Minister ‘lacking vision’ for organic farming – Matt Carthy

Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy has called on the Minister for Agriculture to clarify the number of additional places that will be available on the Organic Farming Scheme this year.

The government announced in November that it planned to have up to 400 to 500 additional places, however, the deputy said it now suggested “it will be limited to 300”.

1,200 farmers received €5.5 million in advance payments on November 23, as part of the scheme. The deadline for application for 2021 under the scheme was December 31, and the department has since said that 97% of participants responded by the deadline and of these, 97% applied to continue in the scheme for an additional year (2021).

Deputy Carthy said that there needs to be a commitment to deliver the places promised for this year.

“Minister Charlie McConalogue and Junior Minister Pippa Hackett were quick to promise significantly additional spaces on the organic farm scheme last November. They must now follow through and deliver on this,” the Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture said.

“Many farmers have already commented that they felt that the organics scheme has been too biased towards larger holdings, and that many family farmers have been unable to join. All too often with department schemes, farmers are left uncertain as to when or if they will be able to avail of them.

This not only damages farmers ability to financially plan, but also unnecessarily delays the positive impact these schemes are designed to deliver.

“The minister, first, needs to commit to deliver the places promised for this year.

“The Farm to Fork strategy sets a target of 25% of all farmland being organic. Ireland currently lags behind the rest of Europe at around 2%.

“We also need clarity as to how this government intends to close the gap between our current coverage and the ambitious targets within Farm to Fork.

“The government [has] stated that the move to organic will be ‘consumer lead’ – smaller farmers cannot be excluded in a rush to subsidise larger producers to make up lost ground.”