Application breakdown: BEAM ‘not working for small-scale suckler farmers’

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has been called on to reassess the support measures currently available to small-scale suckler farmers by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA).

The farm organisation was making the calls in light of what it describes as a very poor uptake of both the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) and the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) schemes.

The INHFA noted that more than half of the suckler farmers in the country did not apply for BEAM based on Department of Agriculture figures.

BEAM application breakdown

Commenting on this, INHFA national president Colm O’Donnell said: “The minister must, as a priority put a scheme in place that is attractive to all suckler farmers.”

“Recent department figures on BEAM have seen 34,517 farmers apply with an expected spend of just over €78 million,” he said.

A breakdown of these figures shows a total of 9,295 suckler-only farmers applying with an expected pay out of €6.5 million.

“There were 10,245 beef-only farms that applied who will receive a pay out of €32.4 million and there was 14,977 applicants of both beef and suckler cows who will receive a total payment of €39.3 million.

“In total the pay-out on suckler cows comes to €18.6 million with the pay-out on beef cattle killed coming to €59.6 million.

“When we analyse these figures in addition to the very low uptake in BEEP (just over 19,000 farmers) it is clear that neither scheme is working for the small-scale suckler farmer,” said O’Donnell.

Suckler scheme proposal

O’Donnell stressed that a scheme must be delivered that farmers see merit in – and one that does not require a reduction in cow numbers.

Putting forward a scheme developed by his organisation in consultation with its members, the president said:

“This scheme proposes to pay €200 on the first 10 cows with a digressive payment on the next 15 for the delivery of specific welfare measures.

The proposal is based on the sheep welfare scheme which has been well received by most sheep farmers as testament to an 80% uptake.

“The increased budget cost to the exchequer for the delivery of this, will we estimate not exceed €100 million and should be viewed in the context of what this can do to protect jobs, businesses and our rural communities.”

The president also reminded the minister that commitments were made in the beef discussion to support the suckler sector.

“It is the duty of the Minister to ensure these commitments are honoured for all suckler farmers and it will be our mission to ensure the Minister does this,” O’Donnell concluded.