The Organic Farming Action Plan addresses the government’s target of 5% of land area in organic production by 2012.

Mr Sargent issued a statement which also highlighted the benefits of organic farming, including the retention of carbon in the soil which is important in the context of climate change.

“The Programme for government’s 5% target is indeed challenging,” he said.

“I am confident that, with the full support of all stakeholders, implementation of the actions outlined in the plan will greatly assist in achieving the target.”

He acknowledged the progress that has been made to date since the establishment of the national steering group for the organic sector and outlined the financial incentives to go organic.

Payments of over Euro 21,500 per year are available in the two-year conversion period to a farmer with 55 hectares followed by an annual payment of Euro 16,000 when fully organic.

A recent study by the Soil Association showed that two organic products sold through supermarket giant Tesco generated no more and in some cases less greenhouse gases than the same amount grown non-organically.

It claims organic farming avoids the release of large amounts of carbon compared to non-organic.

Reasons for this include that organic farmers always have grass in their crop rotations and use manure or compost.

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