Hogan ‘only one to blame if BEAM money goes back to Brussels’ – INHFA

Comments made by European Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan have been criticised by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA).

The farm organisation noted comments made earlier in the week in which Commissioner Hogan expressed his disappointment at the low uptake of the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM), and the reluctance of farmers to apply, adding that it weakens the case for future financial support for future action in the beef sector.

Reacting to the former commissioner for agriculture’s comments, INHFA president Colm O’Donnell said:

Commissioner Hogan is the only one to blame if the money goes back to Brussels. This funding was supposed to be for farmers affected by the market disturbance associated with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Continuing, the president said that Irish farmers are “unable to draw down the €100 million because of conditionality drafted by the European Commission”.

This conditionality, O’Donnell added, requires a 5% culling of suckler cows and other cattle destined for beef finishing in order to comply with the terms and conditions.

“Commissioner Hogan commented at the Irish Rural Link conference in Athlone that if he wanted a farmer in Roscommon with 10 suckler cows to get rid of them because they aren’t profitable, then he must incentivise that farmer to cull them and low and behold, what do we get? BEAM.

Commissioner Hogan was prepared to sacrifice produce from sustainable Irish suckler and beef farmers to clear the way for unsustainable South American beef to get his trade deal over the line. So much for the green jersey.

Concluding, the farm leader called on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to amend the BEAM scheme by removing all conditionality and barriers preventing farmers from applying for the scheme which is within his power.

The INHFA called on the minister to make a public statement to this effect and extend the closing date so that all 70,000 eligible farmers can apply.

“This will ensure no money is returned to Brussels which might weaken the case for further support in the context of a hard Brexit,” according to the farm group.