IFA Organic Project Team Chairman, Nigel Renaghan has welcomed Minister of State Pippa Hackett’s announcement that the Organic Farming Scheme will re-open.The scheme is due to re-open in the first week of March subject to EU Commission approval. It will increase the number of organic farmers by up to 30% in Ireland. “We were unequivocal at our AGM last week – the Department must execute this scheme correctly. We are meeting with the Minister later this week to discuss it further,” he said.
Nigel Renaghan said, “The scheme last re-opened in November 2018 for four weeks. 75% of applicants were refused admission due to a flawed points-based system which discriminated against smaller land-based applicants. The re-opened scheme must be properly administered; we cannot have a situation where so many farmers are rejected again”.
“IFA has lobbied extensively for the rejected applicants of the previous scheme who continued to farm organically, despite remaining outside the scheme. The Minister’s commitment to prioritising these farmers is positive. There has to be an acknowledgement that these farmers have been farming organically for the last two years with no payment. They should receive the conversion rate of payment for two years from the time they enter into the scheme.”
Ireland has one of the lowest organic farming levels in the EU, with just 2% of land under organic production, compared to an EU average of 8%. Government support is needed if this number is to increase, in line with the Farm to Fork strategy.
The organic sector is currently under-resourced with investment, research and advisory services. There has to be a balance between the supply and demand for organic produce to maintain farm-gate prices.