Calls made for 5% nitrates reduction BEAM requirement to be scrapped

Calls have been made by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) for the Beef Emergency Aid Measure (BEAM) scheme requirement to reduce nitrates production by 5% to be scrapped.

Making the calls, ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham said: “Several marts have cancelled sales that were scheduled to take place this week due to the worsening Covid-19 situation and we are likely facing many more weeks, if not months, of disruption to trading.

“When you add difficulties around trading to the fact that farmers don’t have accurate nitrates figures at this point of the BEAM process, the 5% target is completely unworkable,” he said.

The rolling 12-month nitrates figures that were issued to farmers in December do not provide the necessary clarity. It includes six months that are not relevant.

“While it gives some idea to stable suckler herds, it does not enable finishing herds that trade a lot of cattle to make any firm decisions.

“It is unacceptable that many BEAM participants cannot be sure whether they will be penalised,” Graham stressed.

“The payment was meant to reflect the extreme hardship suffered by farmers due to Brexit factors beyond their control.

Penalties of up to 100% of the payment undo all the good and undermine the initial logic to support beef farmers.

The beef chairman also claimed that there is also the potential of “further huge market disruption” in the spring, highlighting that traditional buyers at that time of year “may be unable to do so due to the nitrates restrictions and the confusion they are causing”.

“I am calling on Minister [for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie] McConalogue to take all the necessary steps at EU level to have this requirement removed from the scheme.

“There is no justification for beef finishers to be facing the prospect of having to hand back this badly needed aid as a result of circumstances that are outside of their control,” Graham concluded.