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Irish farmers who convert their land to organic crop production will be eligible for thousands of euros under a new plan recently announced by the Irish government. Known as the Organic Farming Scheme, the initiative is designed to encourage producers to respond to the increasing market demand for organic foods. It is also expected to have significant beneficial outcomes for the environment and for animal welfare.

The measure is co-funded by the EU and the Irish taxpayer, and will allow organic farmers to receive funding without being part of the new Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) launched shortly before.

According to agricultural minister Trevor Sargent, potential beneficiaries of the new scheme include small-scale horticultural producers and large-scale tillage producers interested in converting part of their land to organic cereal production. He also reports that the government is committed to converting a minimum of 5 percent of acreage to organic farmland by 2012.

Organic farmers will now be able to qualify for up to 21,650 euros during the conversion period and 15,680 euros per year with full organic status if they also qualify under the REPS program.