The Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) is expected to open in the second week of February.

An extra €5m has been added to the scheme this year, bringing the total budget to €21m.

The Department of Agriculture announced today that two major changes have been made to try and entice more farmers into the scheme. The higher rate of payment will now be paid on up to 70ha, up 10ha on last year.

The second major change is that farmers at a stocking rate of 0.15LU/ha will now be able to access the scheme. This rate had been a minimum of 0.5LU/ha and the change to the lower stocking rate will give another 1m hectares potential to access the scheme.

The scheme will be open for applications for two months and priority will still be given to tillage, dairy and horticulture applications. However, it should be noted that as the scheme was undersubscribed in 2021 all sectors gained entry to the scheme.

In recent days Cork-based Irish Organic Feeds announced it was looking for 2,000t of Irish organic wheat and barley as well as 800t of beans. The company plans to open a feed mill in 2023.

In 2021, approximately 1,700 farmers received a payment under the scheme. Cork, Roscommon and Tipperary claimed the highest amounts in payments.

More attractive to farmers

Speaking on the announcement Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett stated: “I believe these proposals to the entry and payment structure of the scheme will make the scheme more attractive to a lot more farmers.

[...] now is surely the time for all Irish farmers to give serious consideration to joining the scheme

“With higher input costs forecast this year for farmers, expanding market opportunities for Irish organic produce and the drive for Irish farming to be more environmentally friendly, now is surely the time for all Irish farmers to give serious consideration to joining the scheme,” Hackett said.

“When we reopened the OFS last year, I committed to doing so again this year subject to available funding.

“Now, having secured that funding, I am delighted to be in a position to offer new paces on the scheme to interested farmers,” she added.

“The increased budget of an extra €5m will encourage further uptake of organic farming, offer a viable income to farmers, and also assist us in meeting the ambitious targets set out in the Programme for Government.”

The scheme opens on 9 February and the closing date for applications is 8 April 2022.