Organic farm families are 14pc better off

Reports by Maeve Dineen

ECONOMIC analysis of organic farming has shown that Family Farm Income is 14pc higher on organic farms than conventional farms.

Liam Connolly, head of Teagasc's National Farm Survey Unit, told the National Organic Conference in Tullamore that organic farmers were also retaining more of their Single Farm Payment when compared with conventional farmers.

"We compared a conventional and an organic cattle rearing farm and there was a 30pc increase in the value of Single Farm Payment retained by the organic farmers," he said.

"And while total sales were less from the organic farm, their direct costs and overhead costs were also less when compared with conventional farming."

However, he did stress that organic farmers carried one-third fewer livestock units on their farm compared to conventional cattle farmers and were 37pc larger than conventional farms.

"Between the Single Farm Payment, REPS and Disadvantaged Area payments, organic farmers are also receiving higher direct payments," he said.

To date, there are just 1,100 organic farmers in the country using just under 1pc of the total land area in the country. Interestingly, 71pc of organic beef farmers have some other source of off-farm income compared with 61pc of conventional beef farmers. Also, the age profile of organic farmers is likely to be slightly lower (51.8yrs) than conventional farmers (54yrs).

Mr Connolly said drystock organic farming remained the most profitable, but there was huge potential in organic dairying as well.

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"The number of organic farmers in Ireland is still very low and is way behind our European counterparts," he said. "But organic farms have lower production costs, are more demographically viable and have higher direct payments. But bureaucracy still remains a major barrier to entry into the system."

Meanwhile, Teagasc will be providing additional resources to the organic farming and food sector with three additional organic farm advisers to be appointed.

Teagasc currently farms a total of 500ac organically at its research centres in Athenry, Johnstown Castle and Oakpark.

"We have recently leased a farm in the Athenry area to maintain our organic dairy programme there," said Teagasc acting director Tom Kirley.

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