IFA met senior officials from the Dept of Agriculture yesterday to seek urgent changes to their approach to the BEAM scheme.
IFA Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden said all monies deducted from farmers must be repaid immediately. “The letter of apology must be accompanied by a cheque. It’s not acceptable that ANC money was taken from farmers, who would have earmarked this for contractors’ bills and school and college fees,” he said.
“The handling of the scheme from the start has been a bureaucratic disaster. The latest move by the Dept has infuriated farmers,” he said.
While farmers who could not meet the conditions understood the implications, it was no excuse for the way the Dept dealt with the issue. The 5% reduction should never have been part of the scheme.
“The farmers who had monies taken from them by the Department of Agriculture are suckler and beef farmers. They are the most vulnerable sectors in the country and most dependent on direct payments for their income, farming in ANC areas,” he said.
The Livestock Chairman said farmers have to be given the option of an extended repayment period and the interest charge has to be removed.
“Farmers who had opted for the new reference period must be allowed to choose the better of the two reference periods at the end of the scheme.
“The Dept and the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue can recover some ground here by doing the right thing, even at this late stage, by maximising the flexibilities secured by the Minister from the Commission earlier this year,” he said.