Figures cited by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue suggest that only approximately 10 dairy farmers have applied for the 2022 Organic Farming Scheme out of a total of 380 applications received by the Department.

Over 274 beef and sheep farmers applied for funding under the scheme, which pays €220/ha to those undergoing conversion and €170/ha to those fully certified as being organic.

Dairy applications represent 2.5% of the €22m organic scheme’s applications made by the deadline of 22 April, according to Minister McConalogue, who gave the figures in response to a question posed by Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy.

Some 40% of applications were made by beef farmers, 32% by those farming sheep and another 7.5% has applied as “mixed livestock” farmers.

On the tillage side of the house, around 15 farmers have applied for the scheme, making up a total of 4% of applications, while another 6% - 23 or so farmers - were horticulture applicants.

The eligibility of these applications cannot be determined until the farmers’ 2022 Basic Payment Scheme applications have been processed successfully, the Minister added.

‘Gaining momentum’

Further figures cited by Minister McConalogue when answering another organic scheme question from Deputy Carthy show that some 147 have left the scheme since 2019.

A total of 73 farmers left the scheme in 2020 when offered a one-year contract extension by the Department, the highest number of any year.

Minister McConalogue stated that the Government’s commitment to increasing the area under organics to 7.5% of all the farmed area was demonstrated in the allocation of over €250m to the scheme for the 2023-2027 CAP period.

Speaking on the use of increased Department funds for organic advisory services, he said that: “The expected results of this funding increase with regard to higher participation in organic farming will be visible when the scheme reopens later in 2022.

“The Department is pursuing a wide suite of actions and has deployed significant targeted resources to maximise participation in organic farming.

“Our commitment to achieve the 7.5% programme for government target is gaining in momentum and is evidenced by the most recent figures, which yielded a 20% increase in applicants compared to 2021,” he said.