There are currently 200,000 calf/cow units yet to be weighed under the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) scheme, according to Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Munster regional chairman John Coughlan.

Coughlan, a candidate in this month’s IFA presidential election, claimed that, at present, there is an underspend in the scheme of €8 million, out of its total funding of €20 million.

He was speaking after an announcement today, Friday, November 1, by Minister Michael Creed, who confirmed that the dates of the scheme would be extended by one week, so that weighing can continue until November 8, and weights can be submitted to the Irish Cattle Breeders Federation (ICBF) by November 15.

These dates were originally supposed to be November 1 (today) and November 8, respectively.

While Coughlan has welcomed the extension, he argued that the BEEP scheme’s application system was “not fit for purpose”.

The IFA presidential candidate is calling on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to commission and external review into the application process for all farm payment schemes, arguing that “rolling deadlines” on schemes can “no longer be a quick fix” to unclaimed payments.

“The IFA should and can do more to support farmers in ensuring they take full advantage of all farm payment schemes made available to them,” Coughlan commented, saying he would rectify this if he got the associations’s top job.

The Department of Agriculture must immediately review eligibility criteria for those groups of farmers who are discommoded or excluded in applying for the BEEP and all payment schemes.

Continuing, Coughlan argued: “The overall [objective] of the BEEP and other farm payment schemes cannot continue to be railroaded by their poor design. We must adopt a more flexible approach to ensure that we can facilitate maximum participation in all farm payment schemes.”

“Farmers are stretched thin as it is and often cannot find the time to navigate the restrictive and onerous application processes… Having a deadline imposed at a time when many farmers are busy selling and housing cattle was also completely nonsensical,” Coughlan claimed.

The IFA presidential candidate urged farmers to take advantage of the extension, saying “we must take advantage of all payments made available to us”.