10 JULY 2020
ICSA Organics chair Fergal Byrne has called on the Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen to give an assurance that the Organics Scheme will roll over into 2021. “Ireland now has over 1,700 organic farmers and the focus must be on building those numbers. The current Organics Scheme comes to an end for most participants at the end of this year, and ICSA is looking for a commitment that the scheme will continue and be improved upon,” he said.
“The Organics sector needs considerable new investment if it is to expand in any meaningful way. The EU Farm to Fork strategy contains an EU wide target of 25% (in terms of the area farmed) to be set aside for organic farming by 2030. This is an ambitious target and one that makes it clear we need to do so much more when it comes to Organics.”
“ICSA wants to see farmers from all sectors given the opportunity to move to organic farming and for them to be given the necessary support to do so. The last call for applications under the Organics Scheme prioritised the tillage, dairy and horticulture sectors, while cattle and sheep farmers were side-lined. ICSA does not want to see a repeat of this, and all farmers prepared to make the switch to organic farming must be facilitated through a new and improved Organics Scheme.”
ICSA is proposing that increasing the payment per hectare to €250 is warranted for full symbol Organic farmers, with a conversion payment of €300/ha for those transitioning to organics. “This would both encourage farmers to switch their systems and give them the best opportunity to succeed with the scheme.”
ICSA also wants to ensure that actions in any future REPS type scheme do not overlap with actions in the Organics Scheme. “This could result in farmers having to choose between the two schemes and would be detrimental in the long run. Organic farmers must be given equal opportunity to join REPS and get paid for both schemes.”
The protein premium for whole crop beans of €100/acre must also be revisited. “The current payment for protein crops is too limiting and out of step with the current practices of organic farmers. ICSA is proposing that both mixed cropping and combi crops with pea, barley and oat mixes are included under protein payments.”
“All of these efforts must be underpinned by a strategy to further develop markets for organic produce. Consumer studies across Europe suggest that the market opportunity is far greater than the size of the supply. There can be no justification for a country that prides itself on its Origin Green strategy to be such an under performer in the Organics sector.”