Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue must deliver on his commitment to issue all interim Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) payments by the end of the month, Sinn Féin’s agriculture spokesperson Deputy Claire Kerrane has said.

Deputy Kerrane said Minister McConalgue, in an exchange in the Dáil this Thursday, reiterated his commitment to delivering all interim ACRES payments by the close of February.

It had previously been advised by the Department of Agriculture that no firm date could be provided as to when the interim payments would be made, Deputy Kerrane added.

The Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson welcomed the Minister’s commitment and said it is “crucial” he delivers on this.

“The interim payments have been described by organisations as a ‘lifeline’ for farmers, many of whom have been under serious financial pressure as a result of their ACRES payment being delayed for so long.

“They must be able to rely on the announced interim payment being paid promptly. It is the very least the Minister and his Department can do,” she said.

Timelines and taxation

Deputy Kerrane added that the Minister did not have a definite answer as to when the balancing ACRES payments will be delivered.

“He did not give me a concrete timeline and this is something I will continue to pursue,” she said.

Concerns around taxation and farmers receiving two ACRES payments in one year was also raised with Minister McConalogue, she said.

“The Minister referred to an averaging system available for farm income.

“I pointed out to him that currently only 5,530 farmers make use of this averaging system option.

“Therefore, this option either needs to be better communicated to farmers or an alternative solution must be sought should farmers be affected.

“The delays to ACRES payments and any resulting taxation implications are no fault of farmers and the Minister must ensure that they do not experience any further issues,” Deputy Kerrane said.