Thursday, 28 November 2019
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Organic Farming Scheme Data
184. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the budget allocated to the new organic farming scheme which opened on 19 November 2018; the amount of same to be allocated to successful applicants to the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49475/19]
185. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the terms of the organic farming scheme which opened on 19 November 2019 (details supplied); if he will consider compensating the unsuccessful applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49476/19]
186. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of suckler farmers who were successful in applying to the organic farming scheme which opened on 19 November 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49477/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 to 186, inclusive, together.
The Organic Farming Scheme is one of the most successful schemes under our current Rural Development Programme. A budget of €56m was allocated to fund the Scheme opened during the period 2014 to 2020 which includes the successful applicants under the November 2018 opening.
My colleague Minister Doyle established an Organics Strategy Group last year comprising relevant stakeholders and state bodies. Part of the remit of the Strategy Group was to consider the case for a possible re-opening of the Organic Farming Scheme. They recommended that it should be re-opened but on a targeted basis. The sectors targeted were areas for which there is a clear market demand, and which are critical to the further development of the Organic Sector, namely horticulture, cereals and dairy. This recommendation acknowledged that the budget was very limited given the success of the current scheme and the overall spending within the RDP.
The Scheme was opened for applications up to the 19 December 2018 and a total of 225 applications were received. A total of 58 applications were either withdrawn or were deemed ineligible. Following the ranking and selection process, one applicant withdrew, 55 were successful and 111 farmers received letters informing them that they had been unsuccessful. All unsuccessful applicants were given a right of appeal to the Organic Unit of my Department. It should be noted that, in 95% of the unsuccessful applications, the predominant enterprises were not from the targeted sectors identified when the Scheme was launched.
The breakdown by sector of the successful applicants is set out in the table.
Under current RDP rules, the latest date that the Organic Farming Scheme could commence under this RDP was 1 January 2019. The targeted Scheme re-opened on the 19 November 2018 and closed for applications on 19 December 2018. The terms and conditions of the Scheme state that the number of applications to be accepted into the Scheme will be determined by funding. Applicants would therefore have been aware that, as with many schemes, the submission of a valid application did not guarantee entry to the Scheme and any expense they undertook before entry to the Scheme was at their own risk.
As part of the eligibility process applicants were required to submit a BPS application, which had a closing date of 15 May 2019, and also had to submit their Organic training certificate by 1 September 2019. The determination of eligible applications and the ranking and selection process could only commence following the deadline for receipt of educational certification.
It is important to note that this was a targeted re-opening and that I fully expect that there will be a new Organics Scheme under the next CAP. I would encourage all stakeholders to make their views known on the shape of this future scheme as part of the wider CAP consultation process.