Minister of State Pippa Hackett already extended the closing date from December 8, to ensure applicants have maximum opportunity for those who are interested in applying.
Senator Hackett previously said: “We anticipate the huge interest among farmers to be reflected in applications to the scheme.”
However, agricultural advisors have been swamped with ACRES applications in recent weeks and it’s understood this has impacted the expected uptake of farmers into the Organic Scheme.
Over 2,000 farmers joined the Organic Farming Scheme in 2023, doubling the number of organic farms in Ireland.
There is now approximately 180,000ha under organic production in Ireland, representing 4pc of total agricultural land.
The Climate Action Plan targets an increase in the area of land under organic production to approximately 445,000ha, or 10pc of land, by 2030.
On extending the deadline for applications, Senator Hackett said that “The series of farm walks, webinars and demonstration events that have taken place across the country this year have generated significant interest from farmers in switching to organic farming.
“I have listened to farmers and their advisors on the need for this extension. I understand the pressure agricultural advisors are under and the need for time for farmers to make a fully informed decision about switching to organic farming.”
Payments under the organic scheme have increased considerably, and drystock farmers entering into a contract could qualify for yearly payments of up to €300/ha during the conversion period and up to €250/ha when they have achieved full organic status.
Higher payment rates are available for organic horticultural and tillage farmers.
In addition, an annual participation payment of €2,000 in the first year of conversion and €1,400/annum thereafter has been introduced to support organic farmers. Organic farmers also have priority access to ACRES.
Meanwhile, a new €1.3m research project, ‘Growing Resilient Organic Farming Systems’, has been given the green light by the Department.
The project, carried out by Teagasc, UCD and the Department, aims to develop a blueprint for sustainable grass-based beef and sheep production systems.
The research will also assess and quantify the economic and environmental impact of organic production for beef and sheep systems.
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