‘Farmers opting to switch to the later reference period will be starting from scratch’

 Sligo News File

Edmund Graham, chairman ICSA Beef Committee


ICSA Beef chair Edmund Graham has said farmers should give serious consideration to moving to the second BEAM reference period of 1 Jan 2021 – 31 Dec 2021. “Failure to meet the 5% target in the current reference period will result in severe penalties. Those who do not reach a 4% reduction will receive a 100% penalty, with a sliding scale of penalties applicable to those who are within the 4-5% margin. It is up to farmers to calculate their own figures but if those figures do not match the Department’s figures come August unforeseen penalties could accrue. Farmers who have any doubt about reaching the target must apply to be included in the second reference period by Monday, 21 June.”

“It must be borne in mind however that farmers opting to switch to the later reference period will be starting from scratch. The requirement will be to reduce nitrates by 5% over the period 1 Jan to 31 Dec 2021 and reductions made so far in the scheme will count for very little. Choosing the extension option could therefore mean an overall reduction of 7-8% during the lifetime of the scheme, rather than the 5% if the first reference period had been workable.”

Mr Graham also advised farmers to be mindful of stocking level commitments made to other schemes. “Minimum stocking requirements for ANC and GLAS payments are interfering with some farmers’ ability to reduce their numbers to comply with BEAM stipulations. Each scheme has its requirements, but the requirements are pulling in two different directions; one being to reduce stock and the other being to keep a minimum stocking rate.”

He said no farmer should have to choose one payment over another where such anomalies arise. “Allowances must be made to factor in minimum stocking rates when those stocking rates are part of a commitment to another scheme, such as ANC. We know the scheme has been fraught with difficulties, and ICSA will continue to look for the maximum amount of flexibility from the Department to ensure farmers don’t lose out unfairly.”