IFA President Tim Cullinan and the Chairman of the Organic Project Team Nigel Renaghan met Minister of State Pippa Hackett to discuss the re-opening of the Organic Farming Scheme.
The scheme is due to re-open next month, subject to EU Commission approval. It will increase the number of organic farmers by up to 30%.
“The re-opened scheme must be properly administered and we cannot have a situation where so many farmers are rejected again,” he said.
Tim Cullinan 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 Chairman of the Organic Project Team Nigel Renaghan said IFA has lobbied extensively for the rejected applicants of the previous scheme who continued to farm organically, despite remaining outside the scheme.
“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,” he said.
Minister Hackett gave an assurance that these farmers will be prioritised and the flawed points system will be rectified. “We also stressed that additional technical expertise will be needed to fulfil the requirements of the new entrants,” he said.
He said organic farmers must not be excluded from any new REPS scheme under the new CAP.
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 in terms of investment, research and advisory services. There has to be a balance between the supply and demand for organic produce to maintain farm-gate prices.