Welsh farming unions are angry that more than 600 farmers are awaitingagri-environment and organic farming payments totalling £3.6m.

The Welsh Assembly government says the delay is due to extensive cross checks it is carrying outunder EU legislation. This includes a mapping exercise to align agri-environment scheme agreements with the Single Payment Scheme.

In a letter sent to a farmer who complained about the delay, a Welsh Assembly official insisted that the check was necessary to “confirm that there is no aspect of double funding, no inappropriate land usage and that all relevant scheme conditions have been met”.

But some farmers who have contacted Farmers Weekly say they arestill waiting, months after on-farm checks were made. The delays are causing serious cash-flow problems.

Mary James, deputy director of NFU-Cymru, admitted that actions to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth had deflected attention.

“Weak prices and fast-rising costs, flooding and the recent disruption of marketing have all putpressure on cash flows,” said Mrs James. “Any delay in support payments has a very significant impact.

“It is vital that the checks demanded under European legislation are given a high priority so that annual management agreement claims are processed as soon as possible.”

Rhian Nowell-Phillips, the Farmers Union of Wales’ senior policy adviser, said that, where farmers agree, the on-farm checks – which were suspended due to foot-and-mouth – could now resume.

One livestock farmer who is owed £7000 worth of Tir Gofal payments claimed delays were linked to the Welsh Assembly government’s decision to take on the administration of agri-environment schemes last autumn.

“There were few problems when the Countryside Commission for Wales ran the show,” he said. “I accept that checks are necessary, but there seems to be no sense of urgency.”

Another hill farmer said he had waited for £9000 since June, the anniversary of the date he signed his Tir Gofal agreement.

He insisted that hill farming incomes were not high enough to deliver the level of environmental protection the public demanded.

“Many of us have cut stocking rates and fenced off important habitats, but our payments have been cut and now we are being forced to wait months for our cheques.”

Welsh farmers are owed about £3.6m in overdue payment for work carried out under agri-environment schemes. On-farm checks are being blamed.