ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

End of Session Report 12 May 2011 – 31 August 2012

Committee: Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Monday, 12 November 2012

ISBN: Only available online

Remit and Powers

The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement, under Section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Assembly Standing Order 48.  The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role in respect of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and has a role in the initiation of legislation. 

The Committee has power:

  • to consider and advise on Departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
  • to approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee Stage of relevant primary legislation;
  • to call for persons and papers;
  • to initiate enquiries and make reports; and
  • to consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Membership

The Committee has 11 members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, and a quorum of five members.  The membership of the Committee is as follows:

Mr Paul Frew (Chairperson)
Mr Joe Byrne3 (Deputy Chairperson)
Ms Michaela Boyle1        
Mr William Irwin
Mr Thomas Buchanan              
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Trevor Clarke            
Mr Oliver McMullan
Mrs Jo-Anne Dobson      
Mr Robin Swann
Mr Chris Hazzard2                                                   

1 With effect from 23 January 2012 Ms Michaela Boyle replaced Mr Conor Murphy
2 With effect from 08 May 2012 Mr Chris Hazzard replaced Mr Willie Clarke
3 With effect from 19 May 2012 Mr Joe Byrne replaced Mrs Dolores Kelly as Deputy Chairperson

 Key Activities, Outputs and Achievements

This report covers the work of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development during the 2011-12 parliamentary session of 12th May 2011 to 31st August 2012.

Subordinate Legislation

The Committee considered and scrutinised both Policy Proposals (SL1s) and Statutory Rules including approving 40 pieces of secondary legislation dealing with a wide range of topics from animal and plant health, organic farming, fishing and policies for payment of European funding schemes.  Two of the more noteworthy pieces the Committee considered included at SL1 stage are;

The Docking of Working Dogs’ Tails Regulations (NI) 2012 – this piece of subordinate legislation was brought forward through the Welfare of Animals Act (NI) 2011 under the affirmative procedure which will enables an exemption for working dogs to have their tails docked. The Committee took considerable evidence on this addressing, practical implementation issues raised by stakeholders and ultimately agreed that it should be laid before the Assembly for debate and approval. Oral evidence taken on the matter can be found below.

The Docking of Working Dogs' Tails

The Forestry Land Byelaws (NI) 2012 – byelaws regarding Access to forestry land; Protection of property; Protection of forestry land and wildlife; Protection of the public; Protection general; General management; Camping;  Vehicles;  Games and play activities; and Dogs, horses and other animals.  The Committee raised concerns regarding turf cutting rights in forests which will be addressed in the incoming session.

Bovine Tuberculosis Review

In March 2012 the Committee undertook a review into the reduction / eradication of Bovine Tuberculosis in Northern Ireland.   The Terms of Reference for the review were:-

'To explore all measures, including broad consideration of likely cost / benefit, that could be taken in Northern Ireland towards the reduction and eradication of Bovine TB based on international and local experiences.'

The Committee received 19 detailed written submissions, held 12 oral evidence sessions and undertook a study visit to Gloucestershire, England on the 19th and 20th June.  The visit focused on two aspects not practiced in Northern Ireland namely badger vaccination and badger cull.  The Committee heard from the Minister on 3rd July 2012 when she announced that her Department would undertake a badger control pilot scheme based on catch / test / vaccinate or cull.  A Committee report is expected in mid-Autumn 2012 but details on the oral and written evidence received can be found at the link below.

Review of Bovine Tuberculosis      

Members of the Committee at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust examining the cages and techniques used to capture and vaccinate badgers.

Budget Scrutiny

The Committee examined departmental budgets on eight occasions during the parliamentary session. This included both scrutiny of the proposed Monitoring Rounds, the Outturn reports, the Departmental Budget Settlement and Saving Plans. The Committee noted and approved the Departmental bid in the June 2012 Monitoring Round for additional revenue to deal with increased compensation for Bovine TB due to an upsurge in outbreak of the disease. The Committee is exploring the issue of the recent increase in disease incidence in its Bovine TB Review.

Policy Scrutiny

The Committee had two evidence sessions on the pre-legislative stage of the proposed Reservoirs Bill.  The Committee also received 72 presentations on policy issues from DARD and other industry stakeholders ensuring that the needs of the agricultural industry and rural communities are given priority in the development and implementation of policies.  The main policy issue concerning the Committee during this session, and which will continue into the next session was the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).  The Committee produced a position paper on this which it shared with other legislatures in the UK and Republic of Ireland, this paper can be found on at the link below. The Committee began detailed consideration of the Departmental policy on the eradication of Bovine TB through its review.  The report by the Committee on this policy scrutiny is expected in Autumn 2012.

Committees CAP Position Paper

Engagement

The Committee held 42 meetings in the 2011-12 Session, two of which were external, and received evidence from 310 witnesses from 39 organisations. The vast majority of these meetings, 96%, remained in open session for the entirety of the meeting.  The Committee held two events and carried out six visits throughout the year as detailed below.

Events

NI Rural Development Programme (NIRDP) Stakeholder Event, Dunsilly Hotel Antrim, 16 February 2012

The Committee recognised that the NIRDP supports development, innovation and diversification of economic activity within the agriculture sector.  The Committee organised this event to hear stakeholders views on the successes and failures of current NIRDP with a view to helping shape and improve the next RDP, post 2013. 

Members of the Committee and Stakeholders at the Committee event on the NIRDP, 16th February 2012

Greening of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Seminar, Senate Chamber 6 March 2012

The Committee organised an seminar for stakeholders and all MLAs on the “greening” aspect of CAP reform with a leading European Commission DG Environment official, Mr. Michael Hamell.  The Committee invited interested stakeholders and other MLAs to the Seminar.  Given the environmental interest in CAP, the seminar was jointly chaired with the Environment Committee.  The seminar enabled Members to hear the positions and concerns of a wide range of stakeholders and this will inform them as they watch developments on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy in the European Union.  The Official Report of the Seminar is linked below.

