Farmers wishing to join the Organic Farming Scheme in the current intake need to act fast, as the deadline of 11.59pm on Friday 9 December is fast approaching.

The Irish Farmers Journal understands that there has been a significant increase in the submission rate of applications over the last week and believes the number of new entrants is on target to exceed 1,000 applications.

Combined with a high retention rate of farmers finishing their current Organic Farming Scheme contract at the end of 2022, this is likely to see numbers participating in the scheme in 2023 reach 3,000.

There are still a number of farmers coming to the end of their contract in 2022 that have yet to apply to the new scheme. This is an important step, as farmers will not automatically be rolled over.

Reminder text messages have been sent to farmers registered to receive Department of Agriculture SMS texts.

It is likely that many of these applications will be submitted on Thursday and Friday, as advisers turn their attention from the Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) to the Organic Farming Scheme.

Farmers wishing to apply who have not progressed their application need to act fast, as while the initial application process is relatively straightforward, there are a number of components that require time for the organisations involved to complete.

The Department of Agriculture has also recently clarified that agroforestry and organics can be paid on the same land.

Surge in ACRES applications

The number of ACRES applications submitted in the last week has increased sharply. The Irish Farmers Journal understands that in excess of 15,000 applications have been submitted in the last week, with submissions still rolling in fast right up until the deadline of Wednesday 5 December.

It is believed the number of applications will substantially exceed the 30,000 target mark and will likely surpass 36,000 applications, possibly even come close to the hitting 40,000 applications.

The question which will now be raised is whether there is scope within the system to increase the target of 30,000 applications in tranche one or if this figure will be maintained.

The Department previously set a target of informing farmers if their application was successful in early January 2023, but this was before the application period was extended.

The situation will become clearer in the coming days as the final application figures becomes apparent.

Fodder Support Scheme

Meanwhile, the number of applications received for the 2023 Fodder Support Scheme was recorded at 67,451. This represents an application rate of 95% of approximately 71,000 farmers eligible to apply.

The target is still to pay an advance payment under the 2023 scheme before the end of the year, while payments under the 2022 scheme have commenced and are ongoing.