As regards food security, organics is “the way forward”, according to an official in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Jack Nolan, at the RDS Climate-Smart Agriculture webinar on growing organics, referenced the three things farmers are currently most worried about: Feed, fertiliser, and fuel.
“Organic farmers, a lot of them are producing the feed on-farm; they’re using their own fertiliser; fuel you can’t do anything about,” Mr Nolan told the recent event.
“I think organics is the way forward because what we’re doing here is looking at what the land can sustain, what the farm can sustain.
“If you look at the advice being given to farmers today — get your soil fertility right, spread lime, manage your grass better — these are all the principles of organic farming.”
Mr Nolan told the event that the incentives for farmers to go organic are “really important”, but so is investment in education and research.
“We’re making sure that there’s not just the money, but that when you go down the road of organics, there’s support there for you and it’s also to show to farmers, there’s plenty room for conventional farmers in Ireland, this is just another form of agriculture,” he said.
“It hasn’t been seen as a real option for farmers before this because [there’s] so few. It was nearly confirmation back to you if you didn’t go into organic [you] did the right thing because nobody else was going in, whereas now, I think it’s the clever thing to do, and you’d like to see farmers take the opportunity.
“The ball is hopping, take the ball on the hop. Take the chance while you can to come into organic farming and try a different approach.”
Dairy prices at the moment are “very good”, Mr Nolan noted, so “we’re probably not going to see a lot of dairy farmers” coming into the Organic Farming Scheme this year — “but the scheme is open to them”.
“It’s open to everyone, and we want everybody, as long as they’re good farmers — you have to be a good farmer to be an organic farmer.”
Organic farming is also for those who can “deal with the idea that it’s probably more difficult to be an organic farmer at the start” while you “depend on clover”, and trust in “your own ability to manage”.
“My message to farmers would be to inform yourself. Make an informed decision,” Mr Nolan added.
“If you choose after all the information organics is not for you, that’s fine.
“But don’t dismiss it like you would have in the past because it was seen as something else.”