BEAM calculator is evidence that previous data was ‘misleading’ – Naughten

The current data presented to farmers for the Beef Emergency Aid Measure (BEAM) is “misleading”, independent TD for Roscommon-Galway Denis Naughten has claimed.

The TD made the claim after Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue disclosed to him that his department is in the process of developing an online BEAM calculator at present.

In response to a request by deputy Naughten for farmers to be provided with their bovine livestock manure nitrogen on their holding for the months of July to December 2020, the minister said:

“An online BEAM calculator is being developed which will not only inform participants as to how much of their target figure they have used but allow them to predict what effect prospective changes to their herd will have on their figures in the run up to the deadline.”

Commenting on the minister’s response, deputy Naughten said:

16 months after the scheme closed to applications, and with just 153 days left until the end of the ‘[current] reference period, having an online bovine livestock manure nitrogen calculator in ‘development’ is a clear admission that there is a realisation within the Department of Agriculture that the current data provided to farmers is misrepresenting their nitrogen reduction status.

“The current data presented to farmers is misleading and if a farmer had a mathematics degree and went through the figures, they might find a completely different story next July.

“Because information has not been presented in a user-friendly format, many farmers may mistakenly believe that they are already under target for July 2021,” the independent TD said.

In an example of this he claimed: “In just one instance, a farmer received his Department of Agriculture report which showed that he had a 10% reduction in bovine livestock manure nitrogen which would have given him the impression that he was comfortably under the 5% threshold.

However, that same farmer, having gone through lengthy calculations, discovered that he only barely stays under the reduced limit for nitrates despite appearing to be comfortably under the limit at the end of 2020.

“This occurs as his cattle, mostly born in spring 2019, all go to higher nitrate emissions on the day of their second birthday in spring 2021.

“In effect this means he has to use 90 different stocking rate figures in the calculations for the first six months of 2021.

“He actually only stays under the limit because there are less days in the first half of the year and because one animal has a birthday on the second of July.

“The fact is that the report already provided to farmers by the Department of Agriculture is giving farmers a false impression because the figures include stocking rates in the first half of 2020, which may have little bearing on stocking in 2021.

These figures pre-July 2020 must be removed from the system and each farmer provided with a report for the second half of 2020, the reference period, and their estimated bovine livestock manure nitrogen reduction on June 31, 2021, if there are no stock movements in the intervening period.

“To leave farmers reliant on calculating birthdays and the number of days in the first half of the year in order to retain a payment that was supposed to support them through a very difficult financial situation is totally unjust,” deputy Naughten concluded.