Following the recommendation of the Organic Strategy Group, my colleague Minister Doyle announced the re-opening of the Organic Farming Scheme on a targeted basis on the 19 November 2018. The Scheme remained opened for applications up to the 19 December and a total of 225 applications were received. The re-opening of the scheme was widely publicised at the time and all groups and their representatives on the Organic Strategy Group also publicised it to their members.
The Organic Farming Scheme, under the current RDP, has more than achieved its targets in terms of new land converted and the maintenance of organic land. The current budget allocation for the Organic Farming Scheme is now fully committed based on the current level of farmers in the scheme and I have no plans to re-open the scheme beyond last year's re-opening.
The Organic Strategy Group, in their deliberations considered the question of the Organic Farming Scheme post-2020. The inclusion of an Organic Farming Scheme in a new Rural Development Programme was considered essential to stimulate and support increased organic food productions. As there will be more scope for adjustments to the scheme under a new Rural Development Programme, consideration was given by the Group to how it might operate more effectively in stimulating organic production in areas where market opportunities are greater.
CAP negotiations, currently in progress, will ultimately guide and shape the Organic Farming Scheme under the new RDP.