MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
FRIDAY 4 OCTOBER 2002
HELD IN THE BOARD ROOM, LOUGHRY COLLEGE, COOKSTOWN
Present: Dr IRK Paisley MP MEP (Chairman)
Mr G Savage (Deputy Chairman)
Mr B Armstrong
Mr PJ Bradley
Mr J Dallat
Mr B Douglas
Mr D Ford
Mr G Kane
Mr G McHugh
Apologies: Mr P Doherty
Mr I Paisley, Jnr
In attendance: Mrs C White (Committee Clerk)
Miss J Adair (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mr S Mc Cann (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr J Mc Court (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr K Pelan (Assembly Researcher)
Mr G Donnelly (Clerical Officer)
In attendance for meeting with the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) at 1.34 p.m. : John Gilliland, Campbell Tweed, Wesley Aston.
In attendance for meeting with the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) at 2.05 p.m. : Sean Clarke, Lawrence Smyth, Mark Brennan, Shaun Fitzpatrick.
In attendance for meeting with United Dairy Farmers (UDF) at 2.29 p.m. : David Dobbin, Stephen Cameron, Harold Hamilton.
In attendance for meeting with Lakeland Dairies at 2.52 p.m. : George Irwin, Michael Hanley.
The Chairman declared the meeting open in public session at 1.34 p.m. and explained that Committee had agreed to call a meeting with representatives from farming organisations to hear their views on a speech by Mr David Roberts, European Commission Adviser, in which he outlined proposed changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
1. Meeting with Ulster Farmers Union
1.1. The UFU made an opening statement saying that EU enlargement was the driving force behind the proposals. However, the budget would not be increased to take account of the extra 10 countries and this would have dire consequences for those already in the EU. Enlargement would lead to 200% more farmers and the UFU were very disturbed with the proposals believing that they would be an early retirement scheme by default.
Mr Armstrong attended the meeting at 1.36 p.m. Mr Ford attended the meeting at 1.41 p.m.
1.2. A question and answer session followed. Key issues discussed included the potential effects of CAP reform on the Northern Ireland farming industry, modulation, decoupling and the need to formulate a strong argument against the proposals. The UFU delegation agreed to produce a paper on its views on CAP reform for consideration by the Committee on Friday 11 October 2002.
The Chairman thanked the delegation and they left the meeting at 2.04 p.m. Mr Dallat left the meeting at 2.05 p.m.
2. Meeting with Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association
2.1. NIAPA made an opening statement saying that Mr Roberts speech had been very sketchy with little background to it. They believed CAP reform would not put farming on a better footing and they are very wary of the idea of decoupling as they are unsure as to who would benefit most from it. NIAPA also believe that farmers need paid in terms of quality output and that imports had led to over supply and exploitation.
2.2. The Chairman made the delegation aware of the need to formulate a strong argument against the proposals. The delegation agreed to prepare a paper on its views on CAP reform for consideration by the Committee on Friday 11 October 2002.
The Chairman thanked the delegation and they left the meeting at 2.27 p.m.
3. Meeting with the United Dairy Farmers
Mr Douglas and Mr Armstrong declared an interest.
3.1. The representatives made an opening statement saying that the last 15 months had been the worst in the dairy sector history. There had been a collapse in world market prices and a significant increase in milk supply within Northern Ireland. There was now a need to find new markets within the European Union as 70 - 80% of Northern Ireland milk is exported, to countries outside the EU. The UDF believe that it would take around £20-30 million in the next 2-3 years to produce added value products and identify suitable EU markets. The UDF agreed to provide a paper on their views on CAP reform for consideration by the Committee on Friday 11 October 2002.
The Chairman thanked the delegation and they left the meeting at 2.51 p.m. The Chairman left the meeting at 2.52 p.m.
Mr Savage assumed the Chair in the absence of the Chairman.
4. Meeting with Lakeland Dairies
4.1. Lakeland Dairies made an opening statement outlining the size and history of their organisation. They are currently the fourth largest processor in Northern Ireland following their entry into the market in 1995. In terms of the current state of the market, they would agree with the United Dairy Farmers that there is a need to find new markets for export.
Mr Bradley left the meeting at 3.05 p.m.
4.2. The delegation then answered members' questions on assistance available to farmers, the process of building farmers' confidence, dairy infrastructure and the difference in price being paid to farmers in Northern Ireland as opposed to farmers in the Republic of Ireland. The delegation agreed to forward a paper on their views on CAP reform for consideration by the Committee on Friday 11 October 2002.
Mr Bradley returned to the meeting at 3.14 p.m.
The Deputy Chairman thanked the delegation and they left the meeting at 3.15 p.m.
5. Minutes of Proceedings on Friday 27 September 2002
5.1. Resolved: That the draft Minutes of Proceedings were approved with 1 minor amendment.
6. Matters Arising
6.1. Review of Rating Policy: Members considered a draft response to the Minister of Finance and Personnel.
Resolved: That the letter be sent to the Minister of Finance and Personnel.
6.2. Beef Carcasse Labelling:
Resolved: That consideration of this matter be deferred until a future meeting
6.3. Committee Visit to Scotland: Members were informed that there are no suitable dates in November for a visit due to the heavy work programme of the Committee.
Resolved: That the visit be deferred until January 2003.
6.4. Committee Visit to Brussels: Members were informed that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had advised that the UK Representatives need clear details on what the Committee wishes to discuss.
Resolved: That members would identify possible areas of discussion at the meeting on Friday 11 October 2002.
6.5. Agriculture (Amendment) Bill: Members were informed that a Public Bill to include horses within the definition of agricultural animals would be introduced to the Assembly by Mr Armstrong on Monday 7 October. Members considered a Public Consultation Notice seeking specific amendments to the Bill for issue on commencement of the Committee Stage of the Bill.
Resolved: That the Public Notice be placed in Farm Week, Farming Life and the Irish Farmers Journal and that the Committee office would identify possible witnesses to provide written submissions for consideration at the meeting of 11 October 2002.
7. Satellite Monitoring Controls on Pelagic Species
7.1. Members noted a summary of the single response received on the Department's proposals for changes to satellite monitoring controls on pelagic species.
Resolved: That the Committee had no specific comment to make on the proposals.
8. Statutory Rules
8.1. SR289/2002 Plant Protection Products (Amendment) (No 3) Regulations (NI) 2002
The Committee formally considered this Rule
Question put and agreed:
"That the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has considered the Plant Protections (Amendment) (No 3) Regulations (NI) 2002 and has no objection to the Rule.
8.2. Livestock & Meat Commission (Maximum Levy) Regulations (NI) 2002 and Livestock and Meat Commission (Levy) Regulations (NI) 2002
Resolved: That consideration of the proposals be deferred until a future meeting.
9. Any Other Business
9.1. DARD Publications Scheme: Members noted a letter from the Department seeking comments on their Publications Scheme.
Resolved: That the Committee had no specific comment to make on the scheme.
9.2. A member raised the issue of a meeting with UK Minister, Margaret Beckett, in relation to wet weather payments.
Resolved: That Committee staff will make contact with Mrs Beckett's office to confirm a date for the meeting.
10. Date of Next Meeting
10.1. Resolved: That the next meeting will take place on Friday 11 October 2002 in Room 135, Parliament Buildings, at 9.30 a.m.
Dr IRK Paisley