15 April 2020 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed TD has reminded farmers and their advisors that the online application process for both the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme – Suckler (BEEP-S) for 2020 and the Basic Payment Scheme is open until May 15 2020.

A media release from Minister Creed’s Department stated: “Suckler farmers should ensure that they apply for the BEEP-S programme in time so as to ensure that they get the full benefits. So far, over 5,400 farmers have applied for it.

“Separately, all farmers are reminded to apply online for the 2020 Basic Payment Scheme which is the largest direct payment scheme paid to Irish farmers every year. Applications received for the scheme are significantly ahead of previous years, with 50,800 applications submitted so far.

“BEEP-S, which has a funding provision of €35 million in 2020, will target the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves – measuring the live weight of the calf at weaning as a percentage of the cow’s live weight. In recognition of the important role of animal health and welfare in economic and environmental efficiency, participants in the programme will also be encouraged to implement a number of optional health and welfare measures.

“If participants take on the additional measures along with the weight recording measure, they will be eligible for a payment of up to €90 for the first ten suckler cow/calf pairs per herd, and up to €80 per pair thereafter, subject to an overall maximum of 100 pairs per herd.”

Minister Creed stated: “It is more important now than ever before for suckler farmers to take full advantage of these new financial supports. This programme builds on the success of the 2019 BEEP pilot and is another support measure aimed at helping beef farmers.

“The programme aims to increase economic and environmental efficiency in the suckler herd through improvement in the quantity and quality of performance data collected, with a view to supporting the adoption of best practice and more informed decision-making at farm level. The more farmers that participate, the more high-quality data we receive which, in turn, will help driver greater efficiency in beef production.”

The media release added:
“BEEP-S programme actions are as follows:
“Mandatory weighing action: €50 per first ten cow/calf weighing per herd (and €40 per cow/calf weighing thereafter). This action measures the ratio of calf weighing at weaning to maternal weight, enabling farmers to readily identify the most economic and environmentally efficient suckler cows in their herd.

“Optional action: €30 for an additional welfare action, with a choice of either a vaccination programme or a pre-weaning meal feeding programme. This action will improve the health and welfare of suckler calves at weaning time.

“Optional action: €10 for a further option – participation in a faecal egg testing programme. This action is targeted at the control of liver and rumen fluke in adult suckler cows, improving animal health and welfare.

“Grants of up to €8,100 are available for suckler farmers under BEEP-S.

“Examples: A suckler herd of 20 can avail of up to €1,700 for full participation in the options available while a herd of 40 can avail of up to €3,300. The maximum payment is for 100 cow/calf pairs with a total payment of €8,100 based on participation in the options available.

“Terms and conditions of the programme are available on the Department of Agriculture website.

“Applications must be made online and the application window will remain open until May 15 2020, which is also the closing date for the Basic Payment Scheme. BEEP participants from 2019 are not automatically included in BEEP-S and must apply for the programme.”

Minister Creed has repeated a strong warning to farmers that they must not burn land at this time of year and doing so may have serious consequences for farm payments.

The Minister stated: “Although most on-farm visits are currently suspended due to the Covid-19 crisis, my Department is continuing to carefully monitor satellite imagery in order to identify any parcels of land that are burnt illegally. Follow-up ground inspections will take place where necessary.

“It would be an act of gross disregard for your community if you set illegal fires that could stretch the resources of our emergency services when they are already prioritising care for the vulnerable in our society at this particular time.

“As well as endangering lives and property and doing untold damage to the environment, illegal burning of your land will put your own payments at risk and can also adversely affect your neighbour’s payments at this time of crisis. If you burn land between March 1 and August 31, you risk prosecution, fines and potential imprisonment.

“Burnt land is not eligible for payment under the Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes. Inclusion of illegally burnt land in the 2020 Basic Payment Scheme application may result in reduced payment and penalties under this scheme and the other area-based schemes such as the Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme.

