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Minister Sargent welcomes E.U. clearance for measures to boost organic production in Ireland

Mr Trevor Sargent TD, Minister for Food and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture and Food, has welcomed today's vote at the EU's Rural Development Committee approving Ireland's Rural Development Programme 2007-2013. This means that the new Organic Farming Scheme, along with REPS 4, can be finalised and launched in early August.

Under the 2000-2006 Programme, organic farmers received substantial payments through the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), e.g. over €7 million was paid directly to them in 2006. Under REPS 3, it was possible for an organic farmer with 55 hectares to qualify for an annual payment of €18,500 a year during the conversion period and €13,500 a year once he or she had full organic status. The new Programme allows for a 17% increase on these payments amounting to €21,650 and €15,860 respectively.

The majority of producers will continue to participate in both REPS and the Organic Farming Scheme and "we will be encouraging them to do so in order that they continue to avail of the maximum level of payments," Minister Sargent said. There is a small minority of farmers, however, for whom participation in REPS may not suit their particular situation, e.g. some small-scale horticultural producers and a number of large-scale conventional tillage producers. To facilitate these operators, new features have been developed allowing organic farmers to obtain organic support payments without having to be in REPS. "We are targeting these two specific areas as they are very much in deficit production-wise and there is a readymade market for the organic product," Minister Sargent said.

As a further incentive to encourage stockless non-REPS tillage producers to convert to organic farming, there is an additional payment of €240 per hectare available in the in-conversion period, up to a maximum of 40 hectares, provided they grow green cover crops during that period which will greatly reduce the need to apply fertiliser subsequently. This measure will be of particular interest to tillage farmers wishing to convert part of their holdings to organic production and Minister Sargent is very hopeful that this will result in a considerable increase in organic cereal output over the next few years.

24 July 2007

Date Released: 24 July 2007