The €50 million beef support scheme, which received cabinet approval last Friday, June 12, is aimed at being “as user-friendly as possible”, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed.
Speaking at a cabinet press briefing last Friday, the minister outlined key points regarding the development of the scheme, which he said will include farmer input.
Covid-19 ‘double whammy’
“We would estimate since early March there has been a double whammy in the sense of a significant price collapse but also with regards to a drop in the kill numbers,” Minister Creed explained.
“There are about 50,000 cattle that normally by now would have been slaughtered, so that overhang on the market, plus the price drop, food-service challenge, has led to a very particular impact on beef farms.
We propose obviously to consult with farm organisations, with regard to paying this; our ambition would be to pay it as early as possible. We will require EU approval.
Highlighting earlier work done at EU level, the minister pointed out: “One of the things that we did secure was freedom under state aid rules to support our own sector and as a consequence…we have this €50 million budget.”
Minister Creed said that the scheme will be exclusively for beef finishers, adding his belief that “it will percolate down through the entire industry including the suckler sector, because it will put a floor under weanling prices in the autumn”.
The minister also noted that the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme – Suckler (BEEP-S) is a new €35 million scheme this year aimed at suckler farmers.
“There is a scheme for sucklers, there is the BDGP [Beef Data and Genomics Programme] and there is now this scheme, which cumulatively are supports in excess of €100 million this year,” the minister said.
“We’ll be talking to all of the farm organisations in the context of this scheme, to get their views as to how we should structure it.
“We have some form in this area, from previous schemes, particularly the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure…I think that experience will enable us to get this scheme up and running quite early.
I’m hoping money will be paid in the autumn; perhaps September or October.
Regarding concerns over conditionality in the new scheme, as was seen in BEAM, the minister said: “The terms and conditions we will talk to farmers about – but the reduction element was a condition that the commission imposed on us because the last scheme was co-funded.
“The conditionality that was attached to that – that was an EU demand. That’s obviously missing here as it’s an entirely Exchequer-funded scheme.
“I will imagine it will be user-friendly, and the ambition would be to get money out as early as possible to those who have suffered losses in terms of cattle that were slaughtered in a reference period to be determined,” the minister concluded.