The payment rates for organic farming proposed in Ireland’s CAP strategic plan are inadequate to fairly reward existing organic farmers or incentivise new converters, according to the European umbrella organisation for organic food and farming Organics Europe.

Having reviewed the draft CAP strategic plan 2023-2027, the organisation has ranked the content of Ireland’s proposals for organics as in the “red” and with work to be done.

The analysis was included in Organic Europe’s report The Ambition Gap, which assessed the organic farming support measures in current draft national CAP strategic plans 2023-2027 for EU member states.

A red, orange or green status was applied to the organic content, budget and process within each state’s CAP strategic plan, with countries ranked in the red left with the most work to do in the organisation’s view.

Small improvements

The European organisation said Ireland’s current CAP plan “includes proposals for some small improvements to the organic farming scheme, eligibility for some eco schemes and priority access to agri-environmental and climate measures (AECMs)”.

However, it said the organic payment rates as currently proposed “do not sufficiently reflect the costs of organic production in Ireland, as well as the potential opportunity costs associated with organic conversion”.

The group also called for clarity on the extent to which organic farms will be able to combine environmental payments (AECMs and eco-schemes) with organic farming payments.

Unfavourable policy

Organics Europe made observations that there are currently 15 actions under the Irish AECM programme 2014-2020 (GLAS), as well as a pilot results-based scheme (REAP) where organic farmers must forgo organic farming payments because of perceived double funding issues.

A spokesperson said: “Only two to three of the five options proposed under the eco scheme would be relevant to organic farmers and more ambition is required.

“Potential exclusions from these schemes or actions could send the wrong signal of the EU’s recognition of organic farmers' wider contribution to environmental and climate goals.”

The comments came before the announcement by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue that there will be three additional measures added to the eco schemes within the CAP strategic plan.

Funding specifics

Organics Europe ranked the proposed Irish CAP budget for organics as orange, despite the funding allocated now sitting at 500% more than previous years.

A spokesperson said: “The [Irish] government has publicly announced a proposed budget allocation of €256m for the organic farming scheme to reach 7.5% of organic farmland by 2027.

“However, specifics on how organic farmers will be supported across the full range of supply-push and demand-pull measures to support the long-term development of the organic sector still requires greater clarity.”

Irish Organic Association

Of more favourable review, the process and framework behind the organic sector’s input into the CAP strategic plan was ranked green.

The group acknowledged that the Irish Organic Association is on the Government’s CAP consultative committee and said that the association has “been able to take part in all formal meetings of the committee, as well as having the opportunity to make some written submissions as part of the design process”.

Overall, Organics Europe said it is “highly concerned about the lack of proper involvement of its members and the insufficient ambition and budgets to incentivise more farmers to convert to organic farming, and to reward organic farmers for their provision of public goods”.