The Organic Farming Scheme and the Organic Grant Scheme both reopened on January 1st 2010. These schemes are operated by the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food.
The Organic Farming Scheme is an agri-environment measure under the Department’s Rural Development Programme 2007-13. Farmers may enter into a contract for a minimum of five years and could qualify for yearly payments of up to €283 per hectare during the conversion period and up to €142 per hectare when they have achieved full organic status. Following a review of the Scheme during 2009, applicants will now be required to submit a business plan and, if they have not previously taken part in the Organic Supplementary Measure in REPS, to undertake an approved training course. “At a time when funds are limited and we have to ensure value for money,” Minister Sargent said, “these changes in the Scheme are designed to ensure that the farmers joining it are those who have most to offer to the growth of the organic sector so that it can meet the increasing demand from consumers for organic produce.” In that context, the Minister said that the closing date for applications will be 15 May 2010 and that decisions would be made at that stage on the level of funding and on the number of applicants that will be accepted into the scheme.
The Grant Schemes, which support investment by both producers and processors, had been a major success since their launch in 2007. They were closed temporarily in mid-2009 because applications on hands at that point were enough to use up the funding provided for the year. There had been a significant increase in interest in the scheme and a substantial increase in the number of applications and the amount of aid paid over the past number of years. The number of successful applications increased from 82 in 2007 to 123 in 2009, an increase of 50%, while expenditure under the schemes went from €594,000 in 2007 to €1.5 million in 2009, an increase of over 150%. The on-farm scheme provides grant aid of 40% of the cost up to a maximum grant of €60,000. For off-farm investments, the maximum grant is €500,000.
For further information about either the Organic Farming Scheme or the Grant Scheme please contact the Organic Unit at the Department of Agriculture in Johnstown Castle at 053-9163400. To download an application form you can go to the Department of Agriculture’s website at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/organics