Minister must avoid €8 million BEAM clawback - Matt Carthy TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has called on the Minister for Agriculture to intervene to avoid over 3,634 farmers facing clawbacks amounting to a potential €8 million.
The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) provided famers with temporary financial aid in response to a prolonged period of depressed beef prices.
To avail of the scheme, farmers were required to commit a 5% reduction of bovine livestock manure nitrogen.
However, the scheme was beset with confusion and delays from the offset as to how the 5% would be calculated, resulting in farmers being offered an updated reference period last February, effectively facilitating an extension in meeting the 5% target.
Teachta Carthy said:
“The issues that arose with the BEAM scheme were apparent from the very beginning. Sinn Féin highlighted this at the time but warnings fell on deaf ears.
“In February of this year, we warned the Minister that while flexibility with regard to the reference period was welcome, in many respects he would only be kicking the can down the road.
“It has now been reported that 3,634 farmers who did not avail of the deferral did not reach the required 5% reduction.
“On a pro-rata basis, this would amount to the Department of Agriculture seeking to recoup some €8 million from these farmers.
“It is worth recalling that at the time the extension was secured reports suggested that the crux of the issue was that Teagasc and other agricultural advisors differed from the Department of Agriculture as to how to calculate nitrate figures.
“Given the confusion surrounding the scheme, I believe it would be unfair and callous to place the blame and burden for this debacle laden scheme solely on those individual farmers alone.
“Given that many other farmers who entered the scheme on the same basis will now be continuing to work towards meeting the reduction over an extended period, I am calling on the Minister to find an alternative solution to simply penalising these farmers.
“The fairest solution would seem to be to implement a blanket extension across the board for those farmers who have not yet met the scheme's requirements.
“As such, the first question that needs to be asked is whether the Minister even bothered to ask the European Commission about such an extension in the weeks leading up to the deadline?
“At a time when we have not yet emerged from the pandemic, and with new Brexit challenges on the horizon, the idea of removing such a significant sum of money from family farmers and rural communities would be unfair and frankly inexcusable."