Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has been called on to outline how he will resolve what has been branded a “rapidly evolving BEAM scheme debacle” by Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy.
The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) was temporary financial aid provided to farmers in response to a prolonged period of depressed beef prices.
To avail of the scheme, farmers were required to commit a 5% reduction of bovine livestock manure nitrogen.
Concerns that a large number of farmers were set to miss the July deadline, a second reference period ending in December 2021 has been offered.
Carthy, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on agriculture, believed this would only kick the problem down the road unless firm action was taken to address the confusion associated with the scheme.
“The Minister has bought himself some time, but must now outline how he intends to address the deficiencies in the scheme,” Carthy said.
“In the face of the ongoing pandemic and the fallout from Brexit, farmers do not need a department asleep at the wheel.
“The debacle has arisen due to reports that Teagasc, and other agriculture advisers, differ to the Department on methods to calculate nitrate figures under the scheme.
“It also seems there are delays of up to six weeks for farmers to even receive figures from the Department - this needs to be promptly reduced, the Minister needs to identify the cause of this delay and he must address it immediately.”
Carthy warned that many farmers would simply not have the money to pay back what the Department will be seeking.
Farmers accounting for an estimated €40m in payments were considered at risk of not meeting the scheme requirements.