The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Tom Hayes TD, has announced that the new Organic Farming Scheme is to open for applications shortly.<em''Applications for the new scheme must be made online'', the Minister said, ''but there will be no requirement to use an Agricultural Advisor to make the applications. The application process itself will be quite simple, and most farmers should have no difficulty in submitting their applications. However, those who prefer to have their advisor make the application on their behalf will be able to do so,” Minister Hayes confirmed. The new Scheme will offer significantly increased rates of aid to Organic farmers, both in conversion and when fully established. “While the formal approval process for the RDP as a whole has still to be completed, we now have a clear understanding with the European Commission as to the substance of the new scheme and the rates of payment that will be made” the Minister said. “Furthermore, having reached this level of agreement, I hope to be in a position to announce the opening of the new Organic Farming Scheme shortly.” Minister Hayes also said that his Department would be writing to all existing Organic Farming Scheme participants very shortly to update them on the position and to advise them of their options.