Dáil to hear 6% reduction in national suckler numbers should be sufficient
Denis Naughten TD has branded as “immoral” any attempt to seek a payback of up to €40m under the BEAM scheme from farmers. This comes as figures show the national suckler herd as a whole has already fallen by 6% between June 2018 and June 2020.
“There are reports that up to 18,000 farmers could face a clawback of €40m if they failed to achieve a 5% reduction of bovine livestock manure nitrogen under the beef exceptional aid measure (BEAM) which was co-funded by the EU Commission,” said Denis Naughten.
“Suckler and 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 to ensure that farmers are not penalised for availing of this vital support. This is a point I will be taking up with Minister McConalogue in Dáil Éireann this week.”
Denis Naughten pointed out that Minister McConalogue has a very strong hand to play in support of his argument.
“Firstly, the national suckler herd had fallen by 64,600 head in the two years up to June 2020 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.
“Secondly, Covid-19 has had a big impact on farmers seeking 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 four to six-week time lag.
“Thirdly, these restrictions as well as the ongoing volatility of the market due to Brexit have had a considerable impact on the movement of livestock particularly through marts, despite the argument by the Minister based on headline figures.
“Finally, it was clear from the public comments of Minister McConalogue’s predecessor, Michael Creed, that the door was open to go back to the EU Commission to seek flexibility on the 5% reduction condition, particularly due to the change in circumstances as a result of Covid-19.”
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 have clarity on a waiver and the Minister for Agriculture categorically rules out any clawback of funding from hard pressed beef farmers,” 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