An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that he “would hate” to return any unspent BEAM money to Europe.
Responding to a question from the Irish Farmers Journal at the National Ploughing Championships on the possibility of top-up to farmers who had already applied for the scheme, Varadkar said the Government would be watching the uptake of the € 100m scheme.
“We’ll have to see where we get to in the next couple of weeks but what I would say is that there is €100m there on the table to support the incomes of beef farmers, half from the Government, half from the European Union. I’d hate to see us giving any of that money back,” Varadkar said.
Farmers have been resistant to the scheme, as it requires them to cut herd numbers. The scheme has already been extended twice in an effort to garner farmer numbers.
On Wednesday, the Department of Agriculture confirmed that 33,973 farmers had applied for the scheme.
This accounts for €77.54m of the overall fund worth €100m.
Outgoing European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan told the ASA conference last week that it would be “the greatest embarrassment of all time” if the full €100m fund wasn’t drawn down.
Hogan indicated that it was up to the Irish Government whether it wished to apply to the Commission to change the rules of the fund.
This was raised with Junior Minister for Agriculture Andrew Doyle at the National Ploughing Championships.
“When Commissioner Hogan says it is up to the Government, the Government has to ask first and get agreement,” Doyle said.
The minister indicated he was hopeful that there wouldn’t be an underspend.
“This morning in the Department of Agriculture, they said they had 80% and climbing in terms of the allocation of the budget so if the budget is nearly spent or will be spent by tomorrow then it will be a position we’ll have to review after the closing date,” Hogan said.
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