Budget 2019: €20 million ‘Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot’ on the way

A €20 million beef support package – entitled the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot – is expected to be announced tomorrow (October 9) as part of Budget 2019, AgriLand understands.

It is also understood that the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme is expected to receive a €23 million boost – bringing the allocation back to its pre-economic-crash level of €250 million.

It is believed that this increase will equate to a significant 10% rise in payments per recipient as the number of farmers currently availing of the ANC scheme is substantially lower than those signed up in 2008.

As for the expected Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot, AgriLand understands that farmers will receive a payment of up to €40 per cow. However, payment will be subject to weight data of cows and calves.

It is understood that the new support was developed in response to Brexit and the significant challenges that the departure of the UK from the EU poses for the country’s beef sector.

While the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has repeatedly dismissed farm body calls for a €200 per cow suckler payment, last week this publication revealed that a support tailored to the calf could be introduced.

Also Read: Momentum builds on possible suckler calf support

The move was conceived as a route to not only boosting incomes for the sector; but also as a way of rewarding efficiency within the national suckler herd.

It is worth noting that Minister Creed attended a meeting with the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation in Bandon, Co. Cork last Friday (October 5) in the run up to this week’s budget announcement.

‘Direction of travel’

In response to recent questions tabled by the Agriculture Committee, Minister Creed again reiterated his position that establishing a support scheme to the sum of €200 per suckler cow – essentially a coupled payment – is not his intended “direction of travel“.

While emphasising that he is “acutely aware” of the concerns around the suckler enterprise sector, he said he is “absolutely committed” to ensuring that it remains “a key producer” of high-quality beef.

He indicated that anything that might be done for the sector would have to be “within the framework” of driving efficiencies in the herd.

“Very often the department is accused of not having joined-up thinking and I would just say that it is imperative that anything we do – budgetary or at CAP level – is consistent with the obligations that we face under challenges for targets in a reduction of greenhouse gases by 2030.

“That is something that I am acutely conscious of in the context of the sector.

A coupled payment of €200 per cow – which is the ask on every cow – is not the direction of travel we should go in the context of our climate change obligations.

“I think that we need to make sure that, whatever we do, we are consistent with the direction of travel that we have been going on in the context of beef data and genomics – which has been about driving efficiencies in the herd and improving its genetic merit. And that is something which I am conscious of,” the minister said.

Stay tuned to AgriLand tomorrow for all the latest on Budget 2019, with in-depth analysis from Donnacha Collins, senior tax consultant at Farm Development Co-Op (FDC).