“If the new CAP round doesn't do anything for organic farming, I'll leave the Organic Farming Scheme. As will many others”
These are the stark words of Galway organic suckler farmer Padraig Finnegan. Finnegan is part of a new group based in the Galway and Roscommon region calling itself the Organic Farmers Representative Body. 150 farmers are represented by this group, they state.
“The IFA nor anyone else are doing anything for organic farmers. The certification bodies go into talks on CAP but don’t promote organic farming, they are getting money for themselves and that’s all. We are trying to get the farmers voice into this.”
Finngean adds: “our subsidy is supposed to be for the extra work and the loss of income involved in farming organic. “The last CAP was all about stocking rate. But the organic man has much lower stocking rate. This meant that Organic Farmers have suffered a disproportionately low Single Farm Payment for the last 13 years. No body was making any case for us”
Regarding payments, the OFRB’s CAP submission to the Department sets out specifics:
• Review and increase scheme payment rates in the light of more realistic organic
production costs and the existing low level of organic production here.
• Pay the increased rates at a higher level in years 1 and 2 as at present with an end
year 2 opt-out clause for those finding it impossible to continue in organics.
• Pay the increased rates in years 3 to 7 for those not opting out at three-quarters of the in-conversion rate rather than half of that rate as at present.
• Pay the full increased rate on each applicant’s first 20 hectares, two thirds that rate on the next 20 hectares and a third of the rate on the last 15 hectares.
“Only 1% are in organics; people join, do 5 years and leave. If the scheme was right they would continue on in it” he stresses. “The future of organic farmers in Ireland will hinge on the outcome of the new CAP deal.”
The OFRB is also concerned about certification costs. “Organic Farmers on smaller hectares are charged a disproportionately high certification fee compared to their larger counterparts. For example, 11.75 hectares full certification symbol costs E400 per annum which roughly amounts to approx 1/3 of the Organic Farming Scheme payments. Compare this to 7% for a farmer on 55 Hectares in full Symbol.”
“There are also extra costs in maintaining livestock over Winter”, he points out. “The cost of maintaining stock over winter months equates to roughly double the cost of conventional –there’s the extra use of straw, extra costs of meal at 50% extra approximately. We also have double and triple the withdrawal periods, which means longer retention periods for cattle and sheep before sales.”
The organisation also has issues with marts and markets. “At present livestock going for slaughter are transported from the furthest point west to a processing plant in the South East of the country, causing animals to endure long periods in transport on trucks. If 1 full load cannot be collected at 1 assembly point the truck moves to various points until the load is filled, travelling through many different counties. We recommend reducing the transportation of live animals and instead use local abattoirs and transport carcasses instead.”
He expands “We as a group have successfully negotiated the sale of organic cattle at conventional marts and this we hope to expand country wide. In our view this is selling our produce locally as opposed to transporting animals’ long distances to be sold in organic marts.”
So what will come of this new development? And what do others in the organic sector think of the emergence of the OFRB, and what they are saying? Interesting times ahead.