6% reduction in national suckler numbers should be sufficient
Denis Naughten TD has called for penalties associated with the 5% reduction of bovine livestock manure nitrogen under the beef exceptional aid measure (BEAM) to be waived for farmers due to the implications of Covid-19 on the movement of livestock.
His call comes in light of figures showing that the suckler herd as a whole has already fallen by 6% between June 2018 and June 2020.
“Prior to the commencement of the reference period in July 2020, the suckler herd had fallen by 64,600 head in the previous two years and by the end of June 2021 this is likely to be close to a 10% reduction nationally,” said the Roscommon Galway TD.
“It would therefore be completely unacceptable to see some suckler famers facing a BEAM repayment bill when the beef sector has contracted to such an extent.
“Suckler & beef farmers are already struggling to make ends meet; therefore, it is imperative that the Minister for Agriculture seeks flexibility from the EU Commission on the compliance with the 5% reduction.
“Furthermore, Covid-19 has had a big impact on the movement of livestock particularly through marts despite the argument by the Minister based on headline figures. It should not be ignored that it has been virtually impossible for farmers to seek assistance from other farmers or advisors in interpreting the nitrates calculation as a result of these restrictions. In fact, you would nearly need to be a quantum physicist to work out these figures independently or alternatively make a good guess based on data provided by the Department which has a 4 to 6-week time lag.”
Denis Naughten also pointed out that at the start of this pandemic Minister McConalogue’s predecessor, Michael Creed, left the door open to go back to the EU Commission on flexibility on the 5% reduction condition.
On 30th April last the then Minister, Michael Creed, stated in the Dáil: “I have committed to keeping an open mind on the 5% reduction in organic nitrogen loads for the beef exceptional aid measure, BEAM”. In a Dáil reply last May he said: “Given that this requirement only begins next July and is reviewed across the duration of a year, it would be premature to be considering amendments at this time”.
“It is now time, in light of the third more serious lockdown and due to the fact that cow numbers will have fallen well in excess of the required 5%, that we now have clarity on a waiver on any threat of penalties for farmers who have drawn down payments under BEAM,” concluded Denis Naughten.
Editor’s note: CSO statistical release, 18 September 2020.
Crops and Livestock Survey June Provisional Estimates
Number of Cattle
Description June 2018 June 20202 Change 2018 – 2020
‘ 000 ‘ 000 ‘ 000 %
Dairy cows 1,480.9 1,567.7 86.8 5.9
Other cows 1,047.9 983.3 -64.6 6.2