The Department of Agriculture has once again reiterated that farmers must become members of the Bord Bia Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) to partake in the new Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP).

The proposed terms and conditions of the scheme include a requirement for farmers to join the quality assurance scheme before applying to the suckler scheme.

Speaking at the Irish Farmers Journal CAP event in Mullingar on Tuesday, David Buckley, head of beef schemes at the Department of Agriculture, said that terms and conditions of the scheme are “set in stone at this stage and can’t be changed”.

“We hope to have applications open by 20 March, which is just a few weeks away, so changes aren’t possible at this stage.”

There had been calls last week from the IFA to re-look at the QA requirement.

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said that it was “neither appropriate nor acceptable that suckler farmers will be forced to become Bord Bia quality-assured in order to be eligible”.

With applications set to open in mid-March and due to close on 15 May, it means there is very little time for the potential thousands of new applicants to the assurance scheme to be approved by 15 May.

“There may be some leeway in pushing out the time for attaining QA status but farmers would have to be fully approved by October or no payment would issue in 2023 for the scheme,” Buckley said.

Farmers will have to maintain that status for the duration of the five years of the scheme.

Buckley also reiterated the importance of staying in the SCEP scheme for five years in order to avoid any potential clawbacks.