The Soil Association in Scotland has welcomed increases in Organic Aid Scheme payments announced by rural affairs minister Ross Finnie.

Ongoing maintenance payments for arable land will double from £30/ha (£12/acre) to £60/ha (£24/acre) and the maintenance payment for improved grassland will rise from £14/ha (£5.acre) to £60/ha (£24/acre).

Payments for the conversion of land to organic production will also rise. The total payment over five years for converting arable land will increase from £595/ha to £620/ha (£250/acre), and the payment for improved grassland will rise from £370/ha to £420/ha (£170/acre).

The payments have been agreed by the agri-environment rates review group after lengthy negotiations. New Rural Stewardship Scheme payments have also been agreed.

Carey Coombs, Soil Association Scotland’s policy manager, said: “A lot of hard work was done to achieve favourable payment rates, both for those considering conversion to organic farming and for those who are already farming in this way.

“The new rates show increased support for organic farming and recognise the important part it plays in creating sustainable food systems for Scotland, boosting the rural economy and delivering fresh local produce to Scotland’s local communities.”