The Department of Agriculture must address any delays in the issuing of 2023 Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) payments if it is to avoid a drop-off in conversion, chair of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) organic project team John Fitzpatrick has said.

The IFA chair stated that payments to organic farmers are being held up as a result of the advance Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) payment logjam which has been plaguing Department IT systems for months.

While flat-rate interim ACRES were made to over 23,500 farmers on Wednesday, the move had been done by bypassing the scheme’s own IT systems, leaving many payment applications still to be fully processed.

“The delay in the ACRES scheme has had a knock-on effect, as payment must be issued there before the OFS payment can be made. This process is flawed and farmers are suffering as a result,” Fitzpatrick said.

“A significant number of farmers have yet to receive any payment this year. This is not instilling any confidence in farmers who want to move towards organic farming.”

Significant investment

Fitzpatrick commented that the OFS's two-year conversion period represented a period of “significant investment” for participating farmers when cash flow is vital.

Getting these payments into farmers’ accounts on time is paramount to ensuring the Government's organic acreage targets are met by encouraging more into the scheme, he added.

“The absence of a payment for these farmers will be catastrophic and it will cause farm families to question the viability of the scheme.

“We hear of the huge ambition within Government to increase organic acreage, which is all well and good. However, it is no comfort to the farm families waiting on their payments.

“The Department must act swiftly to issue all outstanding payments to farmers. An interim payment like what was issued under the ACRES scheme must be considered for farmers awaiting payment.”

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