Deering confident new BEEP scheme ‘will not be open to manipulation’

The €20 million Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme is a prime example of how beef farmers can continue on the road to efficiency, the chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine has stated.

Speaking tonight (October, 11) on episode 6 of FarmLand, Pat Deering, the Fine Gael TD for Carlow-Kilkenny, described the new Budget 2019 scheme as an acknowledgement that suckler and beef farmers have been going through a “difficult time” over the last number of years.

Under this new €20 million scheme, farmers will receive a payment of up to €40/cow for collecting weight data on cows and calves.

“In advance of the budget there was a lot of talk about what could be done; I welcome the fact that this particular scheme has come in now and the weight has come in.

“First of all I want to acknowledge the fact that there has been a difficulty there; but I think we have to continue to go down the beef data scheme whereby we get more data.

It’s all about data. We hear all this talk about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions and I think we have to continue on down that efficiency road – and this is a prime example of how it can be done.

He is of the opinion that weighing the calf and the cow before weaning can be done in a “straightforward” way.

“There still needs to be a bit of teasing out done before we get to the actual conclusion of logistics of how it can be operated. I can see it being a very straightforward process,” he said.

Weighing scales

He highlighted how, in the event that there is no weighing scales available on a farm, the proposition by Government is that a scales would be available at the local co-op.

At the local co-op the farmer can get a loan of that scales, take it home with them, weigh the animal and then send back in the data once that is completed.

“I think it is an important starting point; the €40 will be helpful. As I say, it is an acknowledgement of the difficulty in the sector; I think it’s probably a realistic amount of money that is available at the moment,” he said.

Once completed, the information will be submitted by the farmer to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), where it will be used to strengthen proofs under both the Terminal and Replacement indices.

Suckler farmers participating in the scheme will be subject to on-farm inspections to ensure that the data submitted lines up with the animals on the ground and to protect the integrity of the programme.

“My understanding is that there is going to be a farm inspection process built in to the whole scheme whereby an inspector would be available to inspect a percentage of the people who would make the application.

“That would obviously make sure that the scheme would not be manipulated in any shape or form,” said Deering.

Factories and supermarkets

The Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture chair also stated that factories and supermarkets have a bigger part to play in returning better prices to farmers.

“We see legislation on unfair trading practices being introduced now at the moment within Europe; but, I personally don’t think it is strong enough.

At the end of the day we need more markets, we need more cattle leaving this country going to different markets and live exports are crucial in that regard.

“We are in a difficult situation at the moment with Turkey; that is not going to be addressed in the short-term for obvious reasons. The whole political situation there is very unstable and that is a disadvantage for us.

“The payment at the moment will be a help; but it is only a short-term solution to the overall problem that we have,” said Deering, highlighting the looming threats of Brexit and climate change to Irish agriculture.