IFA Organic Project Team Chair John Curran described as positive the application rate of 2,000 farmers to the Organic Farm Scheme (OFS).
“It’s a move in the right direction for the sector to increase the critical mass of farmers in organic farming. All applicants must be guaranteed entry to the scheme. The high number reflects the opportunities which are available to farmers and the enhanced payment rates beginning in 2023,” John Curran said.
“The sector remains under resourced in terms of research and education, market diversification and knowledge transfer. It is now time that all key stakeholders put their shoulder to the wheel to ensure that the necessary resources are in place to help these 2,000 farmers along the conversion process,” he said.
While acknowledging that additional resources have been put in place by Teagasc and Bord Bia for specialist positions, the importance of a strong market being developed to deliver a premium for both current and incoming organic farmers cannot be underestimated.
“We cannot have a situation where the market is saturated for existing farmers, or that any existing premium is lost,” he said.
IFA has lobbied for producer groups to be supported for organic producers, and processors must engage with these groups. Public Procurement policy will also play a role in the market place and more work is needed in this area.
“Given the ambition to grow organic farming at European level and under the Programme for Government, it is imperative that the sector continues to receive appropriate support in terms of advisory and knowledge transfer so that farmers can make an informed decision on opportunities available to them,” John Curran concluded.