€78m underspend at Department of Agriculture
End-of-year figures indicate that 2017 was again a slow year for Government money to get out to farmers.

The Department of Agriculture spent €78m less than its budget allowed in 2017, according to preliminary figures published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

This was made up of €59m in unspent current expenditure and €19m in planned capital investments which did not happen.

This is the highest underspend of any Government department in Euro-terms.

Meanwhile, although operating on a much smaller budget, the Department of Rural and Community Development had the highest proportional underspend, with 11.6% of funds at its disposal unused at the end of the year.

’Ridiculous’

“The scale of unspent money is reflective of Department delays in issuing payments on time,” said Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on agriculture Charlie McConalogue, TD.

“Even though we are now into 2018, there are thousands of GLAS farmers who are still waiting on their 2017 advance payments. This is a ridiculous situation and is causing major problems for smaller family farms.”

This follows the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General last October, which revealed that the Department of Agriculture had returned more than €100m in unspent funds to the Exchequer in 2016.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said at the time that any money earmarked for farmers’ payments under the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme would be spent within that period.

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This week in photos: New Ross and Newport Marts
Our top farming photos from the last week include harvesting and hay-making.

Front page photo: Bales in Co Kildare

Hundreds of bales on the Kelly family farm in Athy, Co Kildare. Conor Kelly has been tasked with moving these bales. The family also grows gluten-free oats, rapeseed and wheat. \ Claire-Jeanne Nash

Haymaking in Co Cavan

Charlie Reburn and Peter McGorry in Corraneary, Co Cavan, raking and baling hay for JMC agri contractors. \ Philip Doyle

My Farming Week in Co Kilkenny

Brothers Tom and Jim Murphy in Fiddown, Inistioge, Co Kilkenny. The brothers are currently switching the farm from beef to dairy and hope to begin milking in 2019.

Winter barley harvesting in Co Kildare

Park Avenue Farm in Boley, Co Kildare, is a family run farm and grain stores. The Kellys run a tillage, sheep and beef enterprise. Michael and his three brothers, Jerry, John and Jimmy, work together on the farm. Michael’s son and daughter, David and Clodagh, are currently studying ag Science in UCD. \ Philip Doyle

Grubbing beet in Co Wexford

Ciaran Lancaster grubbing beet in Ballybeg, Fernes, Co Wexford. He is contracting for tillage and beef farmer Pat Rourke. Ciaran explains that beet holds up well in drought, needing little water. \ Philip Doyle

Harvesting in Co Carlow

Joe Walsh harvesting winter barley in Ballybar, Co Carlow. He is harvesting a Bazooka six-row highbred with a moisture content of 15.5%, which was sown in the last week of October 2017. \ Philip Doyle

Newport Mart

Liam Philips from Killoscully, Jimmy Kennedy from Silvermines and Francis Ryan from Birdhill, at the sheep sale in Newport Mart, Co Tipperary. \ Mike Hoare

PJ Fogarty, Ruth Minihan and Baden Powell, all form Newport, and Liam Shanahan form Broadford, Co Clare, at Newport Mart. \ Mike Hoare

John and Dolores deCourcy from Limerick at Newport Mart. \ Mike Hoare

Liam Shanahan from Kilbane, Co Clare with Jack and Mary Berkery from Rearcross at Newport Mart. \ Mike Hoare

New Ross Mart

Cattle in the ring at Monday's sale in New Ross mart. \ Mary Browne

Kevin Barry, Ann Furlong and Michael Cody at New Ross mart. \ Mary Browne

Anthony Ryan and Richard Kirwan from Ramsgrange, Co Wexford at New Ross mart. \ Mary Browne

Eyes on the ring at the weekly sale at New Ross mart. \ Mary Browne

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This week in photos: Loughrea Mart and winter barley harvesting

Around the country in pictures

This week in photos: BEEF 2018 and wholecrop harvest

Tests for residues and illegal medicines shows 99.7% compliance
The Department of Agriculture released the results of testing carried out under the National Residue Control Plan (NRCP) in 2017 on Sunday.

The overall rate of compliance with the NRCP stands at 99.7%. The NRCP covers testing for banned substances, approved veterinary medicines, pesticides and environmental contaminants.

18,513 samples were tested in 2017, taken across all 8 food producing species (bovine, ovine, porcine, equine, poultry, farmed game, wild game and aquaculture) as well as milk, eggs and honey. Most samples are taken in accordance with criteria designed to target animals or products that are more likely to contain illegal residues.

Risk

The Department said that this high level of compliance has been consistent going back to 2013.

Just 51 samples were non-compliant and of these the majority related to residues of authorised medicines. Risk evaluations by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland were carried out in response to each result and it was found that there was no unacceptable food safety risk to consumers. In these circumstances, none required a recall of products from the market. In all cases where positive results were found, a follow up investigation takes place at the farm of origin. Results from the extensive testing under the NRCP in 2017 indicated the absence of illegal administration of banned growth promoting hormones and other banned substances to food-producing animals in Ireland.

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Illegal slaughterhouse posed 'danger to public health'