The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has published details of direct payments made to farmers in the period from mid-September to December 2020.

This covers the majority of schemes with payments worth €1.725bn sanctioned.

As detailed in the table, the figures have been broken down by scheme and county.

Cork receives by far the greatest percentage of payments, driven by the county possessing the largest dairy herd and significant sheep and beef enterprises.

The number of farmers in Cork represents close to 10% of all farmers in the country, so it is not surprising it holds this position.

The sheer size of the county and diverse nature of an intense dairy herd located on better-quality ground, along with sheep and beef farms located on more marginal ground, also means farmers are drawing down funding across schemes that were traditionally production-focused, as well as agri-environmental schemes.

The next nearest county is Galway, which also benefits from a large and diverse land area, with farmers there receiving almost €143m in payments in the selected period.

Farmers in Mayo, Tipperary, Kerry and Donegal also benefit from a similar make-up and all top €100m in direct payments.

Table 2 details payments by scheme and also compares 2020 payments in the period mid-September to December to the corresponding period in 2019.

Looking at the total figure first shows the total sum of money paid in 2020 was €27m less than in 2019.

This is driven mainly by two schemes which were not present in 2020 – the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) and the Knowledge Transfer Scheme. BEAM has a fund of €75m and part of this was replaced by €45m funding under the Beef Finisher Payment, while funding for the Beef Environment Efficiency Programme-sucklers increased by €25m.

The other significant difference was lower funding recorded under BPS and TAMS, with the latter resulting from farmers not completing works rather than any reduction in funding.

It should be recognised that payments under schemes such as BPS and ANC were approved in a prompt manner with a higher percentage of participating farmers paid at an earlier stage.