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Steps to Organic Conversion

The Organic Certification Bodies (OCBs) provide an inspection and certification service for all Organic Production Units in Ireland. They have been designated and are regulated by the Organic Unit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, and are responsible for upholding the Organic standards as defined by the EU.

The OCB sends an information pack on request. The pack is tailored to the producers’ needs and will generally contain information on the application and conversion process, an application form and a guide to the Organic Standards. Once the application and conversion plan are received and assessed, an initial inspection will be arranged so that if successful, an in-conversion licence can be granted.

The OCBs carry out annual inspections of every organic enterprise.

Further information can be sourced from these certification bodies.

IOFGA (Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association), 16A Inish Carraig, Golden Island, Athlone.
Tel: 090 6433680 Email: info@iofga.org Web: www.iofga.org

Organic Trust, 2 Vernon Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin3.
Tel: 01 8530271 Email: organic@iol.ie Web: www.organictrust.ie

Institute of Marketecology (IMO), 4 Lough Owel Village, Tullaghan, Mullingar, Co Westmeath.
Tel: 087 2517291 Email: angelika.brady@imo-control.org Web: www.imo.ch

Global Trust Certificate Ltd. (Aquaculture only), 3rd Floor, Block 3, Quayside Business Park, Mill Street, Dundalk, Co. Louth
Tel: 042 9320912 Email: info@gtcert.com Web: www.gtcert.com

BDA Certification - Organic and Demeter, The Painswick Inn Project
Gloucester, Glouscetershire, GLS 1QG, United Kingdom
Tel: 00 44 1453 766296 Email: certification@biodynamic.org.uk

A major factor distinguishing organic farming from other approaches to sustainable farming is the existence of internationally acknowledged standards and certification procedures. These standards have been developed to provide organic producers with consistent, clear rules as to how organic food should be produced. A two-year conversion period is required before a farm is given organic status.

Some of the main requirements are listed below:

Fertilisers and chemicals

  1. Soluble mineral fertilisers are prohibited, but some such as lime and phosphate are permitted.
  2. Clover and other legumes supply nitrogen. The balance between fertility building crops, such as grass, clover lea and exploitative crops such as cereals and potatoes is critical in a tillage rotation.
  3. Most manufactured agro-chemicals (e.g. herbicides) are prohibited.

Animal welfare

  1. The highest standards of animal welfare are obligatory. Bedding, good ventilation and generous floor space are required for housed animals
  2. Ruminant stock must be fed a diet which is at least 60% roughage. Tillage crops should be considered as a cost effective alternative to buying in concentrates and bedding.
  3. Routine preventative treatment of healthy animals is not allowed, with a focus on prevention rather than cure.

Please see the complete Organic Food and Agriculture Standards for Ireland, as well as recent Amendments, listed below.

When the initial inspection has been carried out, the application approved and the “in-conversion licence” granted, a period of conversion begins. Normally two years, this period of conversion allows time for the land and producer to adjust to the organic methods.

During the conversion period, the enterprise must adhere to all the Organic Standards concerning animal welfare, artificial fertilisers, pesticides and chemicals. The changes proposed in the conversion plan must be implemented during this period.

After the required conversion period expires, the inspection body may issue organic status to the farmer (unless conversion period is being extended), which allows the farmer to sell his/her produce as organic.

There may be a financial cost associated with conversion. These costs vary widely according to individual circumstances but would be influenced by some of the following factors:

  • output reduction due to changes in production practices,
  • capital investments in land, machinery, livestock housing etc.,
  • certification and inspection costs,
  • inability to command premium prices during the conversion phase.

The proposed Organic Farming Scheme 2015 addresses this potential financial cost by allowing for higher payments during the conversion period.