Organic farming is a niche agricultural sector in Ireland with only 2% of farming land currently being used for food production but it is also a sector with tremendous potential for growth, as identified in the Food Vision 2030 strategy document.
The strategy document recognised opportunities created by growing consumer demand for high quality fruit and vegetables and whole foods and said that this demand should be met by increasing the supply of domestic organic horticultural products. The current Programme for Government has recognised the importance of this sector and has set a target of expanding the sector to utilising 7.5% of available agricultural land in 2027.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, announced on the 3rd of November that the Organic Farming Scheme was open to new applicants and would remain open until the 15th of December. This deadline is now fast approaching.
At the opening of the Scheme this year, Minister Hackett said: “I am delighted to formally reopen the new Organic Farming Scheme to new applicants. This Government has a strong vision for organic farming, and the reopening of the scheme is the latest development in what has been a transformational number of years since this Government took office. We anticipate the huge interest among farmers to be reflected in applications to the scheme.”
Minister Hackett has been proven correct in this expectation with strong interest being shown from farmers across the country and this has fuelled her ambition for the sector. The Minister went on to say: “The current level of interest in organic farming in Ireland is unprecedented. In the last year alone, the number of organic farms has doubled and there has been significant investment made in market development. We are determined to deliver on the Climate Action Plan target to reach 10% of land farmed organically by 2030, and key to this is the enhanced budget support for organics of €256 million in our CAP Strategic Plan.”
There is still time for organic farmers to apply for the Organic Farming Scheme this year if they so wish. There is a wealth of resources available to interested farmers with both the Irish Organic Association and the Organic Trust offering valuable assistance for applicants. There has never been a better time to become an Irish organic farmer.