The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has said the March reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) is welcome, but that more is needed in terms of access to the scheme for cattle and sheep farmers.
ICSA Organics Committee chair Fergal Byrne said: “The opportunity for an additional 400-500 farmers to convert to organic farming is welcome; however, priority will once again be given to those in the dairy, tillage and horticulture sectors at the expense of drystock farmers.”
The association said that it is clear more will need to be done in terms of future investment in the sector.
“ICSA wants to see cattle and sheep farmers included in the movement towards organic farming, not actively discouraged,” added Bryne.
Our ambition must be to develop an organic scheme that would include far greater numbers of cattle and sheep farmers, in tandem with a drive to secure adequate markets for all organic produce.
“We know that our beef and lamb producers are willing to get on board, but we also need to see a concerted effort from the Department of Agriculture, from Bord Bia and from our meat processors to drive this sector forward in any meaningful way.”
The ICSA said that it will still encourage members to apply for the scheme as young farmers will be prioritised for the scheme, young cattle and sheep farmers may have a better chance of being accepted.
“It may also be an option for some drystock farmers to consider diversifying some of their holding to tillage to increase their chances of being accepted into the scheme,” Byrne added.
The OFS 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.
Farmers entering the scheme could qualify for yearly payments of up to €220/ha during the conversion period and up to €170/ha when they have achieved full organic status.