A new project designed to provide comprehensive information on the economics of organic production systems in Northern Ireland has been announced. The initiative is part of an aid package for the organic sector announced in November by Agriculture Minister, Brid Rodgers.

Information on the physical and financial inputs and returns for farm businesses will be collected over a period of three years. The figures will then be used to build an economic model that will be beneficial for farm planning and management decision making. In addition the information will provide the basis for sector benchmarking, a process whereby individuals can compare their own performance against others in the industry.

In order to collect the required information, DARD will provide financial assistance to organic farmers to purchase computer equipment and recording software. Those interested in taking part in the project must be registered as organic producers or have applied for organic certification. In addition, applicants will have to satisfy a set of criteria to ensure there is a representative sample of ‘converted’ and ‘in conversion’ farms that provide the range of enterprises, farm size and geographical location typical of the Northern Ireland organic sector.

Full details of the project have been sent to registered organic farmers and growers who must complete their application form and return it by Monday 5th March 2001. If you have not received an application form or would like further information, contact Steven Millar (Tel: 028 9442 6789) or one of the Organic Development Advisers at Greenmount College. (Charlotte Moore; Tel: 028 9442 6752, David Alexander; Tel: 028 9442 6614, Adrian Saunders; Tel: 028 9442 6765)

Greenmount College is an integral part of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Agri – Food Development Service