The ICSA has called on the DAFM to review the “flawed” BEAM scheme in its entirety.
Its appeal comes as thousands of participants will have to pay back some or all monies they received.
Its beef chair, Edmund Graham, believes it is “incumbent” that the DAFM finds a solution that allows beef farmers to retain as much of this aid as possible.
The BEAM scheme
In a statement on Friday, December 17th, he said:
“BEAM stands for Beef Exceptional Aid Measure; as the full title indicates, it was exceptional aid – which was secured to help beef farmers who had suffered horrendous losses during the winter of 2018 and going into 2019.”
“It should have been distributed quickly and painlessly to those who needed it most.”
“Instead, what we got is a scheme that will see perhaps over €19 million in penalties, or 25% of the money that was originally applied for,” he said.
Due to the “difficulties” in meeting the conditionality targets set in BEAM, around 10,500 farmers deferred the period they needed to reduce the amount of bovine livestock manure nitrogen produced by 5%.
Those farmers are now approaching their December 31st, 2021 deadline for achieving this.
“However, Department of Agriculture figures indicate that 8,300 of these farmers are set to miss the target. This means that these 8,300 farmers face having to repay some or all of this exceptional aid in the new year.”
“Farmers accept that conditionality is part and parcel of most schemes, in that you must meet certain requirements to get paid. That is fair enough.”
“However, aid money given to farmers in response to a crisis should never have been weighed down with conditionality that that was so cumbersome and difficult to achieve – mainly down to delays in getting accurate figures from the department.”
He said farmers must remember that BEAM was looked for and secured in 2019, but the timeframe to meet targets coincided with the arrival of a global pandemic.
He stated that lockdowns, restrictions, and mart closures all impacted the day-to-day functioning of every farming enterprise.
“It also seriously impacted farmers’ ability to meet the BEAM requirements,” he stressed.
“Already, we have had BEAM monies taken back from farmers, who did not opt to defer and were unable to meet the target. Now, the prospect of adding another 8,000 farmers to their number is looming.”
“It is unconscionable that the department will seek to recoup approximately €14.5m from hard-pressed beef farmers come the spring.”
He said this is on top of €5.2 million already recouped from farmers who did not meet the original targets for the period ending June 30th, 2021, and who did not defer.
“So, we are looking at a situation where a scheme which was originally meant to deliver exceptional aid of €100 million, may actually end up delivering barely more than half the original target.”
He said by any key performance indicator, this is a “disastrous” outcome when the original objective was to deliver €100 million in “badly needed” aid to beef farmers.