Thursday, 21 November 2019

Ceisteanna (172)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

172. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the average time by weeks and months it took to process new applicants when the organic farming scheme was reopened for a brief period in November 2018 for 30 days; and the number of applicants that were informed whether they were eligible to join the scheme or not in each month after November 2018, in tabular form. [48286/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Organic Farming Scheme is one of our most successful schemes under our current Rural Development Programme. The Scheme has more than achieved its targets in terms of new land converted and the maintenance of organic land. 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.

As a further vote of confidence in the organics sector by this Government, my colleague Minister Doyle established an Organic Sector 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 areas 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.

The targeted Organic Farming Scheme re-opened on the 19 November 2018 and closed for applications on 19 December 2018. As part of the eligibility process applicants were required to submit a BPS application, which had a closing date of 15 May 2019, and also had to submit their Organic training certificate by 1 September 2019. The determination of eligible applications and the ranking and selection process could only commence following the deadline for receipt of educational certification.

The timing of informing the applicants and their numbers is set out in the following table.

Type

Number

Time

Successful

55

9 weeks

Unsuccessful

111

9 weeks & 2 days

The Deputy should be aware that the predominant farming enterprises in 95% of the unsuccessful applications were not from the targeted sectors.

I 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.