There has been unprecedented interest among farmers in the Organic Farming Scheme which opened two weeks ago. Gillian Westbrook, CEO of the Irish Organic Association stated that “we anticipate a surge in applications based on the number of farmers who attended our Organic Workshops and webinars over the past few weeks. Prior to this large crowds of farmers attended all the organic events that took place nationally indicating the level of interest out there. The Irish Organic Association has been inundated with questions from farmers about what they need to do to convert their farms and join the Organic Farming Scheme. In response we have compiled an extensive list of some of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) on our website, hopefully this resource will be useful to farmers currently considering their options and it really makes for essential reading if you are planning on joining the Organic Farming Scheme,” said Westbrook.
Key questions addressed include;
Do I have to convert my entire farm?
Partial conversion is allowed, however, the organic area needs to be physically, financially and operationally separated from any non-organic land on the same holding. A partial organic conversion may be an option for some farmers who have different enterprises e.g., livestock and tillage or wish to convert separate enterprises on a phased basis.
Can I convert my existing livestock?
No, these animals will never become organic however following the appropriate conversion period they can produce organic stock and/or produce e.g., organic calves, lambs or organic milk. Current stock are generally retained for breeding.
Do I have to use 100% organic feed?
Yes. For all ruminants, a minimum of 60% of the DMI must either be fresh green food or un- milled forage grown to Organic Standards and produced from the holding or linked holdings. Genetically modified feed or ingredients are not allowed in any format either in feed or minerals.
Can leased land be used?
Lease agreements must be in place for the duration of your Organic Farming Scheme contract. An agreement of at least 5 years is therefore required to apply. A copy of the lease should be enclosed with your application. If the land is rented, please enclose a letter confirming annual first refusal from the landlord.
Do I have to use an organic bull?
A bull from a non-organic farm can be bought by an organic farmer, and then managed according to the Organic Standards. Artificial insemination is permitted in organic production, sexed semen is permitted also however heat synchronisation is restricted. Non- organic male breeding animals may be purchased for breeding.
To read the full list of FAQ’s please see https://www.irishorganicassociation.ie/certification/organic-farming-scheme-and-grant-aid-scheme/