My colleague Minister Doyle established an Organics Strategy Group last year comprising relevant stakeholders and state bodies. Part of the remit of the Strategy Group was to consider the case for a possible re-opening of the Organic Farming Scheme. They recommended that it should be re-opened but on a targeted basis. The sectors targeted were areas for which there is a clear market demand, and which are critical to the further development of the Organic Sector, namely horticulture, cereals and dairy. This recommendation acknowledged that the budget was very limited given the success of the current scheme and the overall spending within the RDP.
Based on this recommendation, my colleague Minister Doyle re-opened the Scheme on a targeted basis in November, 2018.
In order to be eligible for consideration for entry into the Scheme, applicants were required to have an organic licence from 1 January 2019 and also to have the required educational qualification by 1 September 2019.
The terms and conditions of the Scheme state that an applicant must reach a minimum ranking of 25 marks to be deemed eligible for consideration for inclusion in the Scheme. They further state that the number of applications to be accepted into the Scheme will be determined by funding and that the submission of a valid application does not guarantee entry to the Scheme.
The person named did not score high enough to be selected in this tranche. Their score was below the minimum score that was ultimately accepted into the Scheme. Furthermore, it is important to note that the predominant enterprise on the holding in question was not one of the targeted sectors.
I would expect that there will be a new iteration of an Organics scheme under the next CAP and I would encourage all stakeholders to engage with the ongoing CAP consultation process to ensure that they can best inform the shape of any new scheme.