Greening of the Common Agricultural Policy Seminar

(l-r) Simon Hamilton MLA, and  Anna Lo MLA, Committee for the Environment, Michael Hamill,EU Environment DG, Paul Frew MLA, Dolores Kelly MLA Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development

Visits

Granville Food Care Ltd, Portadown 30th June 2011

Members of the Committee visited Granville Foodcare Ltd in Dungannon regarding concerns raised by it on the Animal By-products Regulations. 

National Ploughing Championships, Athy Republic of Ireland, 21st September 2011

The Committee visited the National Ploughing Championships in Athy, Republic of Ireland and took the opportunity to meet some of the 80+ businesses from Northern Ireland exhibiting at the event.   The Committee also met informally and discussed CAP reform with Minister O’Neill and the Republic of Ireland Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Simon Coveney.  The Committee met informally with and discussed CAP reform and other issues with Andrew Doyle, the Chair of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Members of the Committee meet the Oireactas Joint Committee on Communications, Natural Resources & Agriculture, DAFM Minister Simon Coveney, and the DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill

Institute of Agri-Food and Landuse, Queens University Belfast, 22 November 2011

Members visited the Queens University Institute of Agri-Food and Landuse and learned at first hand the important role that the Institute is playing in promoting the Northern Ireland food industry, on a global scale, and the rewards that are being paid back into the local industry.

Committee Members watching research process at the Queens Institute of Agri-Food and Landuse

Houses of the Oireachtas, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, 18 January 2012

Following the informal meeting with the Oireachtas Joint Committee at the National Ploughing Championships, the Committee was invited to sit in on a meeting that the Oireachtas Committee had with Dacian Ciolos, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture at the House of the Oireachtas in Dublin.  The meeting has established good working relationships between the two Committees and facilitated mutual exchange of information on issues of common concern such as CAP reform. 

Barnwell Farm Cottages, Greyabbey, 29 March 2012

The Committee visited and held a meeting at Barnwell Farm Cottages in Greyabbey.  The Committee took the opportunity to view how Barnwell Farm had used the NI Countryside Management Scheme for restoring habitats for the Yellowhammer bird – an endangered species.

Paul Frew MLA, Willie Clarke MLA, William Irwin MLA, Kieran McCarthy MLA and Robin Swann MLA viewing the benefits of the Countryside Management Scheme at Barnwell Farm, Greyabbey.

Balmoral Show, 17 May 2012

The Committee held a meeting at the Balmoral Show, Kings Hall Complex, Belfast on 17 May 2012. At the meeting, committee members heard from Mr Jim Nicholson MEP on a range of agricultural issues such as the European Commisson’s proposal to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Discussions helped to shape the committee’s forward work programme and ensured that the focus remains on important issues of relevance in Europe.

Gloucestershire, England, 19th&20th June 2012 

The Committee, as part of its Bovine Tuberculosis Inquiry, undertook a visit to Gloucestershire England. During the visit, members discussed the main issues surrounding wildlife and badger controls and Bovine TB including vaccinations and culling.

Committee Motions

On the 14th November 2011 a Committee motion in respect of EU financial corrections to be levied was debated.  The Assembly was called on, and agreed, to expresses concern about the potential effect on the Executive’s Budget. 

Priorities for the Next Session

Reservoirs Bill - a regime for the regulation and management of reservoir safety in Northern Ireland to ensure that the risk of flooding was managed. 

Dog Breeding Establishments – secondary legislation to regulate the licensing of persons involved in the breeding of dogs.

Single Farm Payment Scheme – the examination of the current procedures and practices used by DARD in the assessment of and payment of Single Farm Payment Scheme.

Common Agricultural Policy – scrutiny of the EU plans to reform the Common Agricultural Policy while ensuring that the concerns of the farming and rural communities are included in representations made by DARD in shaping and influencing the reform

Committee Expenditure

Details of Committee expenditure for the session are contained at Appendix A.

Contact Details

Anyone wishing to contact the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development should do so at the following addresses:

The Clerk to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development
Room 244
Parliament Buildings
Stormont
Belfast
BT4 3XX
Email: committee.agriculture@niassembly.gov.uk

APPENDIX A

COMMITTEE FOR AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT

Committee Expenditure for Parliamentary Session 2011 – 2012

Budget area

Details

Expenditure

Committee Travel - committee members and staff travel and subsistence in relation to visits and meetings outside Parliament Buildings

 

Includes the cost of  committee visits to:

 

  • Granville Foodcare Ltd – To meet with industry representative to discuss the Departments implementation of EU Legislation 
  • National Ploughing Championship – To meet with Minister O’Neill, Minister Coveney and The Oireachtas Joint Committee 
  • Queens University – To view the work and research of the Institute for Agri-Food and Landuse
  • Oireachtas – to sit in on a meeting with the Oireachtas Joint Committee and EU Commissioner Ciolos.
  • Barnwell Farm – To view the workings of the Countryside Management Scheme. 
  • Balmoral Show – A meeting of the Committee at an Agriculture event. 
  • Gloucestershire – A study visit to inform the Committee review of Bovine TB. 

 

 

TOTAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

£4,673.16

General expenses

 

Cost of refreshments for committee meetings, working lunches, seminars, room hire and witness expenses

 

£1,983.83

 

Total

 

£6,656.99

 

*An unpaid invoice from the previous mandate was paid by the current Committee to the value of £541.77 in relation to transport and hospitality for the previous Committee visit to Brussels in February 2010.

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