With less than three weeks left to apply for the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS), which ends on December 9, 650 applications have already been submitted.
Under the €256 million scheme, farmers will receive annual payments per hectare, as well as a share payment to cover additional administrative costs.
Grants of up to €800/ha are available for horticulture in the first few years, up to €350/ha for dairy farmers and up to €300/ha for dry farmers in the first two years.
Important questions were addressed by the two organic certification bodies in recent webinars.
Do all animals have to be bought in organic quality or can there be a mix?
All animals must be organic as soon as you register and purchased organic.
Can I get the TAMS grant while I’m in transition?
Yes, you can receive the TAMS subsidy during the transition.
Who do I contact for soil analysis? I’m finding it difficult to find information anywhere on the internet that gives details like percentage of organic matter.
The Irish Organic Association does not look for your percentage of organic matter (but they may differ from other organisations).
The IOA asked you to take samples for n, p and k and calc. Most feed retailers have the ability to send samples if you ask them to.
YARA in the UK offers organic material sampling. So if you want to know something about your company, you can use this way. There is a company in Cork that does this too and it costs around €75.
How long after registration will my company be controlled by the IOA?
If you register now, your inspection will be carried out in January. You will be notified before the inspection and all inspectors are easy to deal with and just want to help you on your way to organic.
How do I convert my animals to organic, do I have to sell and buy organic?
The animals you currently have on your farm will never go organic. All calves born after April 1st can be sold as organic calves if you register in January.
Can I convert my land before converting my livestock to organic?
Most are converted simultaneously, so convert animals and land at once. However, a summer grazing or finishing farm may be able to perform non-simultaneous conversion—first converting the land and later the animals.
If you do not intend to do a non-concurrent conversion, this must be noted in your conversion plan.
How long after joining can my animals be sold as organic?
Any animal born three months after you join can be sold as organic (after your conversion).
Can I use non-organic oats or barley?
If you are switching at the same time, all inputs must be organic from the day you sign up, so you must use organic oats or barley.
If you are in a non-concurrent transition, you can feed non-organic feed as long as it is non-GMO.
Will there be a financial premium when selling organic products (beef) as they are sold as a premium product at a higher price in the supermarket?
There is a premium price for organic beef, it is on the same level as conventional beef.
However, there is an option when you have organic animals – if you don’t like the price of your organic meat, you can sell it to the conventional sector. The organic industry won’t like that, but you have the option.
Can I use the barley I have already bought to feed my cattle when I make the switch, since it is sold conventionally anyway?
In this case, you would have to enter the animals at a later time. Best practice is to use it before January 1st.
I already bought lamb meal, can this be used in spring?
If it contains GMO ingredients, no.
Will my lambs born in March be classified and sold as organic?
No, they must be conceived after January 1st.
Is there a grant for red clover?
Not through the organic farming program, but there could be a standalone program, as was the case earlier this year.
Can mineral injections like Multimin be used in a bio-system without a veterinary certificate? Or are these considered medicinal injections?
Minerals may be used but must be justified. For example, evidence from soil samples showing your country is low in copper covers you for using copper bolus.
Do I have to buy from an organic herd when changing bulls?
No, a stud dog is one of the few things that doesn’t have to be biological.
If I only declare one plot for organic tillage, do I have to indicate the non-organic part of the farm in the application form?
The application will ask you about non-biological areas and what they are used for. The non-biological range must be noted in your conversion plan.
Is Supersoil a good product to replace fertilizer?
We’ve heard a lot of very positive feedback on it, but it’s relatively new to the market so we’ll need to see it in action for a few more seasons to know for sure.
Can I still bolus my ewes while in the sheep protection program?
Yes, but you need a justification for doing so, and that’s where your pet health plan comes in.
How long to remodel shed if you can’t hit the 6m2 on January 1st?
You have until the next winter quarters season.
What happens if I don’t get organic oats or organic barley?
Organic oats are currently one of the largest crops grown in the country, hence they are found in abundance. There is a classified area on the IOA website where people sell feed and other things at different times of the year. This can be of great help.
If you have any issues with this, just contact the IOA and they will point you in the right direction.
Can the number of wild birds in hectares be used for the organic plan??
It can be used but must buy organic seed and manage it as organic. You will not be paid for this.
Aren’t you allowed to use leased land in an ecological system?
Yes, you can include leased land, but the Department of Agriculture requires you to adhere to the five-year program, so you must have a five-year lease.
Why isn’t ground peat litter allowed – it’s completely organic?
Milled peat is a non-renewable raw material and is not permitted in view of the current environmental situation.
Do you still receive your company payment in an organic system?
Yes, it’s important to manage all of your other systems so they all work well together and get the most out of your operations.
Can I register part of my farm as organic and keep the other part conventional?
Yes, but you have to make sure there is no risk of parallel production, so for example you cannot have an organic cattle farm and you cannot have a non-organic cattle farm. But you can have an organic grain farm and a non-organic beef farm.
Can very small horticultural producers be included in the OFS?
The Ministry admits smaller horticultural businesses into the scheme, but they must prove economically viable if they are less than 1 ha.
Can you neuter animals if you’re organic?
You will need a permit for any mutilation so you will need to contact the Organic Trust office who will give you a form to fill out prior to neutering. Neutering must be done under six months and pain medication must be used. Pain relief must be used for any form of mutilation in an organic system. There are exceptions for the detailing of young lambs less than eight days old.
If you did an biology course years ago, does it still count or do you have to do another one?
If you’ve ever taken a bio course, this still counts.
What are the ways of marketing in an organic system?
Visiting your local farmers market is the easiest first step. There is one in practically every town.
Crate systems are another great option, where you sell a crate of your products directly to a number of customers. The supermarket route is also an option.
There is a lot of pressure for members to join the organic sector. How do I know there will be a market for my products?
We (the Organic Trust) are working with Bord Bia on a market strategy and there is a lot going on behind the scenes to grow organic markets.
It’s not going to be like having a huge influx of people and then doing nothing to build markets.
Does your company have to be of a certain size in order to be included in the OFS?
A minimum of 1 hectare is required for horticulture and 3 hectares for all other farms. Payments will be reduced if 70 hectares are exceeded, but these areas can still be added.
During the transition, I plan to complete the transition of my dams to a pedigree herd. The procurement of organic breed animals with good breeding is currently an issue. Can I buy from non-organic breeders and are pregnant heifers allowed?
Exceptions are allowed – limited to 10 of your adult herd. You can apply for an exemption for pregnant heifers, but they must not be older than 6 months in gestation. You can only buy heifers or pregnant heifers, any that have previously calved are not classified as organic (except for rare breeds).
The restriction to the six-month gestation is intended to enable the calf to maintain full organic status. If a pregnant heifer calves before the 3 month period, the calf cannot be sold on the organic market. If pregnant heifers are purchased during the conversion period, the offspring will be granted organic status once the farm has achieved full symbol status.
The organic regulation states that all animals purchased in non-organic breeding must be nulliparous, with the exception of recognized rare breeds.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/schemes/key-questions-about-joining-the-organic-farming-scheme-answered-42161078.html Important questions about joining the organic farming program answered