Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue T.D., announced last Friday that the facility to change the 12-month reduction period for farmers participating in the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) is now open.

The facility allows farmers to change the original reduction period of 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 to the new reduction period of 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021.

Farmers can select the later reduction period on with the window available for doing so open from 19 March to Monday 21 June 2021. The generous timeframe to apply will allow farmers plenty of time to assess how their herd stacks up to the 5% reduction target before making a final decision.

Selecting the new reduction period can act as an insurance policy for farmers unsure as to whether or not they will satisfy the 5% reduction in organic nitrogen levels by 30 June.

This is so farmers can apply for the new reduction period and if they meet the 5% reduction target during the original window of 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 they will then be able to withdraw their request to change it allowing them to satisfy scheme conditions and farm as normal from 1 July 2021.

If they fail to apply however and then do not meet the reduction target on 30 June 2021 they will not be able to avail of the alternative reduction and this is something that needs to be borne in mind. The minister also informed participants that even if they select the later reduction period they will continue to receive a monthly letter relating to their progress on achieving the 5% reduction within the original reduction period.

Farmers should take note that the reference period on which the 5% reduction is based, that is 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019, has not changed.

The minister said, “Changing the BEAM reference period was a key priority of mine when I came to office as I knew that a lot of farmers were in danger of missing the initial reference period.

“I succeeded in getting consent from the European Commission to facilitate the changing of the reference period and I am now urging farmers to use this maximum flexibility to do all they can to meet the requirements of the scheme. Farmers need to take a proactive approach to avoid facing penalties”.

Calculation of figures

BEAM participants can expect to receive updated figures in the coming days covering January and February 2021. This will provide a much clearer picture as to where a herd currently lies.

There have been reports in recent weeks insinuating that the calculation of BEAM Nitrates figures works on the premises of the average number of animals on the farm at a given time in each month. The Department clarified at recent adviser training that this is not the case and state that the figure is calculated on a daily basis and not an average figure.

The Departments BEAM Nitrates calculator works on the premises of an average figure for the months in advance and state that this calculator is an aid to allow farmers to plan accordingly.

Questions were also raised as to which figures farmers should abide by – the figures on the BEAM Nitrates portal on or the figure stated in nitrogen and phosphorus calculations, as there is a marginal difference between them.

The Department says the only figures applicable to the BEAM scheme are the BEAM figures. They add this is why there is a four-to-five week delay in extracting data as it allows for calf birth registrations etc to be processed and provides the most up-to-date and accurate data possible.

There is also a high volume of questions arising relating to if there is any change in rules for TB restricted herds. Those affected by TB will be glad to hear that anyone who has been restricted during the BEAM reduction period will have their reduction requirement reduced in line with the length of time they were restricted for.

The Department will be writing to affected herds in the coming weeks outlining the options available.