Pressure is mounting on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to secure a solution for farmers who are not on track to meet the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) 5% nitrogen reduction.
It has turned into a hot topic with questions being raised over the Department of Agriculture’s ability to let farmers know accurately where they stand.
At the IFA’s Connacht regional meeting, farmer Gabriel Costello summed up farmer frustrations when he said: “The real issue around the BEAM controversy is centred on the Department’s reluctance, refusal, resistance, whatever you want to call it, to use AIMS via some kind of an online calculator to help us calculate the nitrogen.
“They seem to be sending out statements that are completely useless.”
He questioned what pressure was being applied to the Department, by either farmer organisations or politicians, to resolve the issue. Another farmer at the meeting called for a six-month extension so that farmers could meet the target.
Approximately €40m worth of payments are on the line.
IFA president Tim Cullinan told the meetings: “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.”
He said the Department told the IFA that it was going back to Brussels to see if there is anything that can be done on the 5% reduction.
Independent TD Denis Naughten said figures provided by the Department to farmers to date were misleading.
He highlighted the case of one farmer whose pre-Christmas report showed a 10% reduction. However, having completed lengthy calculations the farmer discovered he would only just meet the requirements as his spring-born cattle from 2019 would see their emissions increase on their second birthday in 2021.
Naughten called on the minister to seek a waiver from Europe on any penalties.
The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) wants the 5% clause to be abolished.
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has called for spreading slurry with a trailing shoe or using protected urea to be introduced as an alternative to the 5% reduction clause.