Over €7.5m in payments under the controversial Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) is still to be clawed back from farmers.

The figures were outlined by the Department of Agriculture at a recent meeting of the Farmers’ Charter of Rights Monitoring Committee.

The Department stated that more than €10.8m in BEAM repayments has been recouped from farmers to-date, with 6,990 farmer accounts described as “fully cleared”.

Repayment plans had been put in place by a further 512 farmers. The total value of the payments to be recouped under this process is almost €1.04m.

This leaves a further €6.5m to be recovered from farmers who took part in the scheme, but who were deemed to have failed to meet its stock reduction requirements.

Close to €77m was paid to just under 34,000 beef farmers in 2019 under the BEAM scheme. This was paid to help compensate farmers for the drop in beef prices during the period September 2018 to May 2019.

Failure to meet requirements

Under the scheme, participating farmers were required to reduce their organic nitrogen output by 5% up to mid-2020, compared to a reference period of July 1 2018 to June 30 2019. This effectively meant reducing stock numbers.

In excess of 16,000 BEAM applicants initially failed to meet the scheme requirement for reducing stock numbers, with some of these opting to defer their nitrates reduction targets to 2021.

It is estimated that close to 11,000 of these applicants have now met the stock reduction targets or had payments recouped by the Department. However, a cohort of farmers remain in dispute regarding BEAM.

Overall, the Department has sought to claw back almost €18m or 20% of the total BEAM support payments.

The Department insisted in its presentation to the farm organisations that it is legally obliged to recoup the outstanding BEAM funds and it did not rule out deducting the monies from farmers' direct payments.

"As an Accredited EU Paying Agency, DAFM must recover debts in respect of overpayments and penalties across a broad range of agricultural schemes, including the BEAM scheme. Debt recovery may be facilitated by means of direct repayment by the debtor or through deductions from other payments due,” the Department stated.