I am mindful of the significance to all farmers, and the wider rural economy, of the payments that are due to farmers this Autumn under both the Basic Payment Scheme and various Rural Development schemes.
Payments under the Areas of Natural Constraints scheme commenced, on schedule, during the week commencing 18 September with some 75,000 farmers being paid a total of €160 million. This is an increase on the first pay runs issued in 2016 when 65,000 farmers were paid €140 million.
I am also delighted to confirm that the European Commission has agreed to my request that provision be made for an advance payment of 70% under the 2017 Basic Payment Scheme and Greening. This is an increase on the standard 50% rate allowed for under the EU regulations. There will also be an increase permitted to the advance payment rate under a number of Pillar II Rural Development schemes with the rate increased up to a possible 85% for those schemes where advance payments will be made before the end of the year.
My Department continues to work towards processing payments under these schemes as a matter of priority, to ensure that these vital supports are delivered to farmers in the most timely and efficient manner possible.