Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has called on the Minister for Agriculture to clarify the number of additional places that will be available in the organic farm scheme.
The Government announced in November that they planned to have up to 500 places, yet the Departments own figures now suggest it will be limited to 300.
Teachta Carthy said:
“Minister Charlie McConalogue and his Junior Minister, Pipa Hackett, were quick to promise significantly additional spaces on the organic farm scheme last November. They must now follow through and deliver on this.
“Many farmers have already commented that they felt that the Organics scheme has been too biased towards larger holdings, and that many family farmers have been unable to join. All too often with department schemes, farmers are left uncertain as to when or if they will be able to avail of them.
“This not only damages farmers ability to financially plan, but also unnecessarily delays the positive impact these schemes are designed to deliver.
“The Farm to Fork strategy sets a target of 25% of all farmland being organic. Ireland currently lags behind the rest of Europe at around 2%.
“The Minister first needs to commit to deliver the places promised for this year and confirm exactly when applications will open.
“We also need clarity as to how this government intends to close the gap between our current coverage and the ambitious targets within Farm to Fork.
“The Government have stated that the move to organic will be ‘consumer lead’ – smaller farmers cannot be excluded in a rush to subsidise larger producers to make up lost ground.”