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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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What to consider before switching to organics

Elaine Leavy, Teagasc Organic Specialist, outlined the steps farmers should take when considering converting to organic farming at a meeting recently.

She addressed attendees at an IFA-organised virtual information meeting on organic farming.

Payment rates and eligibility

The Organic Farming Scheme is an agri-environment measure under the Department’s Rural Development Programme.

Farmers entering the scheme could qualify for yearly payments of up to €220 per hectare during the conversion period. Furthermore, they could receive a payment of €170 per hectare when they have achieved full organic status.

According to the DAFM, organic horticulture and tillage farmers can avail of higher payment rates.

What to consider when converting to organics

These were the key points Leavy outlined at the virtual meeting:

  • Crop systems – Have you a source of on-farm nutrients? Can you incorporate a grass/clover break in the rotation? Could you farm without utilising chemical fertilisers and pesticides?
  • Animal systems: Can you modify your animal housing to incorporate a bedding lying area? Is your stocking rate below two livestock units per ha? Do you use no or relatively low levels of artificial fertiliser?
  • Profitability – She listed land quality, management/skills, access to markets and scheme support and producer attitude as the key components;
  • Investigate – Familiarise yourself with organic standards and regulations and reach out to organic farmers.

A Teagasc fact sheet states that “organic farming can be a profitable system of farming with some of the most profitable farmers in the country farming organically”.

“Maintaining good output levels through the adaption of organic farming production methods, coupled with lower production costs and premium market prices contribute to higher margins.”

Organic Farming Scheme  

The Organic Farming Scheme re-opened to new entrants in the first week of March 2021.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett, said 400-500 new entrants will be able to join the scheme, due to an additional €4 million secured in this year’s budget.

“I am happy to prioritise those sectors for which most market demand exists, namely the dairy, horticulture and tillage sectors.”

She said she also wants to encourage young farmers to convert to organic farming. Therefore, the minister will “be making provision in the selection process to achieve this”.

“I will also ensure that farmers, who were not successful in gaining entry to the previous scheme but who have continued to farm organically, have their commitment acknowledged, through priority access,” she concluded.

Find a fact sheet with further information.

Further reading

That’s Farming previously featured an article on what to consider before converting to organic dairying.

Alternatively, we previously profiled an organic sheep farmer.

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