As we report this week, there is a risk that less than half of the funding within the initial €100m BEAM scheme will be retained by farmers. It is a scenario that does not reflect well on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and the Department, who ultimately designed the scheme, albeit with guidance from Brussels.

It also ask questions of farm organisations as to the effectiveness of their strategy in influencing the design of such an important scheme. Given the income challenges on these farms, a solution must be found. Adam Woods looks at the options here.

Lessons must also be learned. BEAM has demonstrated that it is not tenable for farm organisations to sit back and await details on how schemes will be rolled out and what conditions will be applied. The voice of farmers must be kept front and centre at the design stage by bringing forward credible proposals as to how schemes can be structured to meet stated objectives while delivering for farmers.

With CAP reform progressing and with a €1bn Brexit fund up for grabs, it is critical that farmers find their voice in the weeks and months ahead.

EU funding

As Barry Cassidy reports, Brussels is progressing in setting out very clear objectives for the new eco-schemes. Before Christmas, we saw the extent to which the EU is putting a tight framework in place around how member states develop national strategic plans – and yet we continue to see little in the way of solid policy positions being put forward by farmers.

It is a similar trend in the case of the Brexit funding. It has been known for quite some time that a significant financial package would be allocated to Ireland. The IFA has prepared a solid financial analysis reinforcing the unique exposure of the sector to the long-term impacts of Brexit. Its analysis will apply significant political pressure when it comes to securing a level of funding that reflects this.

But, as we have learned from the BEAM scheme, securing the funding is only the first step. Ensuring the voice of farmers is heard in the design and construct of a future Brexit scheme will be essential if the funding is to be invested in protecting farm incomes. This will require solid policy proposals which will undoubtedly carry much more political weight if they come from a united farm lobby.