380 new applicants to Organic Farming Scheme this year – Irish Examiner

Pippa Hackett said it is ‘extremely encouraging’ that farmers and their advisers are responding to this scheme. Stock picture
There was a total of 380 applicants to the Organic Farming Scheme this year.
This is an almost 20% increase in application numbers to the scheme compared to 2021, Minister of state at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Pippa Hackett said.
Altogether, this means there are just under 700 new farmers joining the scheme in the last 12 months.
In 2021 an additional 12,000 hectares were farmed organically in Ireland and it is expected that this will increase by a further 17,000 hectares this year due to the recent opportunity to apply to the scheme. 
These 29,000 new hectares mean a 35% increase in the area of land farmed organically in the last two years.
Ms Hackett has welcomed farmers’ engagement with the scheme this year and confirmed that it will again be open for applications in October.
“It builds substantially on the 2021 reopening and I hope it will give confidence to more farmers to convert to organic farming,” Ms Hackett said.
It’s extremely encouraging that farmers and their advisers are responding to this scheme. 
“We’re committed to working with them to ensure that they get the maximum benefit under the scheme.”
Ms Hackett said she encourages all farmers interested in joining to attend a farm walk on an organic farm this summer in preparation for joining the scheme in the autumn.
“The advice and knowledge is there for every farmer and I encourage all farmers to fully assess the opportunities here and join the growing number of farmers going organic,” Ms Hackett added.
The closing date for applying to the Organic Farming Scheme was Friday, April 22, with the window to do so having been extended by two weeks.
The scheme comes with an additional €5m in budget to take in new entrants.
Changes to the scheme
Changes to the scheme this year have included lowering the required stocking rate and also expanding the area paid at the higher rate.
The area at which farmers will receive higher payment has been increased from 60 hectares to 70 hectares in recognition of the larger area farmed by full-time farmers.
Extensively stocked farmers will now be in a position to receive a full Organic Farming Scheme payment provided they satisfy the minimum stocking levels that apply under the Area of Natural Constraints Scheme.
Farmers entering the scheme could qualify for yearly payments of up to €220 per hectare during the conversion period and up to €170 per hectare when they have achieved full organic status. 
Higher payment rates are available for organic horticulture and tillage farmers. 

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