Payments worth €168.5 million under the 2019 Areas of Natural/Specific Constraints Scheme and Areas of Specific Constraint (Islands) Scheme, have commenced issuing this week to almost 79,000 farmers, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed.

This marks the commencement of the payment of some €1.6 billion to Irish farmers under various schemes over the coming months.

Commenting on the payments, the minister said: “I am conscious of the many challenges currently faced by farmers and therefore the importance of the timely delivery of payments under the ANC Scheme.

With this in mind, in Budget 2019, I secured additional funding of €23 million to bring the overall annual budget for the ANC scheme up to €250 million.

“This is the second year in a row that the allocation for the ANC Scheme has been substantially increased, and the increased funding has again been targeted at the areas of highest constraint.”

Describing the payments as “a timely and significant financial boost for farmers and for the wider rural economy”, the minister added that his department will “continue to process, as a matter of urgency, all remaining cases for payment as they meet scheme criteria”.

The 79,000 farmers being paid in this first tranche of 2019 payments is an increase from the 77,000 farmers paid at this stage in 2018.

The minister also noted that, further to changes in EU Regulations, payments under the ANC scheme will now be delivered in two instalments, with 85% advance payments issuing initially and a 15% balancing payment issuing from early December.

Concluding, the minister also confirmed that arrangements are on target to facilitate payment of the advance of 70% under the Basic Payment Scheme with effect from October 16, 2019.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in line with previous years, not all applications are currently cleared for payment under the ANC Scheme.

In particular, many farmers have yet to satisfy the annual average stocking density of 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare for the calendar year.

However, farmers have until December 31, 2019, to do so. Such cases can only be cleared for payment once this requirement has been confirmed.

Regular pay runs will continue in the coming weeks to ensure cleared cases are processed for payment as quickly as possible.

Farmers should submit any outstanding stocking evidence in support of their application to the department’s Portlaoise office as soon as possible to facilitate the early release of payments, the department concluded.