Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has confirmed that balancing payments due to farmers participating in the Agri Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) are expected to begin hitting farmers’ bank accounts over the coming weeks.

The minister had previously announced that the scheme’s outstanding sums for 2023 would be paid out in June.

“We expect that they will be starting very soon now and the team will be finalising the work in relation to this and will be making an announcement shortly in terms of the roll out and the payment structure,” he told the Irish Farmers Journal on Wednesday.

Amid the delays in issuing advance ACRES payments at the end of 2023 into early 2024, the Department issued a flat-rate interim payment to ease the on-farm cash flow strain on thousands of participants who had expected to receive 85% of their payment before Christmas.

Flat-rate payments

Any farmers who received a higher amount in this flat-rate payment of €5,000 in the co-operation route and €4,000 in the general route than their 2023 is worth will see their overpayment taken from Basic Income Support for Sustainability envelopes later this year.

Minister McConalogue reiterated this week that the interim payment approach was taken as he “prefers that a farmer would be paid early [rather] than paid late” and that it is expected that this will only affect a “minority of cases”.

Biomethane income

The minister spoke to the Irish Farmers Journal at a Renewable Gas Forum Ireland biomethane conference in Dublin where he stated that supplying feedstocks, such as grass silage, to anaerobic digesters could open income opportunities for Irish farmers.

“From my point of view, I want to see farmers benefit from this as much as possible in relation to this and for it to be centred around farmers,” he said.

“To deliver our 2030 target, it would need around 3% of all agricultural land to be feeding and serving the industry. There is obviously an income potential there, an opportunity there.”