Around 100 farmers participated in an IFA organised protest outside the Department of Agriculture in Dublin today to highlight their anger over delays in payments to farmers for their participation in the GLAS agri-environment scheme.
Under the scheme farmers are offered a payment for their work and contribution in preserving the environment.
This includes maintaining traditional hay meadows and low-input pastures, retaining carbon stocks in the soil through margins, preserving habitats through practices such as minimum tillage, as well as the imposition and maintenance of agriculture practices that help protect the environment, water quality, the landscape, endangered species of flora and fauna, and help in climate change mitigation.
Payments under the scheme were due last October.
Irish Farmers' Association President Joe Healy said it is "absolutely unacceptable that farmers who joined the GLAS scheme almost two years ago, and who were promised payments last October are still waiting with no definite answers as to when they can expect to get paid".
He continued: "Farmers have upheld their side of the bargain, complying with the scheme and carrying out actions, at significant cost and effort. The Minister and Department of Agriculture need to show the same level of commitment and ensure that payments are made immediately."
Mr Healy said it is unacceptable that payments have been delayed to so many despite those people having completed the actions required, and incurring significant costs and planning fees in doing.
So far about 28,000 farmers have already received their payment from the scheme which are capped at €5,000 per farm for the basic GLAS scheme plus another €2,000 in cases where additional top-up scheme applies.
However payments to about 9,000 farmers, averaging just over €4,000 per head, have so far been held up for a variety of technical reasons many of which were related to documentation and anomalies surrounding the online application process.
IFA Rural Development Chairman Joe Brady said farmers cannot afford to be left waiting for these vital support payments.
"Excuses placing the blame on IT systems and administration matters are not good enough, these issues should have been sorted out a long time ago," said Mr Brady
He called for Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to step in and clear the way for payments to be made to farmers immediately. He said the technical issues that have caused the delays can be resolved at a later date.