An independent TD has highlighted problems with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s nitrates statements, which, he argued, are compromising farmers’ efforts to meet the 5% livestock manure nitrogen reduction target under the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) scheme.

Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice was reacting to the news today that Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue had written to the European Commission to seek alternatives for participants who are not in line to meet the scheme’s requirements.

Fitzmaurice said that an extension “must be secured”.

Like many public representatives right around the country, I have been inundated with calls from livestock farmers unable to reach the 5% reduction outlined in the BEAM scheme.

“The majority of farmers find it extremely difficult to make sense of the nitrate statements sent out to them, as well as the fact that the statements available [online] are only updated monthly,” Fitzmaurice noted.

He continued: “For instance, if a scheme participant logged in at the beginning of this month, the figures up to the last day of November were available. But this won’t update again until the first couple of days of February.

“So in essence, farmers are trying to work off figures that are two months old at the moment,” the TD stressed.

There is also the issue of animals moving between different age groups throughout the course of the year, which is leading to further confusion when efforts are made to come up with calculations.

He argued that a considerable proportion of farmers on the scheme are facing these problems, which are the reason that a majority of participants are not set to hit the 5% target.

However, Fitzmaurice highlighted that “any changes must not impact those participants who are able to meet the requirements by original deadline”.