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The path to an organic farm

Organic farmers are an important part of the solution to the challenges facing our society today for future generations. This is because regional, natural food makes a decisive contribution to protecting the environment.

Converting a farm to organic farming follows a tight schedule and requires financial resources. Working time requirements and possible work peaks must be realistically assessed in advance of the conversion, as must all marketing opportunities.

The agricultural European Innovation Partnership EIP-AGRI highlights in its brochure “Organic farming: Innovative approaches to support conversion” examples as to how a successful conversion to organic farming can be achieved. It showcases platforms and projects working towards a stronger organic value chain.

The 5-point checklist: this is how it works!

A basic prerequisite is that the farm interested in conversion* is economically sound, because the profit situation may initially deteriorate and these losses are to be partly compensated by a higher subsidy (organic premium) during the conversion period. In the case of a planned conversion, another five points should be considered as early as possible in the decision-making process:

1. The farm manager must already work in accordance with the provisions of the EU Organic Regulation during the conversion period, but the products produced can only be marketed conventionally for a certain period of time:

  • cultivated areas of arable crops must be cultivated according to organic standards for at least 2 years from the first sowing;
  • in the case of grassland and perennial forage crops, a period of at least 2 years also applies;
  • in the case of permanent crops (fruit growing, viticulture) the conversion period is increased to 3 years after the last conventional harvest;
  • in the case of livestock farming, the period of 2 years also applies from the start of conversion;
  • animals purchased during or after the conversion period are subject to fixed conversion periods depending on the type of animal and the breeding purpose.

A reduction of the conversion periods may be requested under certain circumstances, but does not have to be granted.

2. The renunciation of synthetic chemical fertilisers and plant protection products often results in a reduction in yields.

3. Labour time requirements may increase or decrease, depending on production and compared to conventional farming:

  • organic cereal production reduces the volume of labour,
  • organic vegetable production is much more labour intensive.

4. Investments are often unavoidable for compliance with the EU Organic Regulation: for example, for new buildings and conversions in animal husbandry, changed storage capacities or the construction of processing structures.

5. The choice of the appropriate marketing channel depends on the product as well as on the overall operational conditions:

  • direct marketing to the end customer via farm shop, market stall and delivery service achieves good prices with high customer loyalty, but is very time-consuming;
  • sales to wholesalers tend to allow larger marketing quantities using time-saving techniques (high degree of specialisation);
  • continuous cooperation with retailers and/or regional processors can provide financial security;
  • gastronomy and large-scale catering/canteens are often interested in local organic food in the long term;
  • producer groups are an alternative partner for successful sales of products such as cereals, vegetables, fruit, milk, meat or wine.

*Do you want to get competent advice in the run-up to the conversion of your farm? The “Institut fir biologësch Landwirtschaft an Agrarkultur Luxemburg” (IBLA) sent out a “Newsletter Spezial Beratung” in December 2020 (available in German).

Funding programmes

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU has as a declared objective the dissemination of organic agriculture and the organic cultivation of wine, fruit and vegetables. Around 26.3% of the money for the funding programmes was made available to the Grand Duchy by the EU budget through the “European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development” (EAFRD) in 2014 to 2020. The Luxembourg State contributed 73.6% of funds through the “Fonds d’orientation économique et sociale pour l’agriculture” (FOESA).

With the application for funding*, farmers and winegrowers submit a dossier in which they show that they meet the requirements for managing their holdings as organic farms. In this way they achieve a higher score for the classification of their projects and receive more funding. Once their application has been approved, they annually confirm that they have fulfilled the corresponding obligations. The deadlines for the first funding application as well as for the confirmations are always 30 September before the beginning of the first crop year of participation or the previous year, respectively. If the Ministry grants approval, the five-year commitment period begins on 1 November of the crop year for which the application was submitted and ends after five years on 31 October.

Regular inspections of the farms guarantee transparency and compliance with the organic quality requirements.

*A detailed compilation of the current funding programmes can be found here.

Eligibility requirements

Full-time and part-time farmers must fulfil three conditions* on their farms in order to be eligible for subsidies:

  • for the utilised agricultural area in Luxembourg, a minimum area of
    3 ha: for agricultural land
    0.5 ha: for tree nurseries
    0.25 ha: for open field vegetable areas
    0.1 ha: for areas used for vineyards
    0.3 ha: for fruit-growing areas
  • the entire area of the holding must comply with the enhanced conditionality obligations
  • the farms are managed organically for at least 5 consecutive years.

Amount of the premiums

All areas used for agriculture in Luxembourg are eligible for the premium, including vineyards, orchards, field and greenhouse vegetables:

Premium euros/hectare

Grassland 300 euros/ha per year (+100 euros during 3 conversion years)
Farmland 300 euros/ha per year (+150 euros during 3 conversion years)
Potato cultivation 500 euros/ha per year (+200 euros during 3 conversion years)
Open field vegetable production, wine and fruit growing – not bearing 1.150 euros/ha per year (+850 euros during 3 conversion years)
Greenhouse vegetable production, wine and fruit growing – bearing 1.500 euros/ha per year (+1.000 euros during 3 conversion years)

*Detailed and continuously updated information on further regulations and obligations can be found on the Agriculture Portal of the Luxembourg Ministry of Agriculture.