Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has received no confirmation yet about the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) extension he requested from Brussels.

Last week, the Irish Farmers Journal revealed that the Minister has sought an extension to the scheme, in order for farmers to meet the 5% organic nitrogen reduction requirement.

He has sought a new reference period of 1 January to 31 December 2021 for the 18,000 farmers who are yet to meet the 5% target and face having some €40m of their money clawed back.

“I’m hoping for an early answer from [the European] Commission, haven’t received confirmation that it will be granted yet,” he said told TDs at Tuesday’s meeting of the Oireachtas agriculture committee.

He said if granted, the extension will give farmers a second opportunity to adjust herd numbers to meet the requirements of the scheme.

Farmers behind target

“There are a significant number of farmers that are behind in relation to not meeting the 5% measure reduction criteria that was required by July of this year.

“Over half of farmers are on course to meet the obligations. Many other farmers wouldn’t have joined the scheme in the first instance because the 5% would have put them off.

“Those that are on course to meet the 5% reduction by 1 July will be unaffected by the request to the European Commission.

“What it does if granted, it will allow for the option for a new reference year from 1 January past to 31 December this year, so that farmers can reset and achieve the 5% reduction over the course of 2021,” he said.

Minister McConalogue said that if the 5% reduction isn’t met then money that has already been paid out to farmers can be clawed back.

“That’s not a situation I want,” he said.