ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has called on Minister McConalogue to allow farmers to repay BEAM money over a much longer timeframe to improve their cashflow situation in the short term. “We are in the middle of an unprecedented cost inflation crisis with fertiliser, fuel and feed all gone off the Richter scale compared to twelve months ago. As farmers – particularly in the low-income sectors – fight to survive, it is unconscionable that a scheme supposedly meant to help farmers is now potentially pushing them over the edge.”
“ICSA never agreed with the 5% stocking rate deduction requirement. However, despite much lobbying it has not proven possible to get it abolished. However, there is something that could be done to alleviate the harm. This is to give farmers breathing space in terms of returning the BEAM money rather than pulling it back instantly at a time when cash-flow is a critical issue.”
“ICSA is proposing that farmers are allowed pay this money back over several years. We believe that given the current crisis this should be a realistic time frame of seven years. We are inundated with harrowing calls from farmers who are devastated with demands for up to €10,000.”
“As things stand, many farmers are really struggling to cope with increased fuel, feed, and fertiliser prices. However, for those who have had thousands deducted from their payments or are currently facing massive BEAM bills from the Department the situation is particularly dire.”
“We in ICSA believe that the Minister must immediately call a halt to the expectation that farmers can repay this money in one big chunk. We also believe the Minister should reimburse any farmer who has made a full repayment or has had money summarily deducted from another scheme payment, enabling these farmers to also repay over time should they now need that flexibility. Moreover, any interest charged to farmers making repayments over time should be kept to an absolute minimum, given that government borrowing costs are at an all-time low.”
“Rising costs are having a huge impact and many farmers simply do not have the cashflow to cover everything. Minister McConalogue needs to introduce a measure of fairness into the process of retrieving BEAM funds from farmers who missed the targets set, often through no fault of their own. The scheme was badly designed, and the Department of Agriculture must accept some responsibility for that,” he said.
“It makes no sense to be imposing such a devastating blow to farmers’ cashflow when at the same time the Minister has set up a committee to look at how to help deal with the food and feed security challenge facing the agri-food sector. On the one hand, the government is extremely concerned that there won’t be enough crops and silage grown but on the other hand, they are taking away money that could be used right now to buy fertiliser. It really is time for some innovative thinking,” he concluded.