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Minister Sargent says it makes sense to go organic

Mr Trevor Sargent T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Food and Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, receiving the fourth annual report of the National Steering Group for the Organic Sector from the Chairman, Mr John Duggan, said that the improved financial supports from his Department which are now in place should act as a further encouragement to attracting new entrants into the sector.

Addressing the Steering Group at its September meeting, Minister Sargent said that he was "encouraged by the progress made since the Group was established" and he complimented the Chairperson and Group members for their "dedication and commitment". The Minister noted the continued success in 2006 of the Demonstration Farm Programme and the expansion of the Programme in 2007. He was particularly pleased with the progress on the Organic Marketing Plan and he looked forward to this year's National Organic Week which will take place from 22nd to 28th October.

The new Organic Farming Scheme should attract more conventional producers to go organic, which is in line with the Government's commitment to increase the land area under organic production. "The new Programme for Government sets a target to convert a minimum 5% of acreage to organic farmland by 2012. I believe this target, while challenging, is achievable, with the full support of all stakeholders," Minister Sargent said. The Steering Group in bringing all the interests together - farmers, processors, retailers, certification bodies, consumers as well as the State - will play a critical role in moving towards this target.

The new Organic Farming Scheme is more flexible than previous schemes as organic farmers do not now have to join the Rural Environment Protection Scheme. This change should encourage small-scale horticultural producers, for example, or large-scale conventional tillage producers who might be interested in converting part of their land to organic cereal production to meet the big demand for organic feed. "The majority of producers will continue to participate in both REPS and the Organic Farming Scheme and we will be encouraging them to do so in order that they can avail of the maximum level of payments," Minister Sargent said.

As well as direct payments to farmers, the Department also offers significant capital grants both to farmers and to processors under the Schemes of Grant Aid for the Development of the Organic Sector. The current Schemes were launched in June this year and they provide grant aid for investments by farmers and processors in equipment and facilities for preparation, grading, packing, storage, distribution and sale of organic products.

23 September 2007


The National Steering Group for the Organic Sector is made up of representatives from the agri-food industry (including the processing and retail sectors), the organic certification bodies, the farming organisations, consumer interests and the State sector (Bord Bia, Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food). The Chairman of the Steering Group is Mr John Duggan, formerly Chairman of Glanbia.

The National Steering Group, which first met in December 2002, was established to act as a driving force for the development of the organic sector, and also to provide a basis for advancing the partnership between the organic sector itself and the other principal essential interests.

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., last year reappointed the Group for a second 3-year term with Mr Duggan continuing as Chairman. The Group's objectives in its second term are:
to increase awareness among consumers of organic food and farming,
to increase the production base in Ireland, and
to seek to develop sustainable export markets as supplies become available.

The National Steering Group has two sub-groups, the Partnership Expert Working Group (PEWG) and the Organic Market Development Group (OMDG), chaired by Teagasc and Bord Bia respectively.

The Fourth Progress Report of the National Steering Group for the Organic Sector can be found on the Department's website at

Date Released: 23 September 2007