Tuesday, 18 June 2019
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Organic Farming Scheme
512. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if notice was given to farmers prior to the 19 November 2018 launch of the organic farming scheme; if so, the date of the notice; if there will be an opportunity to apply for the scheme in 2019; his plans to expand the scheme in view of its positive impact on the environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25012/19]
Following the recommendation of the Organic Strategy Group, my colleague Minister Doyle announced the re-opening of the Organic Farming Scheme on a targeted basis on the 19 November 2018. The Scheme remained opened for applications up to the 19 December and a total of 225 applications were received. The re-opening of the scheme was widely publicised at the time and all groups and their representatives on the Organic Strategy Group also publicised it to their members.
The Organic Farming Scheme, under the current RDP, has more than achieved its targets in terms of new land converted and the maintenance of organic land. The current budget allocation for the Organic Farming Scheme is now fully committed based on the current level of farmers in the scheme and I have no plans to re-open the scheme beyond last year's re-opening.
The Organic Strategy Group, in their deliberations considered the question of the Organic Farming Scheme post-2020. The inclusion of an Organic Farming Scheme in a new Rural Development Programme was considered essential to stimulate and support increased organic food productions. As there will be more scope for adjustments to the scheme under a new Rural Development Programme, consideration was given by the Group to how it might operate more effectively in stimulating organic production in areas where market opportunities are greater.
CAP negotiations, currently in progress, will ultimately guide and shape the Organic Farming Scheme under the new RDP.
513. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the assessment he carried out in 2018 prior to his announcement to immediately reopen the organic farming scheme; if he will provide a report on the work of the organic sector strategy group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25013/19]
The new Organic Farming Scheme under the current Rural Development Programme has proved extremely successful, attracting more new applicants than any scheme previously, and encouraging a significant number of Irish farmers to convert to organic farming systems.
The Organic Sector Strategy Group, which Minister Doyle established in March 2018, was tasked with developing a strategy for the development of the Organic Sector for the period up to 2025 and with assessing the justification for a targeted reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme, looking to best economic and environmental outcomes, in accordance with the Group’s terms of reference.
A public consultation process provided an opportunity for all interested parties to contribute to the development of the new strategic plan. This public consultation process combined with an Organic Processing Survey ensured that stakeholders had their views considered in building on the progress made and providing clear direction for further development of the Organic Sector for the next seven years.
According to 2017 Bord Bia research, categories with the greatest growth potential in the domestic market are fruit and vegetables, and dairy. Notwithstanding the fact that a large proportion of the total organic tillage crop is dedicated to oats, there is insufficient supply to meet demand. Furthermore, the insufficient supply of organic cereals and proteins is inhibiting the growth of the organic dairy, meat, and aquaculture sectors. This deficit in supply also necessitates importation which increases costs of production and therefore impacts competitiveness. The overriding challenge is to ensure that the development of production of organic food products is in line with market requirements and consumer demand. This will be the key to long term sustainable growth of the Irish Organic Food Sector.
Based on this assessment, the Group considered that there was sufficient market demand to justify the reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme on a targeted basis focussing on areas that are in deficit and where market demand is growing. In addition, the reopening of the Scheme was perceived as one of the most important steps in the future direction and development of the Sector. The Group unanimously agreed that the areas to be targeted should be organic horticulture, cereals and dairy.
The Organic Farming Scheme was re-opened on 19 November, 2018 on a targeted basis. The closing date for submission of completed on-line applications was 19 December 2018.
The report of the Organic Sector Strategy Group 2019 - 2025 was published in January 2019. A copy of the report is available on my department's website with updates regarding progress made on a quarterly basis from the Organic Strategy Implementation Group.