The exclusion of organic farmers from the Results-Based Environmental Agri-Pilot (REAP) has been criticised as a “step in the wrong direction” by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA).
Farmers in existing agri-environmental schemes including GLAS, the Organic Scheme and other locally-led schemes will not be permitted to join REAP.
ICSA organics chair Fergal Byrne said: “We cannot continue to send out a message that those doing most for the environment will be at a disadvantage when it comes to allocating environmental supports.
“This is something that will absolutely have to be addressed in the design of the flagship agri-environment scheme in the new CAP.
“Organic farmers must be able to reap as much of a reward from these schemes as conventional farmers if we are serious about encouraging farmers to switch to organic methods and playing our part in the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy.”
The Department of Agriculture has said the number of farmers who can participate in the REAP pilot is limited to just 2,000 and it was decided that those not in an existing scheme would be prioritised.
Byrne said the issue has come to the fore in recent days as farmers have had to make a choice between applying for REAP or continuing with applications for the Organics Scheme.
He reminded those farmers who have opted for the Organics Scheme to ensure their applications are submitted before the 30 April deadline.