Dairy and tillage farmers are likely to receive priority access to the organics scheme when it reopens for applications in the coming weeks.
Minister of State Pippa Hackett announced her intention to publish the details of the Organic Farming Scheme early in the coming week at the IFA AGM on Thursday .
An additional €4m has been set aside by the Department of Agriculture to facilitate the re-opening of the scheme to new applicants.
It is expected that the funding will allow an extra 400 to 500 farmers enter the scheme depending on the applications and the average size of holding.
Demand for places is likely to outstrip those available, as it has on previous occasions the scheme reopened for applications.
Minister Hackett said: “We will revise the ranking and selection of applicants probably similar to how we had it before, targeting those who have an obvious market for their produce.”
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue confirmed that successful farmers will be determined by a ranking and selection process if the scheme is over-subscribed, in reply to a question from Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy.
The minister said: “The criteria to be applied will aim to increase the area under organic production while prioritising areas deemed to be in deficit, namely the dairy, tillage and horticulture sectors.”
There are just 161 organic tillage farmers, and 61 organic dairy farmers in Ireland among the 1,550 farmers in the organics scheme.
A total of 170 farmers were turned away from the scheme in 2019 due to insufficient places. Minister Hackett said she would like to see these farmers prioritised for acceptance in 2021.
Just over 2% of Ireland agricultural land is under organic production, representing 177,600 acres.