The Organic Trust has welcomed the broad outline of the new Organic Farming Scheme under the Rural Development Plan 2015-2020.  

Although the details of the new Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) have yet to be worked out by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, it says the main points will see the OSF continue as a stand-alone scheme, while funding will increase for the scheme by approximately 50% (from €30m to €44m).

It also welcomed proposals that priority access will be given to organic farmers into GLAS scheme, with GLAS+ also open to organic farmers, and proposed improved integration of OFS and GLAS schemes.

Officials from the Department, it says, have also outlined some other potential changes to the scheme, including increasing payment levels and closing the gap between in-conversion and maintenance payments; top-up payments on specific organic measures (growing red clover for example) and the removal of the 55ha cap on OFS payments.

In addition, the Scheme of Grant Aid for the Development of the Organic Sector is to be continued from 2015 but under the umbrella of TAMS. There will be a dedicated budget for the organic grants but operation under TAMS will allow qualified young farmers to avail of a 60% grant rate as opposed to the normal 40%.

While the Organic Trust said it broadly welcomes these developments, it will hold full judgement until the details are released. A spokesperson for the Organic Trust said: “The future growth of Irelands’ organic sector will depend on some key details within both OFS and GLAS and particularly how these two schemes work together. Good integration with GLAS will be important for the organic livestock sector while for small scale organic growers, adequate support must be provided through the OFS to make this an attractive and viable option. It would be a shame to miss an opportunity to capitalise on the massive market growth in organics which we are seeing throughout Europe at the moment.”