Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has been called on to provide farmers with accurate figures that will allow them to assess whether they comply with BEAM’s 5% reduction requirement.
Independent TD Denis Naughten said the current reports provided to farmers before Christmas were misleading.
Naughten said he would be calling on the Minister in the Dáil to provide farmers with a report that accurately reflects farm stocking levels from 1 July to 31 December 2020.
He proposes that it would also include a projected reduction for 30 June 2021 assuming no change in stock over the coming months.
“Unless information is presented in a user-friendly format, then many farmers may mistakenly believe that they are already under target for July 2021,” Naughten explained.
“In one instance, a farmer received his Department of Agriculture report which showed that he had a 10% reduction in bovine livestock manure nitrogen, which would give the impression that he was comfortably under the 5% threshold.
“However, that same farmer, having gone through lengthy calculations, discovered that he only barely stays under the reduced limit for nitrates despite appearing to be comfortably under the limit at the end of 2020.
“This occurs as his cattle, mostly born in spring 2019, all go to higher nitrate emissions on the day of their second birthday in spring 2021.
"In effect, this means he has to use 90 different stocking rate figures in the calculations for the first six months of 2021.
“He actually only stays under the limit because there are less days in the first half of the year and because one animal has a birthday on 2 July.”
Naughten emphasised that the report provided to farmers by the Department is giving a false impression.
To leave farmers reliant on complicated calculations to retain a payment that was supposed to support them through a very difficult financial situation was totally unjust, he said.
“The Minister should also be cognisant of the fact that COVID-19 has had a big impact on farmers seeking assistance from other farmers or advisers in interpreting this nitrogen calculation.
“I believe he should seek a waiver from the Commission on any penalties in achieving the 5% calculation in light of the fact that the national suckler herd has fallen by a factor in excess of this target,” the Galway-Roscommon TD concluded.