PAYMENTS to farmers in the 2014 suckler scheme are due to be slashed by a fifth when they are issued over the next week, it has been confirmed by the Department of Agriculture.
The Agriculture Department said the payments to 32,000 suckler cow farmers under the 2014 Beef Data Programme will represent an 80pc 'advance'.
It stated a "balancing payment" will issue when information on autumn born calves has been finalised.
The Department said the total funding to 32,000 farmers will be similar to the €9.18m paid in 2013 to 26,715 farmers.
Details on the two-stage payment followed an inquiry from Farming Independent to the Department requesting clarification on a possible cut.
"I am delighted to say that there has been a 21pc increase in the participation level in the Programme this year with 5,700 new suckler farmers being paid this year.
"These figures are a vote of confidence in the Irish beef industry and its future," Minister Simon Coveney stated.
ICMSA president John Comer has described as "very disappointing" that at this late stage the Department is apparently preparing to "divide the payments expected" with an "unspecified" balancing payment to come.
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said he would be "monitoring this situation closely" and that any reduction of any sort in the balancing payment would be "totally intolerable".
"Farmers went into this scheme complying with the terms and conditions laid down and the Government must keep it's side of the bargain too, " he said.
Mr Comer said the farmers affected by this last-minute decision to pay just 80pc of the original expected payment in this tranche will consider it as "reneging on a commitment" made to farmers.
He added that the Department's moving of the "goalposts in this fashion will naturally cause concern".
ICSA president Patrick Kent said a cut would have a huge impact on already low drystock farm incomes.
The payment for the scheme was set out as €20 for the first 30 calves and €10 for the next 20 up to a total of 50 calves.
Meanwhile, farmers have called for the immediate setting up of the Farmers Charter review committee to ease concerns over the complexities of the new suckler scheme.
It comes as assistant secretary at the Agriculture Department Brendan Gleeson admitted to a meeting of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee that the explanatory booklet farmers are to receive for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme is both "complex" and "difficult to read".
Eamon O Cuiv, Fianna Fail's agriculture spokesman, claimed people will exit in droves.
The IFA's Henry Burns said Minister Coveney made a clear commitment to a review group under the Charter and work must begin immediately.