Cowen must introduce ‘new and improved’ Organics Scheme for 2021

“Ireland now has over 1,700 organic farmers and the focus must be on building those numbers. The current Organics Scheme comes to an end for most participants at the end of this year, and we are looking for a commitment that the scheme will continue and be improved upon.”

This is according to the organics chair of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) Fergal Byrne. He called on the Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen to give an assurance that the Organics Scheme will roll over into 2021.

“The organics sector needs considerable new investment if it is to expand in any meaningful way. The EU Farm to Fork strategy contains an EU wide target of 25% [in terms of the area farmed] to be set aside for organic farming by 2030,” he explained.

This is an ambitious target and one that makes it clear we need to do so much more when it comes to organics.

“We want to see farmers from all sectors given the opportunity to move to organic farming and for them to be given the necessary support to do so.

“The last call for applications under the Organics Scheme prioritised the tillage, dairy and horticulture sectors, while beef and sheep farmers were sidelined,” said Byrne.

“We do not want to see a repeat of this. All farmers prepared to make the switch to organic farming must be facilitated through a new and improved Organics Scheme.

‘Best opportunity’

“The ICSA is proposing that increasing the payment/ha to €250 is warranted for full symbol organic farmers, with a conversion payment of €300/ha for those transitioning to organics.

This would both encourage farmers to switch their systems and give them the best opportunity to succeed with the scheme.

It is critical that actions in any future Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) do not overlap with actions in the Organics Scheme, according to the ICSA.

“This could result in farmers having to choose between the two schemes and this would be detrimental in the long run. Organic farmers must be given equal opportunity to join REPS and get paid for both schemes,” concluded Byrne.