Direct subsidies for meat production aim to support livestock farmers. The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) targets farmers most affected by market volatility and uncertainty. Applicants have to reduce the production of bovine livestock manure nitrogen on their farms by 5% to receive this financial support. Meat-related subsidies exist in other countries, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Croatia, Italy and Portugal.
The subsidy provides some risk insurance to meat farmers in cases of oversupply in the market, which incentivises meat production. The budgetary impact of the scheme was EUR 100 million in 2019. If the subsidy were abolished, the producer price would need to be reduced by 12% or the consumer price increased by 14%. As the aid was introduced to support farmers, they may not be able to afford the price drop and may pass it on to consumers. The increase in price for farmers would reduce meat production by 25% – a decrease of 157 thousand tonnes of adult cattle per year.
The environmental impacts caused by the subsidy include increased GHG emissions, resource use and waste. The abolishment of the subsidy would decrease GHG emissions by 3.5 million tonnes. It would also reduce the use of resources.
The Irish government has set a target for a 10% to 15% reduction in agricultural GHG emissions by 2030. It also implemented a new Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill in 2021 for Ireland’s transition to net zero and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. These measures intend to push forward the reform of subsidies. The reformed version of the Common Agricultural Policy proposes to pay basic subsidies on a full-time equivalent worker basis and not on a hectare or livestock head basis. By the end of December 2021, many participants from the BEAM scheme could not meet the requirements to be eligible for aid. So, it is uncertain if farmers will get the financial support or have to pay back the funding that they have already received. There are discussions on how the Department of Agriculture will resolve this situation and whether the scheme will continue or not.
More information on the meat-related subsidies for beef meat farmers and other candidates for reform in Ireland and other Member States can be found in the country case studies and factsheets compilation.