Huge east/west divide emerges in beef support fund payouts

Massive regional variations are revealed in an under-subscribed BEAM scheme

Michael Creed
Michael Creed
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Farmers on the western seaboard will receive significantly lower payments under the BEAM scheme than their counterparts in the south and east.

The beef support package, announced to much fanfare by the Government before the local and European elections, has also been massively under-subscribed.

Figures exclusively obtained by the Farming Independent show that just €78m of the €100m will be distributed to farmers next month, with less than half of the 70,000 eligible beef farmers applying to the scheme.

Now, more controversy is set to hit the scheme with figures obtained by the Farming Independent showing large regional variations in payouts with beef finishers in the east and south the big winners under the scheme.

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Much of the variation can be accounted for by the predominance of beef finishing in certain counties, with the bulk of the money being targeted at this sector.

The figures also show that payments to finished cattle in the scheme at €59.5m will dwarf the €18m received for suckler cows.

Although most dairy farmers were unable to apply for the funding, dairy strongholds of Cork and Tipperary are set to dominate payouts with both counties receiving €7.5m and €6.9m respectively under the scheme.

While the average payment will be €2,265, farmers in northern and western counties will receive far lower payments under the scheme than their counterparts in the east and south.

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Galway saw the largest number (3,600) of applicants apply to the scheme; however, payments to farmers in the county will be lower than those in Cork and Tipperary at €5.5m. Kildare farmers will receive the highest payments on average at €4,137 compared to farmers in Leitrim who will receive the lowest amount on average at €933.

Some 1,470 beef finishers will benefit from the maximum payment of €10,000 under the scheme.

Some 2,859 suckler farmers will benefit from the maximum suckler cows payment of €1,600, and 14,000 mixed suckler and finishing farmers will receive €40m.

Just 132 farmers will receive the overall maximum payment for both sucklers and finished cattle of €11,600.

The Department of Agriculture intends to issue payments under the BEAM scheme in December. But with applications falling short of expectations, Government spending under the scheme will now total just €28m.

INHFA president Colm O'Donnell reacted to the breakdown, saying extensive suckler cow farms in the northwest were unable to draw down the funding because of the controversial requirement under the scheme that farmers must reduce nitrogen production by 5pc.

When the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed launched BEAM he allocated €35 million to sucklers and will now only pay half or approximately €18.5m based on DAFM information.

IFA President Joe Healy said with the severe price and income crisis in the livestock sector, "it's a disgrace the restrictive conditions imposed on the BEAM scheme prevented farmers from applying for all of the €100m funding."

Department general secretary Brendan Gleeson recently told an Oireachtas committee the measure was a key EU requirement.

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