Thursday, 21 October 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
5. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of applicants involved in the beef data genomics programme, BDGP, and the beef environmental efficiency programme – sucklers, BEEP-S, schemes in 2020; the number that are taking part in the BDGP and BEEP-S schemes since their roll-over into 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51911/21]
In 2020, the number of farmers participating in BDGP I was 22,243 with a further 1,422 participating in BDGP II, giving a total of 23,665. Payments to farmers under BDGP for 2020 were approximately €41.5 million. A total of 27,025 farmers were participating in BEEP-S in 2020. Payments under the scheme amounted to approximately €41 million.
Those farmers in BDGP I who had met all the scheme requirements could opt to join the transitional scheme in 2021. The number of farmers participating in the BDGP transitional scheme is 17,683. This represents a roll-over rate of 79.5%. A further 1,421 farmers are still in BDGP II, giving a total of 19,000 now in the BDGP. In addition, there are a total of 27,516 farmers participating in the 2021 BEEP-S scheme.
Overall for 2021, 16,155 farmers are in both schemes. To put it another way, 84% of BDGP participants are also in the BEEP and 58% of BEEP-S participants in 2021 are also in the BDGP. Payments for 2021 under the BDGP and BEEP-S are scheduled to issue in December.
I thank the Minister. Is it worrying that 23% or 24% of farmers have not gone for the roll-over? Has the Department done an analysis of the reasons for this? Was it because of the non-compliance of some farmers? Was it because of inspections? Was it because farmers were not interested? What are the reasons? We would think more farmers would be getting involved. I know we could not go for any more than what was there. We see a drop-off of 20% or 25%. We are talking about 17,683 as against 23,365. These are the figures I have just taken down. That is a large number of farmers. In the analysis, has the Minister looked at what these farmers have done and where they have gone? Have they gone to a different enterprise? What has happened? It is a worrying trend when we look at these figures.
Prior to this year, farmers participating in the BDGP were in a five-year programme. They had to sign up for five years and they did not have the option to decide whether to stay in or come out of the scheme. It was a full five-year programme. I continued it in 2021 for one year and farmers had the option to decide whether to take it up that year. In terms of practicality, I made it as straightforward as possible because I wanted to give farmers every opportunity to avail of and continue to be in the BDGP and BEEP-S for this year. We could not run new schemes because we are in a transition period. New schemes can only start from 2023. I wanted to do everything I possibly could to ensure farmers in schemes were able to stay in them. The main reason I would see is the fact it was coming out of our five-year commitment and for a variety of reasons, some people decided to draw a line after the five years and not necessarily take up the option of continuing for another year.
Would it be the case that farmers who looked at this were tied into the five years because the only way they were going to get out was force majeure? To be frank, it would be an awful lot easier for people to go into a one-year scheme if it was attractive because they would not be tied in for a longer period of time. Would it be the case that one quarter of these farmers felt it was too cumbersome or that there was something wrong with the scheme? It is very important that we do an analysis of what is going on. If we lose 25% or 24% of farmers from a scheme, it sends a message that there is something wrong, one way or the other. The Department needs to look at these schemes to see how it can streamline them and make them easier for farmers. This is a worrying figure in my opinion.
A big part of the reason was that things can change for farmers over the course of five years. We had a five-year contract that finished and people then had the option of taking a one-year contract. The administration and red tape involved in extending for a year was minimised. People could continue as they were. The scheme was not open to new entrants. People had to be in the previous five-year BDGP. We could not start a new scheme but people could continue if they were in it. While the option was open to participants not to continue in the scheme, there was no option for new people to come in. I have no doubt if the option had been available for new people to come in for one year, it would have been a different kettle of fish.
As the Deputy knows, I have been travelling in every county in the country to get feedback on all of these issues. The biggest feedback I have had is that farmers want to see the programme continued and strengthened. To compare the BDGP with the programme I announced yesterday, in the BDGP €90 is given for the first ten animals and €80 for the remainder, whereas in the new scheme €150 will be provided for the first ten animals and €120 for the remainder. We are, therefore, strengthening the funding allocation available. I hope we will see a strong take-up of the carbon beef suckler efficiency scheme from 2023 onwards. We will continue the BDGP for 2022, as announced in the budget.