Longford Leader Farming: €50m fund must be paid out to beef finishers as soon as possible

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Farming groups have welcomed confirmation of the Beef Finishers Payment (BFP).

Farming groups have welcomed confirmation of the Beef Finishers Payment (BFP).

It is an Exchequer funded scheme of €50m to provide income support for up to 42,000 farmers with beef finishing enterprises, who have been impacted by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Announcing the fund, Minister for Agriculture, Dara Calleary stated: “I am fully aware of the difficulties caused by Covid-19 in the Irish beef sector and the consequences for those in beef farming and for the rural economy as a whole. Farmers with finished animals suffered from both reduced prices and other restrictions in getting animals to market.

“The closure of the food service market in Ireland, the UK and beyond has had a dramatic impact on the industry and in particular those who supply it to make their living.

“Beef farming is an important economic activity, with a significant multiplier effect in local rural communities, and thus is more important than ever in sustaining these communities as we work towards economic recovery.”

The scheme will be funded by the Irish exchequer and details of the scheme have been notified to the European Commission in accordance with the Covid-19 Temporary State Aid Framework.

An estimated 42,000 farmers will be eligible to apply for the scheme, which will be based on the number of cattle sent for slaughter in the period from 1 February to 12 June 2020, subject to a limit of 100 animals per herd. Based on estimates of eligible animals, a rate in the region of €100 per animal will be payable.

In the event of an over subscription, the rate of payment per animal will be subject to a linear cut in order to comply with the available budget of €50m.

The opening date for applications will be August 19, 2020 and the closing date will be September 9, 2020. Details of the measure including terms and conditions and how to apply will be made available in due course at www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmers chemesandpayments/BFP and applications will be made online through the agfood.ie portal.
IFA president, Tim Cullinan, welcomed the announcement but said it’s crucial that the money gets out to farmers as soon as possible and that the full €50m is spent.

“There should be a provision to increase the payment per animal if there is any underspend,” he said.

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham gave a guarded welcome to the announcement noting: “We are pleased that the scheme has delivered key asks from ICSA.

“A provision is included which should have the effect of delivering money to farmers who sold animals in the mart and which were subsequently slaughtered within 30 days,” he said.

“We also are pleased that there is no de-stocking clause. However, farmers have to be either a member of the Quality Assurance Scheme or else committed to joining before 30 September. Factory owned animals are not eligible, again a key demand from ICSA.”

However he said ICSA is not happy that live exported cattle do not seem to be mentioned adding “we will be seeking urgent clarification on this”.

“Overall, the inclusion of finished animals over eight months of age which includes suckler cows is in line with what we lobbied for and we welcome the announcement,” he said.

“It is clear that winter finishers have needed a break after several disastrous years and this will help the suckler farmer indirectly when it comes to having more buyers around the ring for autumn sales.”