There were a total of 380 applicants to the organic farming program this year.
This is an increase of almost 20% in the number of applications for the program compared to 2021, said Minister of State at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Pippa Hackett.
In total, this means that just under 700 new farmers have joined the program in the past 12 months.
In 2021, a further 12,000 hectares were grown organically in Ireland and this number is expected to increase by a further 17,000 hectares this year due to the recent opportunity to apply for the scheme.
These 29,000 new hectares represent a 35% increase in areas cultivated organically over the past two years.
Ms Hackett praised the commitment of farmers to the scheme this year and confirmed that it will be open for applications again in October.
“It builds heavily on the 2021 reopening and hopefully that will give more farmers the confidence to convert to organic farming,” Ms Hackett said.
“We are committed to working with them to ensure they get the maximum benefit from the program.”
Ms Hackett said she encourages all interested farmers to take part in a farm walk at an organic farm this summer with a view to joining the program in the fall.
“The guidance and knowledge is there for every farmer and I encourage all farmers to fully assess the opportunities here and join the growing number of farmers going organic,” Ms Hackett added.
The deadline to apply for the organic farming program was Friday, April 22, with the window to do so having been extended by two weeks.
The program is accompanied by an additional budget of 5 million euros to welcome new entrants.
Changes to the scheme this year included reducing the required loading rate and expanding the area paid at the top rate.
The area on which farmers will receive a higher payment has been increased from 60 hectares to 70 hectares in recognition of the greater area cultivated by full-time farmers.
Intensively farmed farmers will now be able to receive full payment from the organic farming scheme provided they meet the minimum animal husbandry levels that apply under the natural constraints scheme.
Farmers entering the scheme could benefit from annual payments of up to €220 per hectare during the conversion period and up to €170 per hectare when they have reached full organic status.
Higher payment rates are available for organic horticulture and tillage farmers.