The current budget of €56m allocated to fund all Organic Farming Schemes during the period of the current Rural Development Programme is the largest allocation ever to an Organic Farming support scheme.
The area of land under organic production has expanded dramatically as a direct result of my Department's investment. Latest figures indicate that there are now some 72,000 hectares under organic production, an increase of nearly 50% on the position at the start of the Programme in 2014.
Indeed, the target for the RDP was to attract some 16,000 hectares of new land into production and to support 46,000 hectares of converted land. These targets have been more than exceeded
The Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) was re-opened in November 2018 on a targeted basis on foot of the recommendation of the Organic Sector Strategy Group. Following assessment by the Group and based on market demand and supply deficits in organic horticulture, cereals and dairy, the Group recommended the re-opening of the OFS targeting expenditure towards sectors in deficit. Selection criteria which would facilitate such a targeted reopening were agreed by the Group.
The eligibility process required applicants to submit a BPS application (by 15 May 2019) and a certificate of completion of an Approved Training Course. The determination of eligible applications and the ranking and selection process could only commence following the deadline for receipt of the mandatory educational certification which was 1 September, 2019.
A total of 225 applications were received by the closing date for applications. 58 applications were either withdrawn or deemed ineligible. Following the ranking and selection process, one applicant withdrew, 55 were successful and 111 farmers were unsuccessful. One of the successful farmers is from Donegal.
It is important to note that this is a targeted re-opening and that I would fully expect that there will be a new Organics scheme under the next CAP. I would encourage all stakeholders to make their views known on the shape of this future scheme as part of the wider CAP consultation process.