MacManus ‘demands BEAM scheme participants get the support they need’

MEP Chris MacManus said he “demands BEAM [Beef Exceptional Aid Measure] scheme participants get the support they need”.

The Sinn Féin MEP and member of the European Parliament Agricultural Committee said he is “demanding the Department of Agriculture” to reach out to the BEAM scheme participants.

MacManus’ comments come in response to “widespread confusion from scheme participants”, if they are on course to meet the 5% nitrates reduction target.

MacManus said:

“The €100 million BEAM was established to support farmers who were facing spiralling losses, due to a slash in the prices they were being offered for stock. However, from the start, this scheme has been a nightmare for many farmers.

“At the last minute, a decision was made to include a 5% nitrates reduction as part of the conditionality. In reality, this meant herd reductions by the backdoor.

The European Commission and Irish government pointed the finger at each other as to who was responsible. We are now dealing with the out-workings of this shambles.

“Any farmer who fails to meet the 5% herd reduction [could] be penalised 100% of the money they received, meaning some farmers could be asked to pay back between €5,000 and €10,000. Understandably, this is causing significant anxiety among participants, who are unsure exactly where they stand.

“In September, Minister McConalogue said he would ensure all farmers were given the appropriate data to see if they are on track. Data was provided but in a format which, many farmers feel, is unclear.”

‘Debacle could have been avoided’

The Midlands-North-West MEP said the debacle “could have been avoided”.

“Our farming community have endured a particularly difficult 2020, due to a number of factors such as Brexit and Covid-19,” he continued.

This is one extra headache that could be avoided very [easily] if the department got its act together and engaged with participants appropriately.

“If this does not happen, trade flows will be heavily disrupted, as farmers scramble to sell stock before the end of the scheme – resulting in a severe depression in the prices being offered.”

ICSA president sends warning to participants of BEAM scheme

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) president Edmond Phelan has urged beef farmers who have signed up to participate in the scheme to be aware of where they currently stand with stock numbers on their farms.

Participants in the scheme are required to reduce the production on the holding of bovine livestock manure nitrogen by 5% for the period July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, as compared with the period July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019.

At the time of the scheme’s announcement there was a lot of push back from both farmers and farming organisations on the 5% reduction guideline; however, it still proceeded to be implemented as a scheme requirement.

To achieve this requirement means that a farm must either avoid carrying on excess stock numbers or aim to sell/finish their animals earlier than they had been during the July 2018 to June 2019 period.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue stated back in September that farmers will be receiving monthly updates, from November onwards, on their farm’s status of nitrogen levels output as a measure to aid farmers to monitor their progress.