COVID-19 disruption and confusion over figures has led to calls for the 5% nitrates reduction requirement in the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) to be scrapped.
The payment reflected the extreme hardship farmers suffered due to Brexit factors beyond their control, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) beef chair Edmund Graham said. Penalising farmers up to 100% of the payment would undo all the good and undermine the initial logic, he warned.
“Several marts have cancelled sales that were scheduled to take place this week due to the worsening COVID situation and we are likely facing many more weeks, if not months, of disruption to trading.
It is unacceptable that many BEAM participants cannot be sure whether they will be penalised
“When you add difficulties around trading to the fact that farmers don’t have accurate nitrates figures at this point of the BEAM process, the 5% target is completely unworkable,” he stressed.
Rolling 12-month nitrates figures issued by the Department of Agriculture to farmers in December do not provide any of the necessary clarity, he said. While it may give some idea to stable suckler herds, it did not enable finishing herds that traded a lot of cattle to make any firm decisions.
“It is unacceptable that many BEAM participants cannot be sure whether they will be penalised,” Graham said.
There is no justification for beef finishers to be facing the prospect of having to hand back this badly needed aid
“There is also the potential of further huge market disruption in the spring as traditional buyers at that time of year may be unable to do so, due to the nitrates restrictions and the confusion they are causing.”
He called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to take all necessary steps at EU level to have the 5% reduction requirement removed from the scheme.
“There is no justification for beef finishers to be facing the prospect of having to hand back this badly needed aid as a result of circumstances that are outside of their control,” he concluded.