The Department of Agriculture cannot confirm a date when interim Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) payments will be issued, despite the end of February deadline approaching next week.

The Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue recently announced an interim payment of €4,000 to €5,000 for the 26,000 ACRES farmers who have not received monies to-date.

While the interim payment has been welcomed by all the farm organisations, there is anger that the move was required, and concern that some farmers will receive more in the interim payment than they are due overall from the scheme, and will therefore have the surplus clawed back from their BISS entitlement.

The Department said farmers whose flat-rate interim payment is higher than their actual ACRES payment will be “contacted by the Department and advised on repayment options”.

However, the INHFA has called on Minister McConalogue to reopen the application process and give farmers the opportunity to apply for additional non-productive investments in order to “offset any potential overpayment”.

Interim

Meanwhile, the ICSA has questioned why the interim ACRES payment wasn’t made before Christmas when it “became obvious” that many participants were going to be left “high and dry”.

“ICSA remains concerned that the Department seems to be no closer to solving the problem of what each individual farmer is owed,” said ICSA president Seán McNamara.

The IFA rural development chair, John Curran, blamed the ACRES payments “shambles” on the “over-complication” of schemes.

ICMSA president Denis Drennan said the issues regarding ACRES highlighted the “underlying chaos” in the Department’s payments system.

“Interim payments usually indicate that the Department was not prepared for the complexity of the schemes and what we really need to see is more resources and, critically, a hard look at schemes to take out unnecessary regulation,” Drennan said.