The Organic Farming Scheme will reopen for applications on 1 March, with the Department to provide funding of €4m for up to 500 farmers to join the scheme.

Young farmers are to be given priority access to the scheme and farmers in the dairy, horticulture and tillage sectors will be targeted to take part.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Senator Pippa Hackett said the Department expects 400 to 500 new farmers to be able to join the scheme.

“That represents a significant added investment in organic farming, which we can make because of the additional €4m we secured in this year’s budget.

“It will also help us meet the targets set out in the programme for government to align Ireland’s organic land area with that of the current EU average over the lifetime of this Government.”

Payments per hectare

Farmers entering the scheme could qualify for yearly payments of up to €220/ha during the conversion period and up to €170/ha when they have achieved full organic status.

Higher payment rates are available for organic horticulture and tillage farmers.

Farmers who apply to the scheme must declare their organic land in their annual Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) declaration, which the Department said “will be taken into consideration when determining entry into the scheme”.

Approval letters to successful applicants will likely issue in October, while the initial Organic Farming Scheme payment is expected to issue in November.

Full details on how and where to apply will be available when the scheme is formally launched on 1 March.

Market demand

Encouraging farmers to apply for the scheme, Minister Hackett said she is happy to prioritise the sectors for which most market demand exists, namely the dairy, horticulture and tillage sectors.

“I want to encourage young farmers to convert to organic farming, so I will be making provision in the selection process to achieve this.

“I will also ensure that farmers who were not successful in gaining entry to the previous scheme, but who have continued to farm organically, have their commitment acknowledged, through priority access,” she said.

Some 74,000ha of land in Ireland is under organic production and there are 1,460 farmers currently taking part in the scheme.

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