BEAM numbers don’t add up – Naughten

In Agriculture, News by Denis Naughten

Current reports presented to farmers on BEAM livestock reduction targets are misleading according to Denis Naughten TD, who has called on the Minister for Agriculture to provide each farmer with transparent information that can be used to determine if farmers will comply with the July 2021 target or not.

In Dáil Éireann this week Denis Naughten will request that the Minister for Agriculture provide a report on bovine livestock manure nitrogen under the BEAM Scheme that actually reflects the farm stocking levels from 1st July to 31st December 2020. He is also proposing that it would include what the projected reduction on 30th June 2021 would be if there is no change in stock over the coming period.

“The current data presented to farmers is misleading and if a farmer had a mathematics degree and went through the figures, they might find a completely different story next July. Unless information is presented in a user-friendly format then many farmers may mistakenly believe that they are already under target for July 2021,” explained Denis Naughten.

“In one instance a farmer received his Department of Agriculture report which showed that he had a 10% reduction in bovine livestock manure nitrogen which would give the impression that he was comfortably under the 5% threshold. However, that same farmer, having gone through lengthy calculations, discovered that he only barely stays under the reduced limit for nitrates despite appearing to be comfortably under the limit at the end of 2020.

“This occurs as his cattle, mostly born in spring 2019, all go to higher nitrate emissions on the day of their second birthday in spring 2021. In effect this means he has to use 90 different  stocking rate figures in the calculations for the first 6 months of 2021. He actually only stays under the limit because there are less days in the first half of the year and because one animal has a birthday on the second of July.

“The fact is that the report already provided to farmers by the Department of Agriculture is giving farmers a false impression because the figures include stocking rates in the first half of 2020, which may have little bearing on stocking in 2021.

“To leave farmers reliant on calculating birthdays and the number of days in the first half of the year in order to retain a payment that was supposed to support them through a very difficult financial situation is totally unjust.

“The Minister should also be cognisant of the fact that Covid-19 has had a big impact on farmers seeking assistance from other farmers or advisors in interpreting this nitrogen calculation. I believe he should seek a waiver from the Commission on any penalties in achieving the 5% calculation in light of the fact that the national suckler herd has fallen by a factor in excess of this target,” concluded Denis Naughten.


Editor’s Note: Copy of Dáil question for reply this week

To ask the minister for agriculture why he has not given participants in BEAM their 12 month organic nitrogen estimate for 1st July 2021 on a no change basis; if he is aware that the pre July 2020 stocking rate calculation is not only causing confusion but misleading farmers; if he will now provide farmers with an individual July 2021 projection based on stock on hand between July 2020 and December 2020; if he will outline the number of current participants who will be within the 5% threshold if they do not alter the stock on hand from the latest available date that stock numbers are available and the date in question used for this calculation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.