Thursday, 11 February 2021

Questions (335)

Denis Naughten

Question:

335. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to allow flexibility in the implementation of the BEAM 5% nitrogen reduction criteria in view of the response from the European Commission; when the online calculator will go live; if he will ensure that farmers have access to the calculator for at least 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7724/21]

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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 - Article 1 (3) of EU Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1132. In that context, BEAM participants agreed to reduce the production of bovine livestock manure nitrogen on their holding by 5% for the period 1st July 2020 to 30th June 2021 as compared to the period 1st July 2018 to 30th June 2019.

In light of the difficulties some farmers are experiencing in meeting this reduction arising from COVID-19 Government Public Health restrictions, my Department recently sought and received clearance from the European Commission to offer such farmers the opportunity to change the reduction year under BEAM. Farmers will now have the choice of changing the reduction year from the existing period of 1st July 2020 to 30th June 2021 to a new period of 1st January 2021 to 31st December 2021. The new reduction period will only apply those farmers who opt to apply for the change.

My Department continues to assist farmers in managing their commitments under the Scheme. Updated bovine nitrogen data for the first six months of the scheme (up to the end of December 2020) is now available under Exceptional Aid Measures on Agfood.ie. In addition to outlining the amount of bovine nitrates produced for the first six months of the reduction period (1st July 2020 - 31st December 2020), it now also outlines the amount of bovine nitrates still available between now 30 June 2021 if the participant is to meet the 5% reduction target. Letters giving the latest bovine nitrates figures for each holding are issuing shortly and further updates will issue monthly as the data becomes available.

These initiatives will support farmers in making informed decisions regarding the scheme including whether or not to opt for the later reduction period.