IFA Livestock chairman Brendan Golden said Minister McConalogue and his officials cannot repeat the heavy handed and unnecessary approach adopted with BEAM scheme participants who were unable to meet the 5% reduction requirement last year.
“Farmers, without fair warning or engagement, had BEAM monies taken out of their ANC and other payments which these farmers had budgeted on receiving,” said Brendan Golden.
“The Minister and his officials are acutely aware of IFA’s objections to this approach and have had ample opportunity to avoid a repeat of the fiasco,” he said.
“Beef farmers are facing huge uncertainty as input costs spiral. With the sector depending on direct payments for 160% of family farm income, money cannot be withheld from these payments,” he added.
Current beef price rises have been eroded by input cost increases for feed and fertiliser, with Teagasc estimating on higher stocked farms these inputs alone are adding 65c/kg to the cost of producing beef against a background of price increases of only 50c/kg.
IFA have clearly and consistently set out the demands of farmers in this area to address the situation in a fair and balanced way.
“The primary objective for the Minister must be to safeguard BEAM payments for farmers by utilising in full the flexibilities given to him by the commission last year,” said Brendan Golden.
There are also a number of areas in the administration of the scheme where IFA have sought fundamental changes for those farmers unable to meet the 5% reduction. These include the reference period used to determine compliance levels, repayment options and force majeure cases.
The Livestock chairman added, “The remaining farmers in the scheme opted to avail of the new reference period provided by the Minister and did so on the clear understanding this would not have a negative impact on their compliance levels, these farmers must be provided with the better figure of the two reduction periods.”
“Farmers who are faced with a repayment requirement must be provided with the opportunity to repay this money over a period of time. It should have minimal impact on the farm income and without interest charges. Periods of 3 to 5 years must be provided to minimise the impact. In relation to farms restricted with TB over the period, the Department must revisit all of these cases. No farmer should be penalised while being prohibited from selling animals by the Department of Agriculture,” he outlined.
“All of these issues have been set out to the Department of Agriculture and it is now within the gift of the Minister and his officials to decide how they will treat farmers as the figures for the second reference period for the scheme become available,” concluded Brendan Golden.