Biomass power station in Co Mayo to create 350 new jobs
Up to 350 jobs are to be created in Co Mayo with the construction later this month of a new biomass power station in Killala, on the site of the old Asahi factory.

The new plant, Ireland's largest independent biomass power plant, will be fueled by untreated and uncontaminated clean wood and willow (virgin biomass).

Some of these supplies will be imported but some, such as willow and spruce, can be grown and supplied by local farmers.

The plant will generate enough electricity to power some 68,000 homes.

Up to 350 new construction jobs will be created when building work begins on the plant later this month, and 30 full-time jobs will be created at the station once the project is completed in 2017.

When complete, the power station will produce 42 megawatts of electricity. It will also include a fuel processing plant that will take waste heat from plant chimneys and use it to refine biomass for other commercial uses.

Commenting on the announcement of the new station yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the investment is “a vote of confidence in the Irish economy and is part of the recovery that is beginning to spread to every region of Ireland”.

He added that the power station will contribute to reducing our greenhouse emissions.

“Ireland is committed to meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of its heat, and 10% of its transport, from renewable sources. The new Mayo plant will help us meet our targets”, Mr Kenny said.

Michelle Mulherin, Fine Gael TD for Mayo, also responded to the announcement, saying it was "fantastic" to receive formal confirmation yesterday from the Mayo Renewable Power that finance for their project at Asahi is finally over the line.

"This project, alongside the transatlantic fibre optic cable to be built by Christmas in which Microsoft is a substantial investor, can have a transformative effect on the North Mayo economy bringing investment and jobs.

"With these synergies the site is now ripe for cloud computing and development of a data centre. As illustrated by the recent Apple announcement of a €850 million investment in a data centre at Athenry these big ICT companies want to locate in areas where there is green energy generation such as that proposed by Mayo Power."

Read more: IFA: Air pollution study highlights need to create a sustainable biomass market

€100m autumn payout to beef farmers – Creed
It is hoped that the European Commission will set out the conditions of its contribution to the €100m beef fund next month.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed intends to pay the €100m Brexit beef fund to farmers in the autumn.

“The ambition is to see payments commence through the autumn period, but that is all dependent on the terms and conditions set by the European Commission,” a spokesperson for Minister Creed said.

The Commission will finalise the conditions of its €50m share of the fund at the next meeting of EU agriculture ministers in early June. The Minister then plans “rapid” engagement with stakeholders, before the scheme details are finalised and opened “as a matter of urgency”, his spokesperson said. No formal meetings about the €100m fund have yet taken place between the Department and farm organisations or factories.

If the €100m were to be paid on every animal slaughtered during the October 2018 to March 2019 reference period, it would equate to a payment of €111/head. However it is understood that a number of options are being considered.

Read more

Hogan secures €100m fund for beef farmers

Ireland waiting for terms of €50m Brussels beef fund - Varadkar

Overseas investors buy 4,000ha of forestry
The transaction between Veon, AXA IM and Gresham House illustrates the rising interest of Paris and London-based investment firms in Irish conifer plantations.

Forestry consultants Veon have sold 4,074ha of Irish mature forestry plantations across the west of Ireland for an undisclosed sum to Paris-based AXA Investment Managers Real Assets.

This is the first investment in Irish agriculture for AXA IM, one of the world’s largest private equity firms. It noted that growth in Ireland’s “optimal climate” outperformed its other investments in Finland and France. Christophe Lebrun, the firm’s head of forestry, said this was the largest forestry sale in the UK and Ireland in recent years.

Timber boom

Irish timber is forecast to boom and “this acquisition provides us with a significant footprint at the early stage in this growth phase,” he added.

London firm Gresham House already controls 125,000ha of forestry in the UK and will manage this investment on behalf of AXA IM.

“It gives us a foothold in Ireland which may benefit our wider asset management business as Brexit unfolds,” Gresham House chief executive Tony Dalwood said, with climate change also a motivation.

Veon will continue to provide forestry services on the 185 plantations sold.

Veterinary Council can't control ownership of vet practices
The president and CEO of the Veterinary Council of Ireland appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture on Tuesday to discuss corporate ownership of veterinary practices.

Legal changes to the Veterinary Act are needed in order to give the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI) the power to decide who can own veterinary practices, members of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture said on Tuesday.

Veterinary Council representatives told the committee that it can only regulate veterinary practitioners, not who owns the practices.

Members of the Oireachtas committee queried whether decisions made by a corporate owner of a veterinary practice could tie the hands of the vets working in it.

They asked if, for example, the corporate owner decided that a practice would no longer deal with large animals, could the Veterinary Council regulate this?

The answer from Veterinary Council registrar Niamh Muldoon and president Peadar O Scanaill was that such action does not fall under the council’s legislative remit.

“Before any corporate gets involved anywhere, the only person who can provide the service and influence the practice and decide what it is going to do is the veterinary practitioner,” O Scannaill said.

“There isn’t a fourth party. The vet is the first party, we [the Veterinary Council] are the second party, the farmer is the third party.”

A report by Grant Thornton into corporate ownership of veterinary practices is expected this summer.

‘Corporates will cherry pick vet practices’

Vets have voiced concern over the Veterinary Council saying it has no role in ownership of practices. They say this effectively de-regulates the sector.

The representative body for vets, Veterinary Ireland, says that the law is clear that non-registered persons can have no involvement in the practise of veterinary medicine.

“Our big concern with the lay corporates from the UK is that it will lead to the diminution of the service to farmers,” Veterinary Ireland CEO Finbarr Murphy said.

“Corporates can cherry pick the more profitable parts of the business such as small animal services. The experience in the UK is that services become regionalised and out of hours cover is either too expensive or unavailable.”