Re-opening of organic scheme on targeted basis welcomed

The re-opening of the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) on a targeted basis has been welcomed by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

ICSA Organics chairman Fergal Byrne commented on the scheme, which got the green light to open once more yesterday, welcoming the move.

He said: “During our discussions as part of the Organics Strategy Group it was decided to re-open the scheme in a way that would address a current output shortfall in certain sectors.

“In this regard, priority will initially be given to the tillage, horticulture and dairy sectors.”

While the number of applications accepted into the scheme will be determined by the funding, a ranking and selection process utilising a scoring system will be employed to conclude which candidates will ultimately be admitted.

According to the ICSA, preference will be given as follows:
  • Previous or existing OFS operators: 5 marks;
  • Sector: horticulture – 50 marks, tillage – 50 marks, dairy – 45 marks, beef – 10 marks (to a maximum of 50 marks);
  • Total Conversion Vs Partial Conversion: 0.5 mark per 1% of land converted (to a maximum of 10 marks);
  • Large Operators: 1 mark / ha owned, 0.5 marks for leased land (to a maximum of 50 marks);
  • Mixed Farming: Operators with arable and forage on BPS (to a maximum of 10 marks).

The scheme is designed to assist farmers through their conversion to organic farming and covers a minimum five-year period.

Payments of up to €220/ha can be drawn down during the conversion period and up to €170/ha when full organic status is achieved.

“For those already in the scheme, this provides reassurance that similar payments will be available for all sectors post 2020,” said Byrne.

“While it is disappointing that the beef and sheep categories will not be at the forefront of this round of admissions to the scheme, the marking system reflects the under supply in certain categories while demonstrating the need to focus on finding additional markets for beef and lamb.”

The closing date for this round of applications is Monday, December 19. All applicants must reach a minimum ranking of 25 marks to be deemed eligible for consideration for inclusion in the scheme.

However, the submission of a valid application will not guarantee entry to the scheme. It is also noted that selection, prioritisation and scoring criteria may vary for each new application period.