The Chairman of IFA’s Organics Project Team Nigel Renaghan has met with Minister Andrew Doyle following the rejection of over 75% of applications under the re-opened Organic Farming Scheme (OFS). This is despite these farmers having full organic registration.
“The Minister has overseen a flawed process with less than a quarter of applicants accepted into the scheme at a time when the European Commission is talking about a Green Deal as part of the next CAP,” he said.
We raised a number of issues with the Minister, including the points system that was poorly constructed and actively discriminated against small farmers; lack of consultation with the organic strategy group regarding entry criteria into the scheme; and a delay of 11 months in informing farmers that they had not been accepted after paying to join a certification body.
“The OFS opened last November and closed within a four-week period, and now the majority of applicants have been rejected. This is despite many having made significant investments to convert to organic farming,” he said.
Nigel Renaghan said when pressed about those farmers who didn’t qualify, Minister Doyle said they could exit if they wished. However, these farmers have incurred significant costs already.
The Organic Farming Scheme is an important measure under the RDP. Farmers sign up to a contract for five years, with standard payments of up to €220 per hectare during the conversion period and up to €170 per hectare when they have achieved full organic status. In the RDP, €56m has been provided with €41.5m spent to date. Organics payments are worth around €9m annually with around 1,550 farmers in the scheme. The number in the OFS following this increase brings the number in the scheme to what it was in 2016.
Nigel Renaghan said the latest figures indicate there are 72,000 hectares under organic production, an increase of nearly 50% since the start of the Programme in 2014. There is currently a deficit in organic produce in Ireland, especially in horticulture, cereals and dairy.