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Larger scale farmers may not be fully aware of the rewards from going organic
Claire Mc Cormack Twitter Email
Uptake of the Department of Agriculture’s Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) is understood to be low less than two weeks until its application deadline on April 8.
Despite an increase in area at which farmers can receive higher payment (from 60ha to 70ha), and a change in minimum stocking rate requirement for full payment (from 0.5LUs/ha to 0.15LUs/ha), the Department would not disclose how many farmers have applied since the scheme reopened in early February.
However, the Department confirmed officials will soon meet with the Office of Public Procurement to discuss measures to stimulate the country’s organic food market.
Teagasc Organic Specialist Joe Kelleher said the OFS payment rates are “probably not financially attractive enough” for farmers with smaller acreage.
As it stands, farmers entering a contract could qualify for yearly payments of up to €220/ha during the two-year conversion period, and up to €170/ha when they achieve full organic status — with higher payment rates available for organic horticultural and tillage farmers.
“The farmers with 10/20/30ha may not be getting enough out of it at current rates,” Mr Kelleher said.
“When you couple that with the issue of double funding with GLAS and REAP, a lot of farmers would have 10ha tied up in those schemes on low-income permanent pasture or traditional hay meadows and they won’t get paid the organic payment on that. So the incentive for that category of farmer is not sufficient enough.” Mr Kelleher also believes larger-scale farmers may not be fully aware of the rewards they could reap.
“It is quite financially attractive for the farmer with the 50/60/70ha, but I think there is a lack of awareness.
“The fact the Department will reopen the scheme again in October may also be a factor. The feedback we’re getting from farmers is that there are a lot committed to going organic, they might just not join this tranche.
“Many are deferring the decision to join until the end of the year when they know what the next round of CAP will look like.”
The Department’s budget for the OFS in 2022 increased from €16m to €21m to facilitate an additional 50,000ha of land under conversion and to represent an increase of over 50pc in the area organically farming.
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