Some 380 new farmers applied to the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) this year, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Just under 700 new farmers have joined the scheme in the last 12 months.

“There were 380 new applicants which is almost a 20% increase in application numbers to the scheme in compared to 2021,” Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett said.

In 2021 an additional 12,000ha were farmed organically and it’s expected that this will increase by a further 17,000ha this year due to the recent opportunity to apply to the scheme.

These 29,000 new hectares mean a 35% increase in the area of land farmed organically in the last two years.

Minister Hackett said: “I’m delighted to see so many farmers engage with the scheme this year.

“It builds substantially on the 2021 reopening and I hope it will give confidence to more farmers to convert to organic farming .

“It’s extremely encouraging that farmers and their advisers are responding to this scheme,” she said.

The minister said her Department is committed to working with farmers to ensure they get the maximum benefit under the scheme.

She added that the Organic Farming Scheme will again be open for applications in October this year.

“I would encourage all farmers interested in joining to attend a farm walk on an organic farm this summer in preparation for joining the scheme this autumn.

“The advice and knowledge is there for every farmer and I encourage all farmers to fully assess the opportunities here and join the growing number of farmers going organic,” she said.

The original closing date for applicants to the Organic Farming Scheme was Friday 8 April 2022 but it had been extended until Friday 22 April 2022 by Minister Hackett.

Farmers who entered the scheme could qualify for yearly payments of up to €220/ha during their farm’s conversion period and up to €170/ha when they have achieved full organic status.

There is potential for farmers to receive up to €15,000 per year under the scheme.