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Organics - Frequently Asked Questions

Is organic farming profitable? Organic farming can be a profitable system of farming with some of the most profitable farmers in the country farming organically. Maintaining high output levels, coupled with lower production costs and premium market prices contribute to higher margins. In many cases the organic farming scheme payments are an added bonus.

What stocking rate is allowed? There is stocking rate limit of 170 kg N/ha. Organic farming is being practised successfully in Ireland at stocking rates up to this level.

What schemes and grant aids are available?

The new Organic Farming Scheme is now open, with improved payment rates in comparison to the old scheme. Consult DAFM for further details, including full terms and conditions.

Grant schemes with 40% payment rates for new equipment, housing, processing facilities etc. will also be made available.

The payments for the new OFS are as follows:

 In Conversion
(Year 1 & 2)
Maintenance Rate
(Years 3, 4 & 5+)
Livestock: 3-60Ha €220/Ha €170/Ha
Livestock: Over 60Ha €60/Ha €30/Ha
Tillage: Up to 20Ha* €260/Ha €170/Ha
Tillage: >20ha-60ha €220/Ha €170/Ha
Tillage: >60ha €60/Ha €30/Ha
Horticulture: 1-6Ha** €300/Ha €200/Ha
Horticulture: >6ha-60ha €220/Ha €170/Ha
Horticulture: Over 6Ha €60/Ha €30/Ha

* The higher tillage rates will apply to the first 20ha only and thereafter the standard rates apply up to 60ha and a reduced rate in excess of 60ha.
** The higher horticultural rates will apply to the first 6ha only and thereafter the standard rates apply up to 60ha and a reduced rate in excess of 60ha.
An additional €30/ha is available for red clover up to a maximum of 10ha per annum.

What fertiliser if any can I use? Good clover swards, crop rotation and targeted use of FYM and slurry mean that coping without artificial fertiliser can effectively be managed. Certain natural mineral sources of fertilisers are also permitted.

How much does organic ration cost? Organic ration is more expensive than conventional ration. Prices for organic ration for ruminants generally costs around €500/tonne. Maximising use of grass, using home grown grain, purchasing grain from other organic producers and having the correct breed and system can reduce feed costs significantly. This is a potential market for cereal farmers with straight grain currently trading at €350 to €400/tonne approx.

Are there rules regarding the housing of animals? More space is generally required over conventional standards. In organic farming, animals must have access to a bedded/lying area. A 100% slatted area is not permitted. Housing may need to be modified on some farms if considering this system, please consult your adviser for further details.

Can I dose or treat animals under organic rules? Animal health is an extremely important part of organic principles. An animal health plan is prepared by your veterinary surgeon and submitted as part of the conversion plan. In essence animals are treated if a treatment is required but under more formal arrangements.

What are the main changes I would have to make to grow cereals and crops organically? Compared to grassland farming, There is a relatively large difference between conventional and organic cereal and horticulture production. Artificial fertilisers, fungicides, pesticides and insecticides which conventional farmers generally depend on, are not permitted under organic standards. Organic farmers cope with this by using grass/clover breaks for fertility building, weeds and disease control. Cereals crops are selected for their ability to outcompete weeds and disease resistant varieties are favoured. Mechanical weeding techniques work well in organics.

How do I know if I am prepared to become an organic farmer? A good farmer will always be a good farmer irrespective of the enterprise carried out. The skills required will be picked up easily from your adviser, attending a training course, attending farm walks and talking to other organic farmers. It would also be well worth while attending an organic course. See www.teagasc.ie/organics/training.asp for more details.

What market price premiums are available for my produce? The organic markets are growing from strength to strength worldwide and especially in mainland Europe. There are shortages in the market especially in beef, grain, milk, fruit and veg. There is considerable scope in particular for import substitution of fruit and veg. The price premium available over non-organic produce can be up to 100%.