“Illegal burning can also render the land of your neighbours ineligible for payment. Where it is identified that lands are burned during the closed season, this may result in on-farm inspection of such land in due course.

“This is an unprecedented time in Ireland and I know that we can depend on the farming community to once again come to the assistance of the whole country in maintaining food supply. This makes it all the more important that a small number do not act in a reckless and thoughtless way by illegally burning land.”

A Department media release added: “The burning of vegetation is controlled by the Wildlife Acts. It is an offence under Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 (amended by Section 46 of the Wildlife Act 2000) to burn, from March 1 to August 31 in any year, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated.

“Individuals who are found to burn vegetation within that prohibited period are liable to prosecution by An Garda Síochána or by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

“Applicants under the Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes are obliged to comply with cross-compliance, which includes requirements in relation to the burning of vegetation and the consequential damage to designated land. Where an applicant is found, at inspection or on receipt of a Cross Report from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to have been responsible for breaching these requirements, a penalty can be applied to payments due under these schemes.

“Land found to have been burned during the specified closed season for burning is considered automatically ineligible under the various support schemes.”

Minister Creed has confirmed a number of flexibilities to schemes run by his Department in response to Covid-19 issues.

The Department of Agriculture said these flexibilities were being introduced “to make it easier for farmers and their agents to continue to participate in these important schemes where difficulties arise from the current public health restrictions in place.”

The Minister commented: “Obviously, public health measures are our priority concern right now but it’s essential that farming continues at this time. The schemes run by my Department are important in delivering some of the key productivity and environmental outputs from Irish farms.

“I have introduced some flexibilities to the scheme arrangements to reflect the fact that certain practices are not possible at this time and alternative arrangements are required.”

A Department media release outlined the list of flexibilities introduced as follows:

“Inspections: The Department has generally paused routine on-farm visits for two weeks. However, some essential inspections may be necessary on a risk basis.

“Young Farmer Scheme: Inspection interviews are to be conducted by phone. This also applies to Young Farmer Inspections under TAMS [Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme].

“Young Farmer/National Reserve applications: Revised arrangements are in place for lodging an application where the applicant’s Green Cert is held up due to closure of colleges.

“Basic Payment entitlements: Revised arrangements are in place for submitting applications for transferring entitlements where it requires witnessed signatures.

“Nitrates: The deadline for submitting nitrates records for cross-compliance inspected cases has been extended to the end of June.

“TAMS: The closing date for Tranche 17 of TAMS has been deferred from April 24 to June 5.

“There is flexibility on TAMS completion deadlines, with a three-month extension on all projects due to be completed (or approvals due to expire) between March 1 and July 1. There is also a three-month extension on outstanding TAMS payment claims for projects to be completed by July 1.

“Regarding the health and safety course requirement for TAMS, as these courses are now postponed, a derogation is in place which defers the obligation to do the course but allows the applicant to be paid for completed works. This derogation is proposed for a three-month period.

“These participants will be required to complete a course when courses resume.

“GLAS [Green Low-carbon Agri-environment Scheme]: With regard to the normal ten-day deadlines for GLAS records following inspection, flexibility has already been given here with the Department of Agriculture document request letter amended to reflect this.”

Minister Creed also drew attention to the additional flexibilities he has introduced with regard to TB testing arrangements where his Department continues to seek to facilitate farmers in continuing efforts to eradicate TB and undertake testing as required, while also facilitating the continuation of animal movements and the continuity of all elements of the food supply.

“The over-riding principle in all situations is that the health and safety of farmers, vets, service providers, contractors, other staff and their families is paramount,” the Minister stated.

The Minister also reminded farmers and agents that his Department has established a Covid-19 helpline which can be reached at 076 1064468.
The helpline is open from 9.30 am-12.30 pm and from 2-5 pm Monday-Friday.

The Department has also published a set of Frequently Asked Questions on the Coronavirus /COVID 19 section of the Department’s website at .

• Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed TD

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