Welsh farmers concerned about late agri-environment scheme payments have failed to understand changes to EU regulations, the Welsh Assembly has claimed.

Everything possible was being done to speed up claims submitted by affected farmers, who all signed agreements before January 2007, a spokesman said.

These could no longer be paid on the anniversary of signing as they had in the past.

Although those who signed up before 2007 still claimed on separate forms, rather than on their single farm payment application, details had to be cross-checked against single application forms submitted in May, he said.

“Tir Gofal payments due from 15 May to agreement holders signed up before 2007 cannot be made until they have been successfully validated against the forms and cross-checks completed.

“To minimise any delays, Rural Payments Wales is prioritising the validation of the payments to the affected agreement holders.”

Every affected agreement holder had been informed of the change and applicants should respond to queries as soon as possible, the spokesman added.

Rhian Nowell-Phillips, Farmers Union of Wales senior policy officer, said the union was unhappy with the rule changes but had warned members to expect delayed payments when planning their cash-flows.

“Unfortunately, some farmers who have always been paid on the anniversary of their agreements are upset when payment is not made,” said Ms Nowell-Phillips.

“The FUW understands that the assembly is following EU regulations, but we feel civil servants need to look into the possibility of paying in advance a proportion of the amount due, which can total several thousand pounds. A final payment could then take account of any discrepancies.”