Decline in numbers applying for new SCEP suckler scheme mirror’s decline in cow numbers

Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue

Ciaran Moran

Some 20,000 farmers have submitted applications to join the new Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP), Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has announced.

He said the number of applications clearly demonstrates the level of interest suckler farmers have in improving the environmental and economic sustainability of the national beef herd.

However, the number of initial applications is down sharply on its predecessor under the last BDGP programme, which received over 29,000 initial applications in 2015.

The fall-off mirrors the significant fall in the number of suckler cows being held by farmers. Taking a suckler cow total of 940,000 in 2021, there has been an 8pc fall to 861,700 at the end of 2022. Further, the suckler herd is set to decline by 3pc per year until 2030.

Minister McConalogue said he firmly believes Ireland has 'a world leading suckler herd that is the envy of the world'.

SCEP, he said, is an excellent scheme that rewards farmers with a payment of €150/cow on the first 22 cows and €120/cow thereafter.

This compares to €90/cow on the first 10/cows and €80/cow thereafter in the BDGP.

"This is a clear commitment by me and the Government in supporting our excellent suckler farmers," he said.

The Minister reminded farmers to be mindful of ensuring they now meet both the eligibility requirements and the compliance requirements to ensure they generate these important SCEP farm payments.

Notably, he highlighted the importance of applicants who are not already in the Bord Bia Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme engaging with Bord Bia at the earliest possible opportunity as there will be a time lag of at least three months between contacting Bord Bia and getting certified.

Applicants are reminded to: -

ensure they calve down a minimum of 50% of the yearly reference number they applied for, between 1st July 2022 and 30th June 2023,

ensure they are in the Bord Bia Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) by 16th October 2023 at the very latest, and

ensure they submit their BISS application by midnight 29th May 2023.

Failure to meet one or more of these three eligibility criteria will result in no payment and removal from SCEP.

The Minister concluded by stating that “My Department will be writing to all farmers shortly acknowledging their SCEP application and reminding applicants of their obligations under the Programme”.