Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 29 November 2011

Venue: Room 30, Parliament Buildings

1.39pm The meeting commenced in Open Session

1. Apologies

None

2. Minutes

Agreed: The Committee agreed the Minutes of the meeting of 22 November 2011.

3. Matters Arising

Submission to the EFRA Committee

Agreed: The Committee noted that consideration of the draft submission to the EFRA Committee has been deferred until 13 December and agreed that, at Item 6, Mark Allen, RaISe, would make a short presentation on his attendance at the European Parliament’s CAP event in Cavan on 25 November 2011.

National Parks & Strangford Lough issues

Noted: The Committee noted that the Chairperson will meet the Chairperson of the Environment Committee on Monday 12 December at 3.30 – and report to the Committee on 13 December.

1.43pm Thomas Buchanan joined the meeting.

1.45pm Kieran McCarthy left the meeting.

1.47pm Trevor Clarke joined the meeting.

Subsidiarity Issue

Agreed : The Committee agreed that, as there was no consensus in the Committee on the subsidiarity issue, no further action should be taken. However, the Committee agreed to write to the EFRA Committee to indicate that some Members of the Committee sympathise with the principles of the distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union.

(a) Correspondence issued

The Committee noted correspondence issued since the meeting on 22 November 2011.

(b) Correspondence received

Noted : The Committee noted correspondence from the Minister, dated 22 November, in relation to Staff Constraints on progress with future NICMS applications, and expressed concern.

Agreed: The Committee noted a memo from the Public Accounts Committee in relation to correspondence received from a member of the public regarding Bovine TB. The Committee agreed to write to the Minister to explain that the PAC has referred papers on what appears to be a challenge to the rigour of the Department’s enforcement policy and further agreed to write to the correspondent to indicate what action the Committee agreed to take.

Agreed : The Committee noted a memo from the Committee for the Environment in relation to grant schemes for septic tanks and agreed to forward the letter to the Department for comment.

1.58pm Dolores Kelly left the meeting.
2.00pm William Irwin joined the meeting.
2.00pm Conor Murphy left the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee noted a memo from the Committee for the Environment in relation to the scientific rationale behind the current closed period for hedge cutting and agreed to forward the letter to the Department for comment. The Committee also agreed to request that officials make a presentation to the Committee on the issue.

2.04pm Dolores Kelly re-joined the meeting.

Agreed : The Committee noted a memo from the Committee for Employment and Learning in relation to 3rd level education opportunities in Veterinary Services in Northern Ireland. The Committee agreed to request that the Department keep the Committee informed if the Minister chooses to take up the offer to meet with the Minister for Employment and Learning.

Noted: The Committee noted the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland Investing Activity Report for DARD.

2.08pm Jo-Anne Dobson left the meeting.

Noted: The Committee noted correspondence from DFP, via the Finance and Personnel Committee, in relation to January Monitoring and noted that the Department will brief the Committee on the January Monitoring Round at its meeting on 13 December 2011.

Noted: The Committee noted a letter, forwarded from the Department of Environment, in relation to Ministerial correspondence with Farmers for Action.

Agreed: The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Environment in relation to clearing litter from rivers and river banks and agreed to forward it to the Ballymena Borough Council.

Paul Frew declared an Interest

Noted: The Committee noted that the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development plans to raise the issues of a river cleaning strategy with colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive.

Noted: The Committee noted correspondence from the Department of Environment in relation to a report on the Rose Energy planning application and welcomed the fact that a decision is imminent.

Agreed: The Committee noted correspondence from the DALO dated 24 November in relation to the meeting of 8 November 2011. The Committee noted that the Department will brief the Committee, in due course, on the responses received on the CAP Proposals consultation. The Committee further noted details of the timing of a policy presentation for new Forestry Byelaws and some further details on the Disease of Animals (Importation of Machinery & Vehicles) Order NI 2011.

Noted: The Committee noted correspondence to the Speaker in relation to the public service strike due to take place on 30 November 2011.

Agreed: The Committee noted a briefing note from Research and Information Services on the role and functions of AFBI. The Committee agreed to write to the Department to request details of the costs and staffing structure in AFBI and what, if any, funding it received other than from the Department.

Agreed: The Committee noted correspondence from the Committee for the Environment to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in relation to Badger Vaccination and agreed to forward this correspondence to the Department.

Agreed: The Committee noted correspondence from the Department in relation to Duplicate Fields and agreed to seek clarity from the Department about how 'panel decisions' might impact on EU audits.

2.16pm Jo-Anne Dobson re-joined the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee noted correspondence from the Department in relation to the payment timetable and targets for the 2011 Single Farm Payments scheme. The Committee agreed to write to the Department to request details of the amounts to be paid by the end of December and the end of January.

William Irwin and Jo-Anne Dobson declared interests.

