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Lack of markets see organic funding targeted away from producing beef and lamb

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The Government has announced the reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme

The Government has announced the reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme

The Government has announced the reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme

Priority access to the newly reopened Organic Farming Scheme will once again be given to those in the dairy, tillage and horticulture sectors at the expense of drystock farmers.

The re-opening, subject to EU Commission approval, is expected to result in an increase of up to 30pc in the number of farmers farming organically in Ireland this year.

Announcing the opening of the Scheme, Minister for State Pippa Hackett she expects 400-500 new farmers to be able to join the scheme.

Farmers entering the scheme could qualify for yearly payments of up to €220 per hectare during the conversion period and up to €170 per hectare when they have achieved full organic status.

According to the Minster, the dairy, horticulture and tillage sectors are being prioritised as they are the sectors for which most market demand exists.

Higher payment rates are also available for organic horticulture and tillage farmers.

Responding to the announcement ICSA said it wants to see cattle and sheep farmers included in the movement towards organic farming, not actively discouraged.

"Our ambition must be to develop an Organics Scheme that would include far greater numbers of cattle and sheep farmers, in tandem with a drive to secure adequate markets for all organic produce," said ICSA Organics chair Fergal Byrne.

“We know that our beef and lamb producers are willing to get on board, but we also need to see a concerted effort from the Department of Agriculture, from Bord Bia and from our meat processors to drive this sector forward in any meaningful way.”

Mr Byrne said he would still encourage ICSA members to apply for the scheme, “As young farmers will also be prioritised for the scheme, young cattle and sheep farmers may have a better chance of being accepted. It may also be an option for some drystock farmers to consider diversifying some of their holding to tillage to increase their chances of being accepted into the scheme.”

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