ICSA: ‘Some kind of concession needs to be got’ on BEAM

There are a “lot of problems” with the Beef Emergency Aid Measure (BEAM) – and a case needs to be put forward to get “some kind of concession”, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch highlighted his concern to AgriLand over the requirement to reduce livestock manure nitrogen by 5%, compared to the reference period of July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019

“It’s the 5% reduction that is the issue; we’re very concerned that farmers may have to give back money,” he explained.

It’s very difficult given the whole disruption with Covid-19 for people to get anything sorted in terms of selling stock or even in terms of liaising with their Teagasc advisor on where exactly they stand.

“Because it’s not that straightforward to do the calculation, particularly when we’re talking about finishers who have a lot of cattle coming in and going out all the time.”

Expanding on this he said:

“It sounds so simple to say ‘if you have 20 cows you must have one cow less’ – in theory that may be alright for a suckler farmer who has a very stable system of farming – but, even at that, that mightn’t do because people might have a few extra heifers for a few months longer, varying one year compared to another.

However, if you have a lot of cattle being traded in and out at different ages, and therefore different nitrogen figures, it becomes a lot more complex.

Continuing, Punch highlighted another issue: “With Covid-19, access to private advisors and Teagasc consultants is much more problematic, so there are a lot of people who can’t get their heads around what they need to do to meet the target.

“Now that we’re more than halfway through the [reference] year, from July to June, it becomes much more complex to solve the problem.

“In simple terms, if you had 20 cows and you got rid of one of them at the start of July 2020, yeah you’re fine, you might be on target.

But now that it’s January 2021, you’re really looking at getting rid of three cows in that scenario to meet the target if you haven’t done so already, because you’ve only five months left.

“We think there are a lot of problems with it, and it is linked to the fact that Covid has made everything a lot more difficult to operate as well.

“We think Minister McConalogue should be making these arguments in Brussels, really, and pushing for some kind of modification on this.

“Scrapping the 5% altogether would be ideal but some kind of concession needs to be got on this,” Punch concluded.