Dispute over dramatic increase in funding for organic farmers as part of CAP reform

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A dispute has arisen over the government’s decision to significantly increase funding for the organic farming program (OFS) as part of the CAP reform. A total of € 256 million is proposed for the OFS program from 2023, compared to € 56 million under the current rural development program. While it aimed to increase Ireland’s plant cover in organic farming from 1.6 pc (74,000 ha) to the European average of 7.5 pc by 2030, several agricultural leaders have criticized this decision. ICSA President Dermot Kelleher said the allocation suggests the government is “completely out of touch with reality.” “It makes no sense to allocate 256 million euros to the organic farming scheme, a little less than the 260 million euros for sucklers and significantly more than the 100 million euros allocated to the sheep diet. “It is not that we are against more ambition for the organic sector. But you would have to be on another planet to think that this is balanced when there are currently only 1,800 participants in the biological program. “The 63,600 breastfeeding farmers look in amazement… they are receiving less than the current combined allocation from BDGP and BEEP. “Sheep breeders are outraged to be offered less than € 2 extra per ewe. Worse yet, there is no sign of a plan to support the beef feed industry. The country’s 1,800 organic farmers could receive up to € 28,444 / year; while suckler and sheep farmers can receive respectively € 817 / year and € 571 / year, according to the ICSA. The association called on Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue to transfer 13% of the funding from pillar 1 for the coupled breastfeeding and sheep payments; and reserve up to € 60 million from Pillar 2 for beef finishers. However, IFA Biological Project Team Chair Nigel Renaghan praised the funding saying “organic is the new RCSR.” “REPS got farmers to think more about soil pH and fertility than excessive amounts of chemical fertilizer, now organic farming takes it a step further. “There are organic farmers seeded to two units of livestock per hectare, which is just below the nitrate limits – so the argument about expensive animal production doesn’t hold up anymore you are in organic farming. “Look at Denmark where organic dairy farmers are as productive as conventional farmers in Ireland, producing 8,000 liters per cow stored in 1.8 units of livestock. “Organic farmers see the benefits of red clover and multi-species plants; as well as the benefits of improved animal health. “It is extremely important to talk to other organic farmers, it is essential to join an organic knowledge transfer group. However, it is understood that IFA President Tim Cullinan and North Tipperary President Imelda Walsh have called for the new OFS funding to be redirected to conventional farmers at a protest in Thurles. Mart where the minister was visiting. At least 100 farmers from IFA, ICSA and Macra na Feirme were there to protest against the current plans of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). IFA President Tim Cullinan was scathing in his assessment of current plans which he said would cost the average 100-acre farmer at least € 5,000 / year. Regarding suckler cows, he said there was only enough funds there for a small payment for around 350,000 suckler cows when there were 800,000 cows in the country. “His (minister’s) hands are not tied by Brussels, they are tied by the Green Party,” Cullinan told the Farming Independent.

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