Wicklow farmers are invited to apply for the expanded organic farming scheme.
he Department of Agriculture has confirmed that the scheme is open to new applications, as part of a government commitment to increase the area of organically farmed land in Ireland.
An additional 5 million euros have been allocated to the scheme’s budget to welcome new entrants.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Pippa Hackett, said: ‘I have made some changes to the scheme this year, both lowering the required stocking rate and also expanding the area paid at the highest rate.
These changes mean that the area for which farmers will receive a higher payment has increased from 60 ha to 70 ha in recognition of the greater area cultivated by full-time farmers.
In addition, extensively farmed farmers will now be able to receive full payment under the organic farming scheme if they meet the minimum animal husbandry levels that apply under the Area of Constraints scheme. .
Farmers entering the organic farming scheme could benefit from annual payments of up to €220 per hectare during the conversion period and up to €170 per hectare when they have achieved full organic status.
“I hope the changes will inspire many more farmers to think about farming in a way that can lead to both higher prices and a more sustainable way of farming.
“At a time when input costs are high for farmers, this is an opportunity to diversify and I would really encourage farmers to consider this approach to farming,” said Minister Hackett.
The Department of Agriculture said it hoped the extra funding would encourage more farmers to apply. If the program is oversubscribed, a screening process will be used to determine successful applicants.
Minister Hackett said: “The program and funding are closely aligned with the goals of the National Organic Strategy 2025 and will help us achieve them.
“In the event of oversubscription to the scheme, I will prioritize areas where market demand exists the most, but I also want to encourage young farmers to convert to organic farming, so the selection process also includes to achieve it.”
Applications can be submitted at agfood.ie.
The deadline for submitting applications is April 8.