BEAM me up Minister!
The Beef Emergency Aid Measure (BEAM) has been getting an inordinate amount of media coverage over recent days.
But here’s the truth of it. Ireland’s farm leaders will always be first out of the blocks, telling the world that agricultural subsidies should never be regarded as ‘money for nothing’. And I totally buy into this principle.
So why all the fuss about BEAM? The antics of the IFA, ICSA et al over recent days, claiming that some farmers will not be able to meet their commitments to the scheme through no fault of their own, leave these organisations looking rather disingenuous, I believe.
So what has all this got to do with the agriculture minister, Charlie McConalogue? Absolutely nothing, in my opinion. Despite the protestations of the farm organisations, he has no great decision to make.
And the minister should be so advised. He may wish to remind the various lobby groups that his predecessor went to great lengths, securing additional support for Ireland’s beef farmers at a time of great need for the sector.
And that’s about the height of it. Thereafter, it should be a case of letting events follow their natural course.
And, of course our ever-watchful friends within the European Commission will be keeping a close eye on things. They wouldn’t be too happy to hear about Ireland changing horses in midstream, where one of their support schemes is concerned. And rightly so; at the end of the day this is EU and Irish tax payers’ money that we are talking about.
My aforementioned reference to the minister not having any real decision was not strictly true, particularly if we end with a scenario which sees farmers having to pay BEAM money back.
Under such circumstances the minister must make it clear that these funds will be ringfenced to provide future support for the beef industry. Pump priming a decent suckler cow and calf scheme come to mind immediately, in this regard.