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Time to think about becoming an organic farmer?

The recent reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) has many farmers wondering if organics if an option for them. There is no doubt that it doesn’t suit everyone but there are many farmers that it will suit. Drystock Advisor Enda O'Hart gives a few pointers to help you assess the option

There is a big push within the EU and the Department of Agriculture to increase the area of land that is farmed organically. The EU has a target that aims to have 25% of its land area farmed organically by 2030 and the Department of Agriculture target is to increase our organic area from 2% to 7.5% by 2027.

Why Join?

There are many reasons why a farmer might decide to become an organic farmer, for example:

  • deciding to reduce stocking rate
  • additional farm payments
  • interested in the whole ethos around organic 

Without doubt it is a very sustainable way to produce food which is really important given the challenges around our deteriorating Environment and the way we have produced food in the past.

Will it suit your farm?

If you are a livestock farmer there are a few questions you may need to consider before joining

  • is your stocking rate below 2 LU/ha
  • can your winter housing be modified to include a bedding lying area
  • can you see yourself operating without fertilisers or sprays.

If you feel you can answer yes to these questions, then you should explore the possibility further. Talk to your local advisor, attend local organic farm walks and talk to local organic farmers in your area, all of which are great sources of information.

There are also a couple of other key points to consider when making your decision. Stock do need to have access to a solid bedded lying area at all times over the winter housing period. It takes two years to convert your farm to organic so therefore it is not until you start your third year that you can sell any produce as organic. Animals must be fed with 100% organic feed at all times. Once in organics you must only buy in organic stock with one exception and that being replacement breeding stock up to a limit. Veterinary treatments are allowed as per your herd/flock health plan drawn up by your Vet, and withdrawal periods for veterinary products are extended.

Closing date for OFS

The closing date for applying for OFS is the 8th of April 2022. Before you apply you must submit an organic conversion plan and associated forms to one of the two certification bodies namely Irish Organic Association and Organic Trust so make contact and start this process. Payment rates are described in the table below.

Organic Farming Scheme Payment Rates

 Farmed area of >3ha up to 70haFarmed area >70ha
In conversion €220/ha €60/ha
Full organic status €170/ha €30/ha

Interested in attending an organic event? - get the details here

Find out more about organic farming here