IFA president Tim Cullinan has said that, all farmers in the BEAM scheme must be given a fair and reasonable opportunity to retain what they drew down.

Cullinan said: “Tolerances on penalties must be widened to reduce the impact on farmers who made progress in achieving the 5% reduction.

“The BEAM monies were provided to suckler and beef farmers to offset the enormous losses experienced on their farms arising from Brexit.

“Since the monies were committed, the Department of Agriculture has put obstacles in the way of farmers receiving the vital supports and in holding onto them.”

Cullinan said the Department of Agriculture has further compounded the difficulties for farmers now by threatening interest on monies owed, and has moved ahead of this by deducting the monies from other farm scheme payments.

“The inclusion of the 5% reduction in the first instance should never have been part of the scheme.

“The lack of detailed up-to-date information for farmers in meeting this requirement; the failure to appropriately recognise the impact of TB restrictions on farmers trying to meet the 5% reduction; and the draconian penalties for farmers who just missed out on meeting the 5% reduction all contributed to the problem,” said Cullinan.

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said: “The minister and his officials were given flexibilities by the European Commission and these must be fully utilised.

“It’s not acceptable to have moved in this way to recoup monies from farmers and the minister must take ownership of this issue,” he added.

IFA rural development chair Michael Biggins said: “Farmers who would have expected their ANC payment this week cannot have it deducted.

“It’s an important payment for farmers who have bills to pay,” he said.

The IFA is meeting with the Department of Agriculture on this issue and has called on the the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to ensure there is an acceptable resolution.