Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Senator Pippa Hackett has said she is "actively examining" the reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme in 2022.

The announcement came as the minister responded to a parliamentary question from Matt Carthy, TD for Cavan-Monaghan, on Thursday.

“It is my intention to build on the interest shown to date and to drive further growth in organic farming.

"I will be actively examining a further reopening of the scheme for next year, subject to funding,” Minister Hackett announced.

A continuation of the scheme would aim to bring the area of land farmed organically in Ireland to the EU level of 8.5% of total land area farmed, within the current term of the coalition government.

2021 applications

“A key element of securing this ambitious target is increasing the number of farmers farming organically and to achieve this, I did secure additional funding for this year to reopen the Organic Farming Scheme.

“I am satisfied that the current budget allocated to the scheme this year will allow successful application into the scheme for eligible applicants and it is my interest to build on the intention shown to date."

The area of land represented by the 317 applications received by the Department for this year’s scheme remains unknown.

However, the minister said this should be available shortly through the Basic Payment Scheme data.

Should all of the applicants be eligible for the scheme, 2021 will represent a 20% yearly increase in the number of organic producers in Ireland, the minister said.

In response, Carthy said that 74 farmers left the Organic Farming Scheme in 2020.

"That means that if all 317 applications are accepted, the increase in organic farmers will actually be 243. That's less than half as what you set out was the target, in terms of up to 500 additional [places]," he said.

Organic scheme post-2022

The minister also commented on the new Organic Farming Scheme which will be opened under the next CAP.

“My Department are currently devising a new and ambitious organic farming scheme to be introduced under the next CAP in 2023, which will aim to increase the synergies that exist between organics, environmental climate measures and eco schemes.”