Uptake of the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) in 2022 was the lowest among the dairy-farming sector.

The OFS opened for new applications on February 9 and closed on April 22 with a total of 380 applicants.

Dairy came in at the bottom of seven categories with just 2.5% of total applicants.

This means that fewer than 10 dairy farmers applied to the €21 million scheme, which includes an additional €5 million in funding this year.

This is in stark contrast to the cattle-farming sector, which came out on top with 40% of the applications, followed by sheep farming with 32%.

Mixed livestock comprised 7.5% of applications; 6% came from horticulture; and 8% were from ‘other’ sectors with goats and horses on the holdings.

The figures were revealed in the Dáil recently, on the back of a parliamentary question from Deputy Matt Carthy to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.

The Sinn Féin spokesperson for agriculture summitted a series of organic farming-related questions to the minister, one of which related to the number of farmers that applied for organic farming scheme in 2022 by farm enterprise type.

Enterprise% participants
Mixed livestock7.5%
Tillage 4%

Minister McConalogue provided a breakdown of all numbers and categories of farmers involved.

He said that the number of applications in total to the OFS for 2022 marked a 20% increase on last year’s number.

Under the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), for the period 2023-2027, the minister has proposed an allocation of €256 million to continue the development and growth of the organic sector.

This is a five-fold increase in funding for the sector compared to the previous CAP period.

Minister McConalogue said that he also introduced changes to the OFS requirements by reducing the required stocking rate and also by increasing the area paid at the higher rate from 60ha to 70ha, which, he said, will allow for greater participation in organic farming practices.

And, he stated, Teagasc is also expanding its advisory support capacity.

“The expected results of this funding increase with regard to higher participation in organic farming will be visible when the scheme reopens later in 2022,” he said.

A history of the scheme

Participants who joined the OFS in 2015 and 2016 were initially offered a five-year contract.

Following agreement by the European Commission, each participant was offered a one-year extension in advance of the expiry of their contract.

Of the 1,468 participants offered an extension 1,394 accepted, and 73 declined citing various reasons for not continuing to farm organically.

In 2021, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, once again, offered these same participants an additional one-year extension and a further 18 declined to extend.

“A total of 56 participants lapsed their organic licence since 2019 and, therefore, were no longer eligible to participate in the OFS.

“In total, 147 participants have exited the scheme since 2019.”

Minister McConalogue said the supports of €256 million for CAP 2023 -2027 for conversion to and maintenance of organic farming practices will “encourage many farmers to become organic farmers”.