Up to 500 more farmers will be supported to convert to organic farming under measures announced by Minister Pippa Hackett.
The Minister of State with responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity announced increased funding of 33pc for the Organic Farming Scheme, bringing its funding to almost €16m.
She said the move would addresses the growing demand from both farmers and consumers for this type of production.
“Those already in the scheme can continue, while I expect the funding to support between 400 and 500 more farmers to go organic. It also marks a significant start to the Government’s commitment to increase the land area farmed organically.’’
Hackett said Budget 2021 will give “more nature friendly farming practices”.
The move was welcomed by Gillian Westbrook, CEO of the Irish Organic Association. "The decision by the government to increase funding for organic farming illustrates that the government are serious about addressing climate and environmental actions in agriculture.
"It also states loud and clear that they are committed to increasing the land area farmed organically in Ireland. Earlier this year the EU Commission sent a clear message of its expectations of land use in both its Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies, which included a target to convert 25pc of agricultural land in the EU to organic production by 2030," she said.
"I am also delighted that in this transitional CAP period that those already in the Organic Farming Scheme can continue with the confidence of government support. With expectations that the funding will also enable approximately 500 new entrants in 2021, the announcement for additional funding for marketing and promotion of organic food is also welcomed.
"The market for organic food continues to grow exponentially, with the EU market now valued in excess of €40bn, and there are great opportunities for Irish farmers to tap into that market. We have seen continued demand from consumers for high quality organic food, therefore increasing the volume of organic food produced in Ireland will significantly reduce our reliance on imports to meet that demand. It is a positive development for Irish farmers, consumers and the environment."
Hackett also said it is really important that our recovery from Covid-19 is a Green recovery and that €23m from the Carbon Tax is ring-fenced, along with additional funding from the EU.
The Minister announced strong support for Forestry with the allocation of over €100m for 2021. “We must get forestry moving again. But we must also ensure it works for all. I really want 2021 to be a year when we all ‘Think Tree’ and I look forward to using the strong budget allocation for Forestry to deliver a range of schemes and incentives which will deliver diversity of planting, climate action and biodiversity as well as supporting a healthy industry.’’
Under her remit, she announced an additional 50pc would be spent on horticulture, while she would roll out a €100,000 feasibility study on the wool market.
“Wool prices have plummeted,” she said with the wool from her own farm in Offaly lying in a shed. “The scope for wool usage is huge is we tap into that and ideally build a domestic market,” she said.
The closure of the Chinese market because of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen sheep farmers struggle to find a buyer for their wool.