Agreed: The Committee noted correspondence from the Chair of the Oireachtas Joint Committee in relation to the visit on 15 November and agreed to write to the Department to enquire if there were plans to eradicate TB on an all-island basis and if officials had explored with their counterparts what actions they were taking to eradicate TB in the Republic of Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee also agreed to accept an invitation to meet with the Oireachtas Joint Committee in Spring 2012.

Noted: The Committee noted correspondence from the Department in relation to contact numbers for the Rivers Agency.

Noted: The Committee noted correspondence from the Institution of Civil Engineers Northern Ireland in relation to assistance they provided to the Department in the policy development for the Reservoirs Bill.

4. Presentation: Rivers Agency – The Reservoir Bill

The following witnesses joined the meeting:

David Porter - Grade 6, Director of Development, Rivers Agency; and
Averil Gaw - Grade 7, Principal Officer, Rivers Agency.

The witnesses briefed the Committee and this was followed by a question and answer session.

2.30 pm Conor Murphy re-joined the meeting.
2.36 pm Kieran McCarthy re-joined the meeting.
2.56 pm Jo-Anne Dobson left the meeting.
3.00 pm Kieran McCarthy left the meeting.
3.05 pm Jo-Anne Dobson re-joined the meeting.
3.05 pm Thomas Buchanan left the meeting.
3.07 pm Trevor Clarke left the meeting.
3.07 pm Conor Murphy left the meeting.
3.14 pm Thomas Buchanan re-joined the meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to other Statutory Committees to advise them of the plans for legislation.

5. Presentation: Rivers Agency – Controlled Flooding of Farmlands around Lough Neagh

The following witnesses joined the meeting:

Philip Mehaffey - Grade 6, Director of Operations, Rivers Agency; and
Jonathan McKee - Grade 7, Principal Officer, Rivers Agency.

The witnesses briefed the Committee and this was followed by a question and answer session.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to highlight the concerns expressed by the Rivers Agency about the demise of the Lough Neagh Advisory Group and to ask what alternatives the Department might be considering to obtain and co-ordinate the views of various user groups and stakeholders.

Agreed: The Committee further agreed to write to the Rivers Agency to request a list of those who are contacted when Lough levels are considered to be a cause for concern.

Agreed: The Committee also agreed to write to the Department about ‘soft engineering’ to enquire if it might help alleviate flooding.

6. Presentation: RaISe – Cross-Border Forum - Reforming the CAP

The Assembly Research and Information Service Officer briefed the Committee on the ' Reforming the CAP ' event which was held on Friday 25 November 2011. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Noted: The Committee noted that the Deputy Chairperson and the Committee Clerk will attend the Greening the CAP - Cross Border Perspectives event, on Friday 2 December.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Deputy Chairperson should draw on the Committee’s published ‘position paper’ on CAP in terms of her participation in the event and that she make mention of the fact that the Committee had plans to visit Brussels, this month, to lobby on CAP Reform but that the visit has been postponed until next year. The Committee further agreed that the Deputy Chairperson should indicate that the Committee intends to make a submission to the EFRA Committee’s Inquiry on the ‘greening’ elements of the draft legislative proposals.

7. SR 2011/363 - Foyle Area and Carlingford Area (Tagging and Logbook) (Amendment) Regulations 2011

Question put and Agreed:

That the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has considered the Foyle Area and Carlingford Area (Tagging and Logbook) (Amendment) Regulations 2011and has no objection to the rule.

8. SR 2011/384 – The Plant Health (Import Inspection Fees) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011

Question put and Agreed:

That the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has considered the Plant Health (Import Inspection Fees) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 and has no objection to the rule.

9. SR 2011/388 – The Nitrates Action Programme (amendment) Regulations (NI) 2011

Question put and Agreed:

That the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has considered the Nitrates Action Programme (amendment) (Northern Ireland) 2011 and has no objection to the rule.

10. Chairperson’s Business

Agreed: The Committee noted that the Forward Work Programme and agreed to defer consideration of the Rural White Paper Action Plan until 13 December 2011.

11. AOB

PfG / ISNI / Economic Strategy

Agreed: The Committee noted the public consultation arrangements for the draft Programme for Government and agreed to write to key stakeholders to draw attention to the consultation. The Committee further agreed, in principle, that the first meeting after the Christmas Recess should be 10 January 2012 and that the matter be further discussed then.

Compensation for Bovine TB and Brucellosis

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister in relation to relevant correspondence and answers given during question time on Monday 28 November 2011 on Br/TB compensation rates.

Queens Institute of Agri-Food and Land Use

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to Professor Elliot, the Director of the Institute of Agri-Food and Land Use, to invite him to brief the Committee on animal health testing.

12. Date of next meeting

Agreed: The next meeting of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development will take place on Tuesday 6 December 2011, at 1.30pm, Room 30, in Parliament Buildings.

The meeting was adjourned at 4.36pm

Paul Frew, Chairperson, Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development

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