The European Commission has replied to a letter from Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, and told him that the decision to change reference dates under the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) scheme is within the responsibility of the Irish government.

AgriLand understands that the commission informed the minister that, as the dates under the scheme were not directly contained in the EU regulation, the decision to change those dates is therefore the responsibility of the government here.

Also Read: Farmers to be given choice on BEAM reference period

The minister is seeking to change the reference period for the reduction of livestock manure nitrogen from the current period of July 1, 2020 to June 31, 2021 to a new period of January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021.

This means that, if the new reference period is confirmed, farmers will have until December 31 this year to meet the 5% nitrogen reduction target.

The commission’s response to Minister McConalogue would seem to give the green light to a change of dates.

The minster said last week that he had written to the commission to seek “fair and proportionate” options for participants in the scheme.

“I have been listening to, and engaging with, farmers on the issue and I have written to the European Commission exploring whether any fair and proportionate options are available to help affected farmers in a fair way,” he had said.

This would ease the pressure considerably on the roughly 18,000 farmer participants of BEAM who had yet to meet the 5% nitrogen reduction requirement as of January 19.

Of the 32,444 farmers receiving €78 million in payments under the scheme, just around 15,000 (43%) were meeting the requirement last month.