Confusion around the BEAM scheme remains, with a letter sent out by the Department of Agriculture in the last two weeks doing very little to shed any light on the problem.
Farmers are essentially divided into five different camps in relation to the scheme.
The first category is probably the most straightforward.
These are the farmers who joined the scheme and, to date, have complied with the scheme requirements.
These farmers have been most vocal looking for changes to the scheme
These farmers are on target to meet the 5% reduction in bovine nitrogen by 30 June 2021 and generally don’t want any changes made to the scheme.
The second cohort are farmers who joined the scheme and at the moment won’t hit the scheme target. These farmers have been most vocal looking for changes to the scheme.
There are also farmers who have resigned themselves to paying back the money, and some already have.
There are many farmers who opted not to join the scheme because of the nitrogen reduction element.
Solving this problem won’t be easy
Some of these farmers are questioning moving the goalposts now as, had they known there might be flexibility, they may have joined.
The last cohort are those who have no idea where they stand in relation to the scheme target and will likely see the money being clawed back in 2021.
Solving this problem won’t be easy and an extension to the deadline looks like the most feasible option at this stage.
“It’s unbelievable that we are 6.5 months into a scheme and I still don’t know where I stand in relation to where my farm is in relation to nitrogen production in the reference period. I have been unable to access the BEAM portal on the AgFood website and have received no correspondence from the Department of Agriculture on the scheme. A rolling 12-month average is of no use to me anyway. I need up to the day figures.
“If the infrastructure wasn’t in place for this then the scheme should not have been brought in. I would be very concerned about farmers not being able to buy cattle this spring and other farmers being made sell them.”
“I don’t think the 5% reduction should be changed by the Department of Agriculture. To make some farmers adhere to the 5% reduction and let some other farmers away with it would be an injustice to the majority of participants who put the plans in place to meet the targets.
“These farmers more than likely took a financial hit in doing so and many others decided not to participate because they did not want to cut numbers. It’s surely up to the 8,000 farmers to decide whether they are better off by reducing numbers or paying the money back.
“It’s been a really difficult 12 months and to have to cope with this 5% reduction is just heaping pressure on farmers. The communication from the Department has been really poor and I know a lot of farmers who haven’t a clue where they stand in relation to stocking rate or nitrogen produced on their farm.
“I don’t think this one was thought through enough. You have spring-born animals changing from under one to the one- to two-year-old category and, in doing so, doubling nitrogen production, leaving it very hard to calculate accurate figures. I think an extension or reduction in the level of reduction required needs to be brought in.”