Teagasc is in the process of appointing two organic farm specialists and three organic farm advisors, who will support the increasing number of farmers that are converting, the organisation’s director Prof. Frank O’Mara has said.

Currently, there are two organic specialists working for Teagasc, however a number of new staff are set to be brought on board over the next two years, as the interest in transitioning to this type of system grows.

It is planned that two specialists and three farm advisors will commence work this autumn, while another three advisors will be recruited in 2023.

Those that are set to begin this year have passed the interview stage and will be officially appointed in a few weeks, Prof. O’Mara told Agriland. He said:

“Hopefully next year we will appoint another three [advisors]. Our team then would be the four specialists who will support those six organic farm advisors.

“They will deal one-to-one with our organic clients or with people who are going to convert.”

Prof. O’Mara outlined that having these people in place is vital, as having an interest in organic farming and actually making the switch, are two very different things.

He said:

“It’s one thing to go to a farm walk, but if you are going to make a decision like that, you need someone that you can sit down with or who can walk your particular farm and go through the options with you.”

Decisions on where these staff members will be located have yet to be made, however there is a significant number or organic clients and a large amount of interest in the north-west and south-west regions.

“However, there are people all over the country who are in and who are interested in organics. So, we expect now that the rates are announced, and the scheme will be opening, that there will be a lot of people looking to convert this year,” Prof. O’Mara added.

The decision to increase staff comes in preparation for the opening of the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) in October. This will be the first year that the scheme offers the higher payment rates, which were announced yesterday, Wednesday July 20, by Minster of State Pippa Hackett.

The proposed budget for the enhanced OFS is a five-fold increase on the rates that were previously offered, with a total budget of €256 million over the lifetime of the scheme.

However, the rates remain subject to approval by the EU Commission as part of Ireland’s upcoming Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan.