The details on the €100 million Beef Exceptional Aid Measures (BEAM) scheme have been “broadly welcomed” by the president of a farm lobby group.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s (ICSA’s) newly elected president Edmond Phelan said: “The ICSA welcomes the general outline to pay finishers €100/head and a payment for all suckler cows which calved in 2018.”

Speaking after a consultation meeting this morning, Thursday, July 11, with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, and his officials, Phelan strongly opposed an upper limit of 100 head for finishers.

He said: “The ICSA wants to see an upper limit of 200/head because full-time winter finishers have suffered massive losses and it is vital that they are back at the ring for the sake of all suckler and store producers.”

The ICSA argued that it is possible to increase the upper limit to 200 head without affecting the rate of €100/ head “simply by explicitly excluding factory feedlots”.

The following eligibility criteria was outlined to the ICSA by the Department of Agriculture:
  • Dairy farmers are excluded from the scheme;
  • All finished animals over 12 months, to include heifers, steers, bulls and cull cows are eligible;
  • A payment of €100/head for finished cattle is envisaged to a maximum of 100 head of cattle;
  • For sucklers, every cow that calved in 2018 will be eligible for a payment of €40/head to a maximum of 40 cows;
  • In addition, conditionality measures will apply;
  • A 5% reduction in stocking rates in 2021 compared to 2019;
  • The reference period for this will run from July 2018 to June 2019 (inclusive) to be compared with July 2020 to June 2021 (inclusive);
  • At the time of application, or before payment, those wishing to avail of the aid must be enrolled in an agri-environment scheme or be Bord Bia quality assured.

“The reality also is that not every single farmer will apply so this could be done while maintaining the commitment to pay the target rates to finishers and sucklers,” Phelan added.

The ICSA also welcomed the commitment to pay on cull cows finished in a beef herd “as the cull suckler cow is a significant part of a suckler income”.

We have insisted that suckler cows, as well as other fat cattle, sold in a mart and slaughtered shortly afterwards would result in a payment to the farmer who sold in the mart.

The ICSA expressed concern around the conditionality on the scheme, specifically the requirements on being a member of a quality assurance scheme or agri-environment scheme, as well as the 5% stocking rate reduction for the year 2020-2021.

Phelan concluded: “Two-thirds of suckler farmers are not quality assured, although some of them will be in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) or the organic scheme.”