Following consultation with Teagasc and organic certification bodies, the Department of Agriculture aims to announce the details of the Organic Farming Scheme 2021 early next week, minister of state Pippa Hackett has said.
The announcement came during a question and answer session at the IFA AGM on Tuesday, where the minister called on farmers to consider the organic option.
“We will revise the ranking and selection of applicants, probably similar to how we had it before, targeting those who have an obvious market for their produce,” Minister Hackett said.
“It is my intention to look at applicants who weren't successful the last time the scheme opened and I would like to be able to prioritise those applicants for acceptance into the scheme this time.”
Promises of up to 500 new places on the scheme are in doubt, after figures seen by the Irish Farmers Journal show the Government expects just 300 places will be up for grabs.
Minister Hackett continued: “Organics does get sidelined; it’s considered niche, but it doesn’t have to be as niche as it is in this country.
“The scheme offers farmers the opportunity to add value and access additional payment. The scheme can be seen as maybe doing less for more, so that might be one way of selling it.”
IFA organic project team chair Nigel Renaghan raised the issue around the falling premium paid for organic over conventional beef, falling from an average of €1/kg to 10c/kg extra.
Minister Hackett responded: “I didn't realise it had almost reached parity like that, that's a bit of a surprise to me, or shock, I should say. That is something maybe the food ombudsman can be looking into."
The Minister also reminded attendees of commitments in the programme for government to examine processors in charge of the organic beef sector and how that centralisation has its effects.
“We've seen the demise of the local butcher shop and abattoir. Some of us see that trade coming back as useful,” Minister Hackett concluded.