The number of farmers converting to organic production this year and applying to the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) could be “in the 1,000s”, said Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett.

Minister Hackett confirmed the OFS will open next week for its latest intake and it’s understood it will close again at some stage in November.

She was speaking alongside Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and fellow Minister of State Martin Heydon as they confirmed cabinet’s approval of the CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027 on Tuesday.

Last month, Minister Hackett confirmed that some 336 new applicants who applied to the OFS earlier this year have been approved, adding 16,000 new hectares of land farmed organically in Ireland.

‘Significant interest’

Minister of Hackett said she’s looking forward to the OFS re-opening following what she described as “significant interest” from farmers in recent months.

“Certainly, over the last number of months in particular. I was at [an organic] farm walk in Tipperary last week and there was between 1,200 and 1,500 farmers at it.

“There’s a really positive vibe around it. The mood is very positive in relation to it and I suppose we’re looking to take in as many as we can.

“We’re starting off from having a low over the last couple of years but we now have slightly more enticing rates and I think that has resonated with farmers, certainly in relation to the increased input costs in farming at the moment,” she said.

Farmer breakdown

Of the 336 farmers accepted into the latest tranche of the OFS, some 297 were beef and sheep farmers.

Beef farmers made up 54% (181) of successful applicants to the scheme, while 35% (116) of those accepted into the scheme are sheep farming, Department of Agriculture figures show.

Some 4.5% of those accepted are tillage farmers, while 2.6% are dairy farmers.

Last week, it was announced that under Budget 2023, there will be €37m for the scheme next year and, in total, there will be €256m allocated to the scheme in the next CAP.

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Over 330 farmers approved for Organic Farming Scheme