Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (964)

James Browne


964. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if new entrants will be accepted to the national organic farming scheme; the position regarding grants for social farming; the position regarding grants for agri-forestry schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37940/20]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I have successfully negotiated an increased budget for 2021 with an additional €4 million to facilitate the re-opening of the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) next year. This Scheme cannot open until the transitional regulations, proposed by the European Commission, have been finalised. My Department is, however, currently preparing for the re-opening of the Scheme.

The number of entrants who will be permitted into the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) in 2021 will depend on the cost of applications received but the additional funding should, at average current level of participation, facilitate the entry of 400-500 new farmers. The overall budget will also allow participants whose contracts expire on 31st December 2020, subject to Commission approval, to roll-over their participation in the Scheme for next year if they wish.

Social Farming is funded under the Department’s Rural Innovation & Development Fund. Leitrim Development Company were awarded a contract in 2020 following a competitive procurement process to continue the development of the national Social Farming Network with associated funding of €400,000.

In addition, the following social farming contracts were extended in 2020 with associated funding of €359,853:

- Leitrim Integrated Development Company for a ‘Social Farming Best Practice Model’

- South Kerry Development Partnership for the ‘Kerry Social Farming Project’

- Down Syndrome Ireland Cork Branch for the ‘Fields of Dreams’ project.

Agroforestry gives land owners the flexibility to graze and even cut silage and hay while growing trees for timber in the same field. This system is ideally suited to farmers who are interested in forestry but who also want to avoid taking their land out of agricultural production. Under the current forestry programme a grant of €6,220 / ha is available to cover the cost of establishment; in additional five annual premiums of €660 are also available.