photo: Marie Daffe

Organic farming needs significant increase in funding, Committee told

23 June 2021

Organic farming must see a significant increase in funding in order to reach Government-set targets, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action heard yesterday.

Dr Oliver Moore from University College Cork told the Committee that Ireland needs to spend well-over the €1 million figure that is currently allocated on marketing organic food at home and abroad.

A significant increase in funding is needed to “comprehensively develop the organic sector” with a new plan to reap its rewards to the climate, he added.

Under the Government’s current plan, Ireland is targeting to reach at least 7.5 per cent of organic farming in the country by 2030.

According to Dr Moore, the only way to meet that goal is to allocate more funds to the practice and encourage farmers to move away from traditional farming.

Other means to improve Ireland’s production of organic foods would include an organic advocacy group and a regionally-based roll out approach of organic farming, according to Dr. Moore’s testimony.

He also stated that the organic market scheme only had an uptake of 300 farmers in Ireland, which he attributed to the significantly greater financial backing traditional farming receives from the State.

Within the EU, Ireland is trailing behind countries like Austria, Denmark, Germany and France, where there is a €20 billion market for organic produce.

Organic farming and employment  

Organic farming also produced a 10-20 per cent higher employment rate than traditional farming, according to the OECD.

The higher employment rate in organic farming is attributed to the more intensive labour, as it “tends to replace chemicals with hands,” said Dr Moore.

However, youth farming organization Macra na Feirme President John Keane stressed to the Committee that while he held a positive view towards the practice, the intensive physical labour it requires is what “turns off” young farmers from organic farming.

Macra na Feirme also noted that consumers are beginning to drive sustainable practices in farming, as their shopping habits are moving away from traditionally produced food to organic, sustainable and local produce.

Although the price of organic food tends to be higher, the consumption of organic produce has increased in recent years, as people recognise the benefits compared to traditionally produced food.

Organic food is produced without the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, and is often fresher because it does not contain preservatives.

The environmental and ecological benefits of organic farming have also been recognized as per hectare organic farms have a lesser impact on the climate than traditional farming.

Over the long term, organically farmed soils emit 40 per cent less greenhouse gases than non-organically farmed soils.

Organically raised livestock are also not given antibiotics, growth hormones and have access to the outdoors.

Story by Shauna Burdis