Ireland’s new Green Low-Carbon Agri-environment Scheme (GLAS) payment must include organic farming as a core element and, in particular, organic farmers who go that extra mile should qualify for the new GLAS plus payment.

This is according to the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA).

Organic farmers who put in huge efforts should be awarded additional payments, stressed Gillian Westwood of the IOFGA, who was speaking following the publication of the new Rural Development Plan (RDP) this week.

“In the current scheme organic farming is virtually excluded as we are not allowed a per hectare payment along with our organic payment.

“In our discussions over the past months with the Department of Agriculture, we had been very open and vocal that the current environmental scheme was unfair to organic farmers and we are looking for a better component.”

The IOFGA is also calling for an organic plus payment for farmers who go that extra distance.

“This should be recognised. Organic farming should get better rewards for environmental performance. The signs are good with this new RDP as Ireland is in the transition of moving into a more green-based farming.”

In the RDP consultation document, published by the Government this week, an organic farming top-up under GLAS is being examined.

The report noted the low level of organic production in Ireland and recognised the importance of organic farming.

It stated: “In 2010, across Europe 5.7 per cent of the total utilised agricultural area (UAA) was devoted to organic crop area. In Ireland the corresponding figure was 1.1 per cent. The Food Harvest 2020 programme recognises that while the organic sector in Ireland is relatively small in relation to agriculture as whole, the sector does represent an opportunity for growth and endorsed the target of five per cent of UAA.”

The document also outlined, if permissible, the Department of Agriculture plans to incorporate organics under the umbrella of GLAS as a priority environmental action.

“Organic farmers applicants would be eligible to apply for, and gain priority access to, Tier 1 or Tier 2 GLAS options to top-up their organic payment,” the document stated.

A decision on this possible component is expected in the coming months. “The devil will be in the detail,” Westwood of the IOFGA concluded.