With the reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme on 1st March 2021 many farmers are wondering is organics an option for them. As the scheme closes on the 30th April 2021 the window of time to make the decision to join and complete all the necessary paperwork is tight.
Is my farm suitable?
The first decision to make is whether or not organic farming is suitable to my farming system. The 3 questions a livestock farmer should ask are, is my current stocking rate below 2Lu/Ha, can your animal housing be modified to incorporate a bedded lying area and lastly do you already use little or no chemical fertilisers. If you can answer yes to these 3 questions then a farmer can further investigate what is involved.
The Organic Rules
To investigate further farmers should make contact with other organic farmers in your area and secondly familiarise yourself with the organic standard (rule book attached to organics). Some of the main rules attached to organics are that usage of regular fertilisers and pesticides is not permitted. Ground limestone and some naturally occurring sources of Phosphorous and Potash are allowed. Prior approval to carry out mutilations like castration and horn disbudding must be sought. Ruminant diets must contain diets containing at least 60% roughage. Routine preventative veterinary treatment of healthy animals is not allowed.
Drawing up a conversion plan
The next step is to choose an Organic Certification Body of which there are 2, Irish Organic Association IOA and Organic Trust. These bodies certify each year that you are farming to the organic standard. Once a Certification body is chosen the farmer needs to prepare an Organic Conversion Plan which is sent to the Certification body and they then issue you with an Organic Licence.
Applying to the Department
The last step involves joining the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS). This must be completed by 30th April 2021. The scheme has a budget of €4m and the Department of Agriculture expect to fund 400 – 500 new entrants. The minimum farm area is 3ha for livestock farmers and each applicant must achieve a minimum of 25 points under ranking and selection. A 25 hour course in Organic farming must also be completed before 1st April 2022. As mentioned earlier, in the event that the scheme is oversubscribed then ranking and selection will come into play. Prioritisation will be given to existing organic farmers who applied for OFS in 2018 but were unsuccessful and continued to farm organically, young farmers, dairy farmers, tillage farmers, farmers that fully convert all their holding, larger farmers and mixed arable and grassland farmers.
A farmer must also submit a 2021 BPS application by 17th May 2021 and tick the box declaring their intention to start farming organically and complete all the relevant organic screens within the BPS application.
The payment rates for the Organic Farming Scheme are €220/ha for in conversion lands (first 2 years) and €170/ha for full organic status (last 3 years) and contracts are for 5 years for new organic farmers and 3 years for existing organic farmers not already participating in the scheme.
For further information on the Organic Scheme 2021 contact your local Teagasc Office
Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers.
They have offices based in Roscommon Town (Tel: 090 6626166), Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160) and Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021), You can find us on Facebook @Teagasc roscommonlongford and twitter @teagascRNLD. Email; RoscommonLongford Advisory@teagasc.ie