The Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine will conduct a “final” review of the BEAM scheme in February 2022.
According to Minister Charlie McConalouge, this is when auditors will conduct compliance and administrative checks on BEAM participants who opted to defer.
He stated that the scheme was the subject of a European Commission audit in November 2020.
The scheme is also subject to audit by the department’s own internal auditors and external audit by the certification body for the DAFM.
The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure provided temporary exceptional adjustment aid to support Irish beef farmers who saw beef prices fall in light of market disturbance.
According to the DAFM, just over 33,000 applicants received some €77.86 million under the scheme.
The minister stated that 64% of each payment came from EU funds and 36% from Exchequer funds.
“One of the conditions under, which the European Commission granted the €50 million, was that there had to be an element of reduction or re-structuring built into the scheme.”
In that context, BEAM participants agreed to reduce the production of bovine livestock manure nitrogen on their holding by 5%.
The comparable reduction periods:
- July 1st, 2020, to June 30th, 2021;
- July 1st, 2018, to June 30th, 2019.
The minister secured flexibility around the deadline for meeting the 5% reduction after engaging with the European Commission.
Accordingly, he introduced an option to allow participants to choose an alternative reduction period of January 1st, 2021, to December 31st, 2021, over which a BEAM participant could meet their 5% reduction requirement.
The minister said this was to “give BEAM participants every chance of meeting their requirements under the scheme”.
“This option remained open until June 21st, 2021, with more than 16,000 applying for the later reduction period.”
5,300 met commitments
When the original reduction period ended on June 30th, 2021, the DAFM identified that approximately 5,300 of those approximately 16,000 BEAM participants, who had opted to defer, had met all their BEAM commitments, including the 5% bovine nitrates reduction.
“The department, therefore, removed them from the later reduction period.”
“Almost 19,000 BEAM participants did meet the commitments they entered into under section 7 of the terms and conditions and thus exited the scheme successfully in August 2021,” the minister added.
According to the minister, a further 3,627 participants, who had not opted to defer, did not meet some or all the commitments.
“Thy thus faced either a partial or full recoupment of monies received under the scheme,”
The minister said the total value of these recoupments was €5.27 million with €3.37 million to return to the EU and €1.9 million to return to the Exchequer.
“These 3,627 BEAM participants were given the right to appeal,” he said.
10,500 farmers within alternative reduction period
“This left approximately 10,500 BEAM participants who opted to defer and had not met the 5% bovine nitrates reduction requirement and thus are now within the alternative reduction period of January 1st, 2021, to December 31st, 2021.”
He said the DAFM continues to issue monthly letters to participants.
The minister provided the above information in response to a parliamentary question from the Labour Party’s Seán Sherlock on Thursday, December 9th, 2021.