The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has welcomed the increase in funding for the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) announced in Budget 2022 on Tuesday (October 12), but has insisted that beef and lamb farmers be catered for.

“Increasing the funding to €21 million and opening the scheme to new applicants again next year is a step in the right direction,” said Fergal Byrne, the ICSA organics chair.

He added: “However, Minister [of state for land use] Pippa Hackett must ensure that the Organic Farming Scheme is just as available to beef and lamb producers as it is to other sectors.”

“The whole organics sector needs considerable investment and that must include the cattle and sheep sectors.”

According to Byrne, the most recent calls for applications under the scheme “prioritised the tillage, dairy and horticulture sectors, while access for cattle and sheep farmers was restricted”.

“This was very unfair to the many drystock farmers out there willing to make the switch to organics,” The ICSA representative argued.

Byrne also stressed that a drive to secure new markets for organic produce must accompany the expansion of the scheme.

“Consumer studies across Europe suggest that the market opportunity is far greater than the size of the supply.”

“It should no longer be a struggle for us to find markets for our organic beef and lamb supplies,” he said.

Byrne concluded: “There is no doubt that Ireland can be a world leader when it comes to organic produce but tapping into all new market opportunities is key.”

Action Plan for organic farming

Minister of State Pippa Hackett has said that she will be publishing an ‘Action Plan for Organics’ shortly.

The plan will “complement the national organic strategy 2019-2025“, the minister said.

Minister Hackett said this as she welcomed Budget 2022, which she described as being “fair, climate and biodiversity friendly”, along with being one that would “protect farm families, farm profitability, and farm safety and sustainability”.