Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department will assist contracted growers of miscanthus elephant grass to source alternative markets in view of the fact that that they been left with significant acreage of the crop to harvest due to the industry price becoming unviable.
Reply from Minister Simon Coveney: Since 2007, my Department’s Bioenergy Scheme has provided support for farmers who wished to establish the energy crops miscanthus and willow by offering grant-aid of 50% of the cost of establishing the crops. The scheme was initially Exchequer funded under a pilot scheme from 2007-2009 and has been co-funded by the EU under the Rural Development Programme since 2010.
My Department has no role in relation to commercial arrangements between individual farmers and contractors for the end use of their energy crops. The pricing of product is also a commercial matter.
In February 2012, my colleague the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, T.D., introduced REFIT supports for bioenergy, including tariffs to support Biomass Combined Heat and Power and Biomass Combustion. These tariffs are designed to provide financial incentives for the end use of energy crops, including miscanthus.
In December 2011, I amended the terms and conditions of the Bioenergy Scheme so as to remove the obligation on growers to maintain the crop for seven years as a condition of retaining grant-aid. This afforded an opportunity for growers who wished to exit the scheme to do so without penalty and was available to all growers including those who had established crops since the commencement of the scheme in 2007.