The Department of Agriculture have confirmed the number of the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) participants who have met the requirements of the original reference period.

Some 33,445 applied to the scheme in 2019, drawing down almost €80m in funding.

A total of 18,707 BEAM participants have met the requirements of BEAM as set down in the terms and conditions of the scheme, or 56% of participants.

Of that number, 5,293 had opted to defer but will now be notified by the Department that they are being removed from the BEAM deferment period in light of the fact that they have met the scheme requirements.

The scheme was introduced in 2019 in recognition of the losses experienced by beef farmers as a result of Brexit.

The scheme paid €100/head on animals slaughtered between 24 September 2018 and 12 May 2019 on a maximum of 100 animals.

It also paid €40/suckler cow on progeny born during 2018 up to a maximum of 40 cows.

The original scheme requirement was to reduce the amount of bovine nitrogen produced on the holding by 5% between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2021. The period that the reduction was based on was 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019.

Just over 16,000 had applied for the BEAM deferment option between 19 March and 21 June 2021. This allowed participants defer the reduction period to 1 January to 31 December 2021. This will mean there will be approximately 10,700 participants in BEAM for the remainder of 2021.

A total of 3,634 farmers did not opt to defer and now face a penalty. The Department has confirmed that these farmers will be advised in writing shortly.

While the penalty amount that these farmers will face is not yet known, the average payment under the scheme was €2,265 per farmer so the Department could be looking at clawing back over €8m from those participants who failed to reduce stock numbers during the reference period.

More penalties are likely to be imposed at the end of this year when the deferred reference period comes to an end.