TD accuses department of ‘misleading’ reports on BEAM reductions

Current reports presented to farmers on Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) livestock reduction targets are “misleading” according to independent TD, Denis Naughten.

He has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue to provide each farmer with transparent information that can be used to determine if farmers will comply with the July 2021 target or not.

In the Dáil this week deputy Naughten will request that the Minister for Agriculture provide a report on bovine livestock manure nitrogen under the BEAM scheme that actually reflects the farm stocking levels from July 1 to December 31, 2020.

He is also proposing that it would include what the projected reduction on June 30, 2021 would be, if there is no change in stock over the coming period.

‘Misleading’ data

The Roscommon-Galway TD said: “The current data presented to farmers is misleading and if a farmer had a mathematics degree and went through the figures, they might find a completely different story next July.

Unless information is presented in a user-friendly format then many farmers may mistakenly believe that they are already under target for July 2021.

“In one instance a farmer received his Department of Agriculture report which showed that he had a 10% reduction in bovine livestock manure nitrogen, which would give the impression that he was comfortably under the 5% threshold.

“However, that same farmer, having gone through lengthy calculations, discovered that he only barely stays under the reduced limit for nitrates despite appearing to be comfortably under the limit at the end of 2020. This occurs as his cattle, mostly born in spring 2019, all go to higher nitrate emissions on the day of their second birthday in spring 2021,” the deputy added

Deputy Naughten said that the situation is complicated as that particular farmer, in effect, has to use 90 different stocking rate figures in the calculations for the first six months of 2021. He actually only stays under the limit because there are less days in the first half of the year and because one animal has a birthday on the second of July.

Stocking rates

“The fact is that the report already provided to farmers by the Department of Agriculture is giving farmers a false impression because the figures include stocking rates in the first half of 2020, which may have little bearing on stocking in 2021,” deputy Naughten continued.

To leave farmers reliant on calculating birthdays and the number of days in the first half of the year in order to retain a payment that was supposed to support them through a very difficult financial situation, is totally unjust.

“The minister should also be cognisant of the fact that Covid-19 has had a big impact on farmers seeking assistance from other farmers or advisors in interpreting this nitrogen calculation.

“I believe he should seek a waiver from the [European] Commission on any penalties in achieving the 5% calculation in light of the fact that the national suckler herd has fallen by a factor in excess of this target,” concluded deputy Naughten.