Flexibility around the deadline for meeting the 5% reduction in the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) is being explored by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in its communications with the EU Commission.
Funded by the EU and Ireland, BEAM provided aid to beef farmers. Since 2019, 33,445 farmers have received €77.72 million from the scheme, €50 million of which was funded by the EU.
But participating farmers agreed to reduce production of bovine manure nitrogen on their holdings by 5%, by June 30, 2021. This was one of the conditions under which the €50 million was granted by the EU.
Based on the most recent data, some 14,000 participating farmers are meeting the 5% reduction requirement, said Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue in the Dáil last week.
He said, “It will not be possible to remove the reduction requirement, because the exceptional aid was granted to Ireland on the basis of this reduction being implemented.” However, he confirmed that his Department has engaged with the EU Commission, regarding possible flexibility on the June 30, 2021 deadline.
One of the reasons flexibility may be needed is to allow for a five-week delay in calculating bovine manure nitrogen, which means that the actual June 30, 2021 nitrogen position on farms will not be known until about August 4.
BEAM participants agreed to reduce production of bovine manure nitrogen for the period July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 by 5%, compared to the period from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. Participants are provided with the totals for organic bovine nitrogen produced on their holding for 12-month periods, updated monthly, based on information from the Department’s Animal Identification and Movements (AIM) system, which is constantly being updated. However, there is a five-week interval before nitrogen data for each farm is extracted from AIM, in order to allow data on calvings, movements, etc, to “settle”, and to provide for the 27-day registration rule for calves.
As a result, existing data is accurate to the end of November, and data up to December 31 will be available in the coming weeks.
Minister McConalogue said an online BEAM calculator is being developed which will inform participants how much of their target figure they have achieved, and allow them to predict what effect prospective changes to their herd will have on their figures, in the run-up to the deadline.
BEAM was provided to support Irish beef farmers whose beef prices fell due to market disturbance.