Farmers in tranche one of the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) who have not yet received their advance payments under the scheme are to receive an interim payment from the Department of Agriculture.

The payment will go to affected farmers in the ACRES general and co-operation streams of the scheme.

Details on the payment rate and total amount in payments are to be confirmed next week.

Announcing the interim payment, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said that “every effort” continues to be made to ensure all payments can be issued as quickly as possible.

“Following the commencement of advance payments to ACRES general participants last December, work has continued on the processing of further ACRES general advance payments and on the preparation of payments to ACRES co-operation participants," the Minister said.

Further delay

He said this work is ongoing and is a priority, but is likely to take a further period to complete.

“In these circumstances, I have decided to make an interim, nationally-funded payment to those farmers affected across ACRES general and co-operation.

“Further details will be provided next week, but my intention is to have this interim payment delivered by the end of February,” he said.

“Intensive work will continue on the calculation of the full payments due to farmers under ACRES and when this work is completed, the final payments issued to farmers will take into account the interim payments already made to the relevant participants,” he added.

A step forward

Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Francie Gorman said the interim payment under the ACRES scheme announced by the Minister for Agriculture is a step forward.

Gorman said he met the Minister on Tuesday.

“I left the Minister in no doubt about the urgency around this issue. The efficiency of payments as part of farm schemes is central to maintaining the trust of farmers.

“There has been huge frustration among farmers that payments had been delayed. The interim payment does recognise the hardship for farmers who had entered the scheme and who had expected payment late last year.

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“It was very unfair to ask farmers to carry our works in the agri-environment scheme and then to leave them high and dry,” he said.

Political priority

IFA rural development chair John Curran said Minister McConalogue has to make it a political priority that all farmers get into ACRES.

He said farmer participation in agri-environment schemes over the lifetime of this CAP term cannot be limited to 50,000 ACRES participants.

“All farmers interested in an agri-environment scheme must be accommodated. The Minister has to find the necessary funding to ensure this happens,” he said.

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