The 46,000 farmers in ACRES have been dealt a pre-Christmas hammer blow to their scheme payments.

This follows confirmation that over €100m in payments to 18,600 farmers in the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) co-operation scheme will be delayed until 2024.

Senior Department of Agriculture officials blamed the payment problems on the complexity of ACRES. It is understood that the Department’s computer systems are struggling to process the commonage scorecards.

Payments to ACRES co-operation farmers, worth on average €5,500 per farmer, will now start in February of next year, the Department said.

Payments to the 28,000 farmers in ACRES general are due to start on 18 December. However, it is unclear how many farmers will be paid before Christmas.

Letters outlining the new payment schedule will issue this week.

The INHFA said shock at the payment delays was compounded by the fact that commonage farmers are unsure what they will actually be paid despite being a year into the ACRES programme.