Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has been called on to deliver and pay out the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) interim payments by the end of the month.

Under the general stream of the scheme, farmers will be paid €4,000 and those in the co-operation stream will be paid €5,000.

Cork TD Michael Collins said that the delays in issuing farm payments are having a severe financial strain on farmers who are struggling on multiple fronts, from environmental regulations to smaller margins and higher costs.

“The Department of Agriculture announced last week - and the Minister confirmed this week - that they intend to make interim payments to participants in tranche one of ACRES, who have not yet received their advance payments for the scheme, by the end of the month. This is welcome, but it must be delivered and not just an intention, as anything less than a long overdue pay-out is unacceptable.

“It’s high time for the Minister and his Department to take action to speed up the payments regime to farmers so that financially crippled farmers do not have to wait for too long for funds that are owed to them,” he said.

Efficient system

Deputy Collins said that there is a need for a much more efficient payments system within the Department of Agriculture that allows for timely payments of all farm payments when they are due.

“Anything short of this is undermining the hard work and effort of our farmers and rural communities.

“The ACRES scheme has been overly bureaucratic from the start,” he said.

The scheme is largely for small-scale, part-time farmers with low incomes, he said.

“They rely on this scheme and EU payments to survive. But the Department keeps delaying these payments.

“The Minister must make radical changes to how farm payments are paid out. Delays cannot be tolerated. It is a failure and a disgrace that farmers must beg for what is owed to them,” he said.