Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (1006)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

1006. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will abolish or delay the requirement to reduce stocking rates under the BEAM scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6802/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) provided temporary exceptional adjustment aid to farmers in the beef sector in Ireland, subject to the conditions set out in EU Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1132. BEAM was funded by a combination of EU aid and Exchequer support. It was provided to support Irish beef farmers who saw beef prices fall in light of market disturbance.

One of the conditions under which the €50 million was granted by the European Commission was that there had to be an element of reduction or re-structuring built in to the scheme. This is clearly set out in Article 1 (3) of EU Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1132. Accordingly, in applying for BEAM, participants agreed to reduce the production of bovine livestock manure nitrogen on their holding by 5% for the period 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 as compared to the period 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019.

However, in light of the difficulties some farmers are experiencing in meeting this reduction arising from COVID-19 Government Public Health restrictions, my Department recently wrote to the European Commission seeking flexibility to offer participants the option to set a later reduction period under BEAM if they were finding it difficult to deliver the 5% bovine manure nitrogen reduction in the period 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. The European Commission has agreed that Ireland can give participating farmers the option change the period over which the 5% reduction required can be delivered.

In that context, participating farmers will have the choice of changing the reduction year from the existing period of 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021 to a new period of 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021. The new reduction period will only apply those farmers who opt to apply for the change.

I will be engaging with farm organisations and agricultural consultants in the coming period to how best to work with participants on these changes.