1 April 2008
The Minister for Food and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Trevor Sargent T.D., today urged farmers wanting to join the new Organic Farming Scheme in 2008 to have their applications with the Department by 15 May. 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 apply.”
Minister Sargent 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,” the Minister said, “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 Scheme:
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 as well. 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.