Over €800m in EU cash due to start flowing this week to 124,000 farmers
Farm leaders call for speedy delivery of Basic Payments
More than €800m is due to flow into farmers' accounts today as the initial 70pc instalment of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is paid out to 124,000 applicants.
The IFA and ICMSA have urged that delays in payments should be minimised this year, given the additional cost burdens that have built up at farm level through the year.
IFA deputy president Richard Kennedy said farmers wanted to see the benefits of the online system under which all applications had to be made this year.
"The Department (of Agriculture) gave commitments that they expect a big pay run this week. It's essential as farmers across all sectors have gone through a very difficult year, with severe weather conditions affecting yields, higher feed costs and poor product prices," Mr Kennedy said.
This view was shared by Lorcan McCabe of the ICMSA, who said the "absolute and overriding priority" had to be on ensuring that the BPS payments were received on time and that any delays were explained and a revised schedule given to the farmer.
Mr McCabe said many farmers had repayment plans to financial institutions, merchants and vets were timed around this week's payments, and it was therefore incumbent upon the Department to deliver the BPS on schedule.
Feed mills and merchants estimate that farmer credit this year is 25-30pc higher than normal, due mainly to the increased levels of feeding because of the late spring and the summer drought.
While one compound feed provider in the south admitted that he would be "on the phone to lads this week" regarding bills, he maintained that most customers had already started to sort out repayments.
He said cereal growers' accounts were generally under control, while strong milk prices had helped keep a rein on dairy farmers' accounts.
Similar sentiments were expressed by contractors and vets. Both groups had higher than normal outstanding accounts, but they said most farmers were engaging with them and paying down bills.
Meanwhile, figures presented at last week's Farmers' Charter of Rights meeting showed that land eligibility penalties increased by 60pc in 2017 compared to 2016, rising from 924 to 1,482.
In terms of Cross Compliance inspections, the vast majority of 1,383 penalties imposed in 2017 related to Nitrates Directive breaches and problems with animal identification and registration.
There were 3,174 instances of non-compliance regarding cattle identification and registration, with penalties being applied in 940 cases.
Similarly, 336 instances of non-compliance regarding the Nitrates Directive resulted in 267 cases where penalties were applied.
The number of land eligibility inspections carried out by the Department last year was 7,403 - up from 7,101 in 2016.
The total number of cross compliance inspections last year was 5,972.
"These figures still point to an over-rigorous inspection regime," Mr Kennedy said.
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