Sinn Féin’s Chris MacManus, MEP, and member of the European Parliament Agricultural Committee, is demanding the Department of Agriculture reach out to BEAM scheme participants.
MacManus’ comments came in response to widespread confusion from scheme participants, if they are on course to meet the 5% nitrates reduction target.
‘A nightmare for farmers’
“However, from the start, this scheme has been a nightmare for many farmers. At the last minute, a decision was made to include a 5% nitrates reduction as part of the conditionality.”
“In reality, this meant herd reductions by the back door. The European Commission and Irish Government pointed the finger at each other as to who was responsible. And we are now dealing with the outworkings of this shambles..”
“Any farmer who fails to meet the 5% herd reduction will be penalised 100% of the money they received, meaning some farmers could be asked to pay back between €5,000 and €10,000.”
He noted this is causing significant anxiety among participants, who are unsure exactly where they stand.
“In September, the Minister said he would ensure all farmers were given the appropriate data to see if they are on track. Data was provided but in a format which, many farmers feel, is unclear.”
Severe depression in prices
Furthermore, the Midlands Northwest MEP said the debacle is “one extra headache” that could have been avoided. “Our farming community have endured a particularly difficult 2020, due to a number of factors such as Brexit and COVID-19.”
“If this does not happen, trade flows will be heavily disrupted, as farmers scramble to sell stock before the end of the scheme. Resulting in a severe depression in the prices being offered.”
“Sinn Féin sees the complexity and mounting conditionality associated with these support schemes as one of the main drivers that reduces participation and foments distrust of the department’s ability to deliver for farmers.”
Concluding, he stated simplification was key. “Sinn Féin believes workability and simplification are central to being a partner of our farming community, as we endeavour to preserve the future of rural Ireland.”