It is unacceptable that potentially thousands of farmers in the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) will be waiting until March 2024 to receive payments which were due in November, Social Democrats leader and TD for Cork southwest Holly Cairns has said.

“While some farmers will begin to receive payments in the run-up to Christmas, the Minister [for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue] has revealed that payments to farmers in the ACRES co-operation won’t even start until February at the earliest.

“We have received no clarity from the Minister as to how many farmers are affected by these delays, and farmers themselves don’t seem to have been contacted directly to inform them about delays to their payments,” she said.

Deputy Cairns said the move was absolutely unacceptable.

“Farmers, like any other business owners, structure their finances around payment dates. By delaying payments for some farmers until March, people will be under intense financial pressure to pay their bills over the coming months.

Series of delays

“This is the latest in a series of delays to farming payments, with ANC, BISS and CRISS payments having all experienced delays this year.

“We need huge uptake in our farming communities on schemes such as ACRES if we are to transition to a modern and sustainable model of farming in Ireland. But a lack of security on payment deadlines will not inspire any farmer to have confidence in the scheme,” she said.

She called on the Minister and the Department of Agriculture to act immediately to ensure all farmers receive payments as soon as possible.