After months of speculation and delay, it has been announced that all valid applications for the new farmer environmental scheme will be accepted.

A total of 46,000 applications by farmers for the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) were received by the Department of Agriculture, but the initial provision for the scheme only extended to 30,000 applicants.

Farming organisations had warned that some of their members who were in previous environmental programmes could be let with income shortfalls if all applicants to the new scheme were not accepted.

Confirmation all would be accepted came from Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue this afternoon.

"I am delighted to announce that, after receiving more than 46,000 applications, all valid applications submitted for ACRES will be accepted into the Scheme in 2023," he said.

"Farmers have shown their desire to enhance the environmental sustainability of their enterprises through their enthusiasm for the CAP Strategic Plan's flagship environmental programme.

"I want to harness that enthusiasm and deliver the maximum possible environmental benefit. It will be challenging, and it will require intensive and focused effort from all concerned - from my Department, from advisors, from Co-operation Project Teams and from farmers - but I look forward to working with everyone to achieve that objective."

Successful applicants will receive formal approval letters in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the application process for basic payment under the new CAP scheme also opened today The payment will be known as BISS or Basic Income Support for Sustainability, and the closing date for applications is Monday 29 May.