Agricultural advisers will receive training this spring in organic farming as investment for upskilling has been secured.
Minister for land use and biodiversity Senator Pippa Hackett launched the training programme on Tuesday 15 February in conjunction with the Agricultural Consultant Association (ACA), which will co-ordinate the roll-out of the training.
The programme aims to provide a nationwide advisory support service for farmers who are interested in joining the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS).
Minister Hackett said that the training will also help Ireland meet the "ambitious" Government targets of substantially increasing the area of land farmed organically in Ireland.
The investment will provide on-farm and classroom-based training for ACA advisers, demonstration walks for farmers and expertise and advice at local level for interested farmers.
I would encourage all farmers to give serious consideration to becoming an organic farmer
However, the ACA told the Irish Farmers Journal that the number of advisers being trained and the amount of money allocated to the programme have yet to be discussed.
Minister Hackett said that in order to ensure farmers have the confidence to take the natural next step for many of them and become organic farmers, an advisory service is key.
"Research has shown that farmers trust agricultural advisers and this training will ensure farmers have access to support from those advisers they have a strong working relationship with and who have a good understanding of their farming system”, she said.
She added that the national organic strategy sets out the need to upskill advisers in organic farming.
"I would encourage all farmers to give serious consideration to becoming an organic farmer," she said.
Minister Hackett believes it is an important building block that will contribute to a whole new and positive era for Irish organic agriculture.
"The ACA have agricultural advisers all over the country and they have a wealth of experience in providing agricultural advisory services to farmers," she said.
ACA president Tom Canning said: “ACA and its members are delighted to be part of this important training, which will be valuable for the future of the agricultural sector.
"ACA are confident that there are significant opportunities for organic farming in Ireland, and this training will greatly assist towards our commitments to both our national and EU responsibilities under Farm to Fork climate change and related policies."
Canning said that he looks forward to working closely with the Department and all other stakeholders to ensure the success of organic farming.