Speaking at the launch of the Organic Farming Action Plan
2008-2012, Mr Trevor Sargent TD, Minister for Food and Horticulture
at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said
that he was committed to achieving the very necessary development
of the organic sector in Ireland.
The Minister said - "the target
of 5% of land area in organic production by 2012 set down
in the Programme for Government is, indeed, a challenging
target - but one that I believe is achievable."
Minister Sargent continued - "the
Action Plan was an important development in working towards
achievement of the Government's target."
The Action Plan has four main objectives -
- increase production in line with market trends
- increase the knowledge base
- develop the organic market at home and abroad - and
- encourage the development of public procurement opportunities
for organic products.
There are over 60 actions identified in the Plan.
The Minister acknowledged the progress made to-date since
the establishment of the National Steering Group for the Organic
Sector. Since 2005, there has been an increase of over 17%
in the area under organic production. The financial incentives
to go organic are attractive. The Organic Farming Scheme provides
a payment of over €21,500 per year in the two-year conversion
period to a farmer with 55 hectares who is also in REPS -
the annual payment for this farmer when fully organic is almost
The Minister said - "It would be helpful if farmers
already in REPS could take up the new Organic Farming Scheme
without having to switch to REPS 4. This problem has been
raised with the Commission and I - and my officials - are
doing everything we can to progress the matter.
"The National Steering Group will
have a crucial role in guiding and overseeing progress on
the Action Plan" - Minister Sargent said.
"I intend to bring together key industry leaders, opinion
makers and agricultural academics, with some of Ireland's
top organic farmers and growers to better appreciate what
organic farming is and to dispel any misconceptions that may
Continuing, Minister Sargent highlighted some clear
benefits of organic farming - it produces more food for each
unit of energy input, it facilitates a greater presence of
soil microbes and root fungi which ensure better tolerance
of very wet and dry soil conditions, while also increasing
the retention of carbon in the soil - which is important in
the context of climate change - and the practice of organic
farming increases the availability of essential plant nutrients.
"The Programme for Government's
5% target is indeed challenging. I am confident that, with
the full support of all stakeholders, implementation of the
actions outlined in the Plan will greatly assist in achieving
the target" - Minister Sargent concluded.