Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Ceisteanna (1007)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

1007. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will extend the reference period under the BEAM scheme; if he will introduce a graduated penalty regime within the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6803/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar 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. 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 farmers the opportunity to select a later reduction year 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 Deputy will be glad to know that the European Commission has agreed that Ireland can offer farmers the chance to alter the year during which the 5% reduction required must be delivered. The alternative will be the calendar year 2021 for those who choose it.

The new reduction year will only apply those farmers who opt to apply for the change.

A graduated payment regime is set out in the scheme Terms and Conditions. Farmers who fail to meet the full 5% reduction will have to refund some or all of the payment they received under the scheme. Farmers must meet a minimum of a 4% reduction in order to avoid triggering a 100% clawback. Farmers who reduce by between 4% and 5% are subject to a partial clawback as provided for in the terms and conditions of the scheme.

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