Every month that passes makes negotiating the terms of the BEAM scheme increasingly difficult, IFA president Tim Cullinan told members on Friday night.

He was speaking at the second of a series of regional meetings.

The 135 attendees of the Ulster and north Leinster meeting heard that Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue will return to Brussels with sights set on loosening the conditions of the scheme.

Cullinan said: “If farmers lose the estimated €40m in BEAM payments it will be nothing short of a disaster of a scheme, with less than €40m captured out of the original €100m.

“There’s a row coming here lads, with more environmental measures in store for our farmers and substandard beef coming in from other countries.”

Weak Commissioner

IFA members were also updated on progress within the Beef Market Taskforce. Cullinan said that the first of the three Grant Thornton reports on market transparency has borne no fruit, with little aspiration shown towards reports still to come.

Cullinan instead called for rapid progress on the establishment of a Food Ombudsman: “We need the position to be assumed by a person with power, who will be capable of penalising those who breach regulation.”

The IFA’s chief economist Tadhg Buckley tackled issues around the new CAP, offering assessment on what farmers can expect in the next instalment of the policy.

From the outset the IFA warned of growing emphasis on eco schemes within the next CAP, pushed heavily by Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.

Cullinan said: “We’re dealing with a weak Commissioner for Agriculture, while Timmermans is trying to force as many Green Deal measures as possible into the next CAP.”

Buckley highlighted disparity between the Parliament and Commission on cornerstones of the CAP such as co-financing of Pillar II, income support for young farmers, and convergence.

No stone unturned

Brexit, environmental sustainability and forestry felling issues were among a wide range of issues discussed in the question and answer session of the online gathering.

The association president highlighted concerns that remain around the blending of southern and Irish milk and how it will be advertised to third countries.

Cullinan welcomed the new ships allocated to travel from Rosslare to the mainland but raised concerns around red tape and extra paper work for Irish haulage traffic through Britain.

Monaghan farmer Brian Treanor called on the farm organisation to enrol experts in a study of the value of hedgerows and trees in the sequestration of carbon on Irish farms.

Cullinan responded, suggesting Teagasc should undertake this carbon sequestration analysis: “If Bord na Móna can measure it and get paid for it then why can’t we.”

In response to concerns around delays within the timber industry as a result of felling delays Cullinan said the current scarcity of timber is starting to take effect on the progress of construction on farms.

Cullinan concluded the session assuring members that no stone will be left unturned in the CAP reform.

Regional meetings will continue around the country over the coming nights. Next up is the Munster regional meeting, which will take place on Monday 25 January at 7.30pm.

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BEAM, eco schemes and farm incomes raised in IFA’s CAP debate