THE Department of Agriculture has written to more than 950 elderly farmers demanding the repayment of over ?2.4m in early retirement payments which they were not entitled to receive.

The farmers are all participants in the department's early retirement scheme (ERS). The money relates to retirement payments the farmers sought while also receiving other forms of state pensions.

The money due from 968 participants amounts to around ?2,500 per person.

Under the terms of the ERS, retired farmers receive an annual renewal form and must use this to inform the department if they have commenced receipt of state or contributary old-age pensions. In such an instance, the amount of payments farmers are entitled to decreases.