With prime NI cattle slaughtered under 30 months now eligible for the new Beef Carbon Reduction Scheme (BCRS), an issue raised by a number of farmers is why no limit will apply to each individual claimant, despite a payment cap being proposed for other schemes.

In practice, there is nothing to stop a large beef finishing business ending up with an annual payout from the BCRS of well over £100,000.

For example, the handful of businesses slaughtering over 3,000 cattle per year are looking at payments of at least £200,000 in the first year of the BCRS (£20/head in January; £40/hd in February; £60/hd in March and £75/hd thereafter).

While that money won’t come until the early spring of 2025, it is still in the same financial year as the basic payment scheme (BPS) money to be paid out in the early autumn of 2024 (which is reduced by 8.5% to fund the BCRS).

At present, the BPS in NI is limited to £190,000 and the latest list of beneficiaries published annually by Defra shows that only eight farm businesses are at that threshold. Under the new payment regime, we can expect a number of farm businesses to receive over £200,000 of public money in the 2024/2025 financial year.

Beef finishers likely to be in that position correctly point out that they will pass on most (or all) of the BCRS payment to primary producers by way of higher prices for store cattle. And if there was a cap on the payment, how would someone who has reached their limit compete for cattle around the mart rings?

The same arguments are also made by DAERA, with officials making clear that by encouraging cattle to be slaughtered at lower ages, it will reduce the overall carbon footprint of NI beef. Ultimately the BCRS is an example of utilising public money to drive positive change in the industry.

But it might be a challenge to explain all of this to the wider general public, who are unlikely to see beyond the headline payment data.

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