to abuses of animal welfare, particularly in the case of horses, highlight the need for intervention before animal welfare is threatened. My Department, in conjunction with the local authorities and the Gardai are adopting a pro-active approach in relation to animal welfare and, in recent weeks have seized 82 horses in the Cork city area. While a small number of horses had to be euthanized on welfare grounds, the majority that were seized are being re-homed with the assistance of welfare groups and or are being moved to registered equine premises and have received passports and microchips in accordance with regulations. Last week, my Department engaged with the local authority and An Garda Siochana in a similar proactive manner in County Wicklow.
I can assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to work with local authorities and Gardai in other areas if similar cases occur and intervention is required. I urge the public to continue to avail of the Animal Welfare Helpline in operation by my Department, to report instances where animal welfare may be compromised on 1850 211 990.
In relation to resources, considerable manpower within my Department is devoted to issues relating to the welfare of animals. Under the new Act, provision is made for situations where Local Authorities may be required to offer their assistance. There are, of course, many organisations involved in the animal welfare area and my Department is finalising a series of Service Agreements with a number of these to operate under the Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013. These service agreements will confer statutory powers to NGO personnel to enforce certain parts of the Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013. This will enable such persons to carry out their duties in a more effective manner. My Department also provides considerable financial support to these organisations to assist them in the delivery of animal care and welfare services. In 2012, this funding came to a total of €1,365,000 to some 140 organisations. The funding arrangements are kept under review on an annual basis. In conjunction with these awards, I introduced a new Code of Practice for welfare organisations which aims to promote sound welfare and management practices to assist organisations achieve high standards of animal welfare. This Code of Practice is available on my Department’s website at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/animalhealthwelfare/animalwelfare. I plan to make an allocation in respect of work to be carried out in 2014 shortly.