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Minister Sargent Relaunches Organic Farming Scheme

Mr Trevor Sargent TD, Minister of Horticulture & Food at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, today announced with immediate effect, farmers can once again apply for support under the Organic Farming Scheme and for grants under both the On-Farm and Off-Farm Schemes for the Development of the Organic Sector. The Minister said that despite the budgetary constraints the funding available remains adequate to ensure that the Programme for Government target to convert a minimum 5% of acreage to organic farmland by 2012 can re realised.

The Organic Farming Scheme is an agri-environment measure under the Department's Rural Development Programme 2007-13. Farmers may enter into a contract for a minimum of five years and could qualify for yearly payments of up to €283 per hectare during the conversion period and up to €142 per hectare when they have achieved full organic status. Following a review of the Scheme during 2009, applicants will now be required to submit a business plan and, if they have not previously taken part in the Organic Supplementary Measure in REPS, to undertake an approved training course. "At a time when funds are limited and we have to ensure value for money," Minister Sargent said, "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." In that context, the Minister said that the closing date for applications will be 15 May 2010 and that decisions would be made at that stage on the level of funding and on the number of applicants that will be accepted into the scheme.

The Grant Schemes, which support investment by both producers and processors, had been a major success since their launch in 2007. They were closed temporarily in mid-2009 because applications on hands at that point were enough to use up the funding provided for the year. There had been a significant increase in interest in the scheme and a substantial increase in the number of applications and the amount of aid paid over the past number of years. The number of successful applications increased from 82 in 2007 to 123 in 2009, an increase of 50%, while expenditure under the schemes went from €594,000 in 2007 to €1.5 million in 2009, an increase of over 150%. The on-farm scheme provides grant aid of 40% of the cost up to a maximum grant of €60,000.  For off-farm investments, the maximum grant is €500,000. 

"I am committed to developing the organic sector as an opportunity for Irish farmers and the Irish agri-food sector in general. I believe these Schemes are important initiatives in this development and I delighted to announce their relaunch," he said. "I know that there are a number of organic farmers and processors who are ready to make significant investments as soon as grants are available and I would encourage them to start applying now."

Copies of the relaunched Organic Farming Scheme and Grant Aid Schemes, together with application forms, will be available from the Organic Unit, Department of Agriculture and Food, which is based at Johnstown Castle in Wexford, within the next few days. They will also be available on the Department's organics page at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/organics

Date Released: 06 January 2010