28 May 2022

Longford Leader Farming: Time to think about becoming an organic farmer

Farmers detail roadmap to easier and more enjoyable farming

Many farmers are wondering if organics is an option for them in light of the reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS)

With the recent reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) many farmers are wondering if organics is an option for them.

There is no doubt that it doesn’t suit everyone but there are many farmers that it will suit. There is a big push within the EU and the Department of Agriculture to increase the area of land that is farmed organically. The EU has a target that aims to have 25% of its land area farmed organically by 2030 and the Department of Agriculture target is to increase our organic area from 2% to 7.5% by 2027.

Why Join?

There are many reasons why a farmer might decide to become an organic farmer, for example, deciding to reduce stocking rate, additional farm payments, interested in the whole ethos around organic and so on, and without doubt it is a very sustainable way to produce food which is really important given the challenges around our deteriorating Environment and the way we have produced food in the past.

Will it suit your farm?

If you are a livestock farmer there are a few questions you may need to consider before joining. Is your stocking rate below 2 LU/ha, can your winter housing be modified to include a bedding lying area and can you see yourself operating without fertilisers or sprays. If you feel you can answer yes to these questions, then you should explore the possibility further. Talk to your local advisor, attend local organic farm walks and talk to local organic farmers in your area, all of which are great sources of information.

There are also a couple of other key points to consider when making your decision. Stock do need to have access to a solid bedded lying area at all times over the winter housing period. It takes two years to convert your farm to organic so therefore it is not until you start your third year that you can sell any produce as organic. Animals must be fed with 100% organic feed at all times. Once in organics you must only buy in organic stock with one exception and that being replacement breeding stock up to a limit. Veterinary treatments are allowed as per your herd/flock health plan drawn up by your Vet, and withdrawal periods for veterinary products are extended.

The closing date for applying for OFS is the 8th of April 2022. Before you apply you must submit an organic conversion plan and associated forms to one of the two certification bodies namely Irish Organic Association and Organic Trust so make contact and start this process. Payment rates are described in the table below.

OFS payment rates

A Webinar will be held on Zoom on the 7th March at 8pm on the New Organic Farming Scheme 2022.
In this webinar local Advisor Enda O’Hart and Teagasc Specialist Joe Kelleher will outline the steps you need to take to become an Organic farmer and what incentives are available to you.

You can register to view the webinar here;

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