Minister Joe O’Brien urges farmers in Fingal to avail of organic farming scheme

3rd February, 2021

€4m extra funding includes priority access for young farmers

Minister of State for Community Development and Charities and Green Party T.D for Fingal, Joe O’Brien, has welcomed the announcement by his Green Party Colleague, Senator Pippa Hacket that the Organic Farming Scheme will reopen to new entrants in the first week of March. The re-opening, subject to EU Commission approval, is expected to result in an increase of up to 30% in the number of farmers farming organically in Ireland this year.

Minister O’Brien is urging the many farmers in Fingal to avail of support scheme through which they can apply for financial support as they transition to organic farming practices. In sectors where there’s a big market for organic produce — like horticulture, dairy, and tillage — these farmers will be prioritised for access to the scheme.

Speaking about the scheme opening on March 1st Minister O’Brien stated;

“I am delighted with this enhanced support for farmers in Fingal and nationwide who want to farm organically. I’m particularly pleased with the prioritisation of horticulture applications given this sector’s importance to Fingal.  The Covid crisis has led to an increased demand for locally produced food. Organic farming embraces nature and natural processes to produce organic food, for which there is a growing demand both in Ireland and across Europe. So there is now an opportunity for both experienced and new entrant fruit and vegetable commercial growers to build on this trend and transition to organic production. And the reopening of this scheme, with the extra funding and scope for so many more farmers to join, demonstrates this Governments commitment to helping farmers all across Fingal cater for that demand.”

“There is significant horticultural production in Fingal and so I am particularly pleased to say that it is expected 400-500 new farmers will be able to join the scheme. That represents a significant added investment organic farming which we can make because of the additional €4million 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.”

The Organic Farming Scheme is an agri-environment measure under the Department’s Rural Development Programme. 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.

Announcing the reopening of the now expanded scheme, Minister Hackett said;

“I am happy to prioritise those sectors for which most market demand exists, namely the dairy, horticulture and tillage sectors, but I also 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.”

“The scheme and funding are closely aligned to the targets in the  National Organic Farming Strategy to 2025 and will help us deliver on them.  So I very much look forward to announcing the full details when applications open on 1st March.  In the meantime would encourage all prospective applicants to take time to consider participation in the scheme and avail of the supports that are available for conversion.”

For further information contact: Karen Power: karen.power@oireachtas.ie

Notes to editors

  • The Organic Farming Scheme is one of the most successful schemes under the current Rural Development Programme. The target for the RDP was to attract some 16,000 hectares of new land into production and to support 46,000 hectares of converted land. These targets have been exceeded as there are now approximately 74,000 hectares under organic production.
  • Applicants must then declare their organic land in their annual BPS declaration, which will be taken in consideration when determining entry into the Scheme.
  • Approvals letters to all successful applicants will likely issue in October, while the initial Organic Farming Scheme payment is expected to issue in November of this year.
  • There are currently 1,460 farmers participating in the current OFS.
  • Full details on how and where to apply will be available when the scheme is formally launched on 1st March.