The Department of Agriculture is expected to be inundated with applications for the Organic Farming Scheme which was re-launched on Wednesday.
Farmers entering the scheme for a minimum of five years stand to qualify for yearly payments of up to €283/ha during the conversion period and up to €142/ha when they have achieved full organic status.
There will also be grants of up to 40pc available under the on-farm scheme, up to a maximum grant of €60,000. A maximum grant of €500,000 is available for off-farm investments.
Teagasc has also begun a major drive in a bid to source suitable applicants for the schemes. The authority is to hold eight training seminars on organic farming and one on organic vegetable production beginning at the end of January.
Organic specialist Dan Clavin said that priority for the new scheme would be given to farmers who had a proper business plan.
"Unlike REPS, the Organic Farming Scheme is a market-led scheme that will be looking for value for money," Mr Clavin explained. "The Department will be looking for farmers to enter the scheme who can offer something in terms of the growth of the sector."
However, there has been some criticism that the scheme discriminates against farmers with smaller holdings who will not be able to reach the required minimum stocking rate of 0.5 units/ha.
Horticulture Minister Trevor Sargent confirmed that applicants would be required to submit a business plan and to have undertaken an approved training course, if they had not previously taken part in the organic supplementary measure in REPS.
"These changes in the scheme are designed to ensure that the farmers joining it are those who have most to offer to the growth of the organic sector so that it can meet the increasing demand from consumers for organic produce," he said.
A decision will not be made on the level of funding and on the numbers accepted into the scheme until after the closing date on May 15.