The Minister for Food and Horticulture at the Department
of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Trevor Sargent T.D., has
urged farmers wanting to join the new Organic Farming Scheme
in 2008, to have their applications with the Department by
This deadline arises from new EU Regulations governing the
operation of agri-environment schemes - including the Organic
Farming Scheme and REPS 4.
"The Regulations were clarified
in intensive discussions between our officials and their counterparts
in the Commission over the past few weeks" - Minister
Sargent said - "and it is important that farmers who
want to join the Organic Scheme this year are aware of the
comparatively tight time-frame within which they must now
The Minister said that farmers who were coming to the
end of existing REPS contracts later this year - and who intended
to join the Organic Scheme - should get their applications
in by 15 May. "Once
we have the applications by 15 May, we can process them and
farmers will be in a position to receive payment under the
new Scheme during 2008.
The new Commission Regulations also lay down rules for the
way in which farmers will be paid under the Organic Farming
- Payment will be on a calendar year basis. In other words,
a farmer will be paid for the number of months in the year
in which he or she is in the Scheme.
Payment will be in two stages. The first
payment, which will be at the rate of 75%, will be released
when the administrative checks (both for the Scheme itself
and for the Single Payment Scheme) are completed. In practice
this is likely to be early autumn.
The remaining 25% will be released when
the last of the on-farm inspections for the year has taken
place. This is likely to be towards the end of the year
- probably December.
All undertakings will have an anniversary date of 1 January.
Minister Sargent emphasised that the new deadline and payment
rules applied to all farmers joining the Scheme - whether
or not they intended to join REPS 4 also. He said that his
officials would meet the organic certification bodies as
soon as possible to explore the practical implications of
the changes - particularly with a view to synchronising
the start of new organic farmers' conversion periods as
far as possible with their entry into the new Scheme.
Currently, REPS 2 and REPS 3 farmers wanting to convert
to organics and join the new Organic Farming Scheme must
transform to REPS 4. "To
facilitate the development of the organic sector in Ireland
- and to help achieve the Government's 5% target - it would
be preferable if farmers could remain in REPS 2 or REPS
3 and also participate in the Organic Farming Scheme"
- Minister Sargent said. He has asked the
relevant officials in his Department to explore the issue
with the Commission as a matter of urgency.