Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM), Senator Pippa Hackett, today (Thursday, June 9) announced the commencement of the 2021 balancing payments for the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS).

The minister, who is an organic farmer herself, said: “I am delighted to announce the commencement of the 2021 balancing payments to organic farmers.

“Over 1,000 farmers have received payments totalling over €784,000. Payments will continue to issue over the coming weeks.

“The Organic Farming Scheme is our primary support measure to assist farmers in their conversion to organic farming as we seek to respond to the increasing consumer demand for organically produced food,” Hackett added.

According to the minister, an extra 17,000ha have been converted to organic this year.

Priority access to schemes for organic farming

Minister Hackett stated that there are more than 100,000 Irish farmers with stocking rates less than 170kg N/ha farming four million hectares.

“I would strongly encourage these farmers to consider joining the Organic Farming Scheme this autumn,” she said.

“Consumer demand is growing, payment rates have been increased and organic farmers will receive priority access to the new agri environmental scheme, so there has never been a better time to consider making the switch.

“I would urge any farmer considering converting to organics to attend an organic farm walk this summer and talk to their advisor about what converting to organics will entail,” she added.

Balancing payments

This round of payments is the balancing payment amounting to 15% of the full annual payment due under the OFS.

The 85% advance payment issued in November 2021 to the OFS participants in accordance with EU rules.

At present, there are 1,734 organic farmers participating in the Organic Farming Scheme and annual payments under the scheme amount to approximately €11 million.

A further 380 farmers applied to participate in the scheme this spring.

There is approximately 94,000ha currently under organic production, with a further 17,000ha being converted this year, according to DAFM.

97% of OFS farmers whose contracts were due to expire in 2021 accepted the offer of an extension to their contract in December 2021.