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Organic Farming

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 13 March 2012

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Ceisteanna (447)

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

501 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the support structure he and Teagasc have for the organic food sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13999/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

My Department recognises the potential that exists in the organic sector as reflected by the various supports provided to organic producers and processors. These are as follows:

The Organic Farming Scheme is an agri-environment measure under the Department's Rural Development Programme 2007-13. Farmers may enter into a contract for a minimum of five years and can qualify for yearly payments of up to €283 per hectare during the conversion period (two years) and up to €142 per hectare when they have achieved full organic status (the final three years). Applications are now being accepted for the 2012 Organic Farming Scheme.

Organic operators may also avail of a Scheme of Grant Aid for the Organic Sector, which is administered by my Department. The aim of the Scheme is to facilitate the development of the organic sector so as to ensure a regular supply of high quality organic produce to the market. Financial assistance will be directed towards projects which will improve the organic sector and provide the producers of the basic product with an opportunity of enhancing income. It will also help to guide production in line with foreseeable market trends or encourage the development of new outlets for agricultural product and also to help to improve production, handling and preparation of organic produce. The Scheme will also facilitate the adoption and application of new technologies and help to ensure the adoption of "best practice" within the organic production/processing sector.

This Scheme will provide financial assistance in respect of approved investments/development projects on agricultural holdings, including equipment and facilities for production, preparation, grading, packing, storage, distribution and/or sale of organic products. Teagasc currently provide a range of support measures for the Irish Organic sector. At present there are two Organic Specialist Advisers and a national network of Teagasc regional organic support advisers. They provide FETAC approved Introduction to Organic Farming courses which is compulsory for all new entrants to the Organic Farming Scheme. Teagasc also co-ordinate the demonstration farm programme, which is run in conjunction with my Department. This programme has proven to be a major success with large number of both existing organic farmers and those considering converting to organic production methods attending the various farm walks around the country. My Department and Teagasc will continue to expand and improve this programme, which is a major instrument in encouraging conventional growers to switch to organic.

The Annual National Organic Technical Conference organised by Teagasc is another valuable support structure for the sector, which will be held on 11th September this year to coincide with National Organic Week.

Finally, Teagasc is also organising an organic beef discussion group participating in the Beef Technology Adoption Programme which will be facilitated by a specialist Teagasc adviser.

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