There has been a cautious welcome from farm organisations to news that the organics scheme is to be reopened for applications in early March.
Minister of State Pippa Hackett announced that funding was available for up to 500 more farmers to join the scheme on top of the 1,500 existing participants.
The IFA has warned that the reopening must not see widespread rejections of farmers.
IFA organics chair Nigel Renaghan said: "The scheme last re-opened in November 2018 for four weeks. Seventy-five percent of applicants were refused admission due to a flawed points-based system, which discriminated against smaller land-based applicants.
“The re-opened scheme must be properly administered. We cannot have a situation where so many farmers are rejected again.”
Renaghan welcomed Minister Hackett’s commitment to prioritise farmers who were rejected last time, but continued to farm organically outside the scheme.
He called for these farmers to receive the conversion rate of payment for two years from the time they enter into the scheme.
Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) organics chair Fergal Byrne said drystock farmers would be left disappointed at their level of access to the scheme.
“Priority will once again be given to those in the dairy, tillage and horticulture sectors at the expense of drystock farmers,” Byrne said.
“[The] ICSA wants to see cattle and sheep farmers included in the movement towards organic farming, not actively discouraged.
“Our ambition must be to develop an organics scheme that would include far greater numbers of cattle and sheep farmers, in tandem with a drive to secure adequate markets for all organic produce.”
Byrne said there needed to be a concerted effort from the Department of Agriculture, Bord Bia and meat processors to drive the sector forward in a meaningful way.