Tuesday, 15 December 2020
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
667. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an appraisal has been carried out of the outworking of the mandatory reduction obligation contained within the BEAM scheme; if he will amend the criteria in view of the challenges created by Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43339/20]
The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) provided temporary exceptional adjustment aid to farmers in the beef sector in Ireland, subject to the conditions set out in EU Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1132. BEAM was funded by a combination of EU aid and Exchequer support. It was provided to support Irish beef farmers who saw beef prices fall in light of the Covid-19 market disturbance.
One of the conditions under which the €50 million was granted by the EU was that there had to be a slight element of reduction or re-structuring built in to the scheme. In return for the payment of exceptional aid, participants agreed to reduce the production of bovine livestock manure nitrogen on their holding by 5% for the period 1st July 2020 to 30th June 2021 as compared with the period 1st July 2018 to 30th June 2019.
Obligations under the measure were developed based on analysis of the herd profile and nitrates profile of the national herd. It was designed, in consultation with farmer representative organisations, to make the measure as easy to participate in as possible, whilst maintaining the requirement under the implementing regulation for temporary market adjustments. Since 2019, 33,445 farmers have received some €77.72M as part of the scheme.
It is not intended to amend the scheme requirement because the exceptional aid was granted to Ireland on the basis of this nitrogen reduction being implemented. However, my Department continues to put in place supports for farmers to assist them in managing their commitments under the Scheme and my Department will shortly be writing to all BEAM applicants in this regard.
I have also instructed agri planners to engage with their clients to continue to inform and assist them around the requirements of the scheme.
668. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the PGI application for grass-fed beef; if the PGI will operate on an all-Ireland basis; if he will proceed with a separate proposal for a suckler beef PGI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43341/20]
Following detailed scrutiny by my Department, including a National Opposition Procedure and extensive stakeholder engagement, my Department submitted the application from Bord Bia for a PGI for 'Irish Grass Fed Beef' to the European Commission on 27th November 2020. The specification includes qualifying product from sucker beef herds.
The application will now be subject to detailed scrutiny by the EU.
At the time the application was submitted to the EU, I advised Commissioner Wojciechowski that Ireland strongly supports the PGI being extended on an all-island basis, when a verification system is in place in Northern Ireland.
I wrote recently to my counterpart in Northern Ireland, Minister Edwin Poots, to emphasise that my Department and Bord Bia are ready and willing to further assist Northern Ireland counterparts with the development of a verification system for grass-fed. The scheduling of a joint seminar on this topic is currently under discussion.
Other applications for a PGI for beef are currently being assessed by my Department.
I strongly support extending the PGI application on an all-island basis for the benefit of beef and suckler farmers.