The Chairman of the IFA Organic Project Team Nigel Renaghan said a number of factors contributed to the low numbers of applicants for the Organic Farm Scheme (OFS).
Just 317 applications were received, despite increased funding to facilitate 400/500 new applicants.
“The opening of the REAP scheme forced farmers to decide between the two schemes, with the REAP scheme offering a significantly higher per hectare payment. The number of applicants highlights the lack of support available to the organic sector,” he said.
Also, the points-based system discouraged livestock farmers from applying. Organic farmers must not be excluded from other agri-environmental schemes. It’s contradictory and it’s discriminating against organic farmers.
IFA is clear that all applicants must be accepted into the scheme without the constraints highlighted above. The Programme for Government sets out to align the area under organic production with the EU average of 7.5%. This seems unrealistic as the sector is severely under-resourced in terms of investment, research and advisory services.
An IFA delegation met with Teagasc last week to address some of these issues.
As part of the next CAP programme, IFA will be putting proposals forward for a fit-for-purpose organics scheme that will help Ireland achieve its 2030 objectives.
“The OFS must be continued under the new CAP and payment rates increased to €520/ha for farmers in conversion and €470/ha for flat rate payments. The rate of grant aid under the capital investment scheme must also increase to 60% to allow for the investment commitment of farmers converting to organic farming,” he said.
The implementation of the organic strategy document is another contentious point for IFA.
Up until last month, the full group had not met since the strategy document was launched two years ago. The action points in the document must be acted upon and farmers must be included in the process.
IFA have already consulted with Minister for State Pippa Hackett on this matter.