HUNDREDS OF pioneering organic farmers, and all organic dairy farmers, will be disadvantaged as a result of new CAP payments, the Soil Association has said.

It is warning that up to 200 longstanding organic farmers, as well as 600 organic dairy farmers who have converted more recently, will not receive the same level of payments as other farmers and will be denied access to compensation.

Farmers who converted to organic production before 1994 – when organic grant aid first became available – will not be entitled to claim hardship funds.

The Soil Association estimates that this affects up to 200 organic farmers.

The SA has called upon DEFRA, SEERAD and the Welsh Assembly to address this issue by releasing the money needed.

SA director Patrick Holden said: “DEFRA‘s decision is grossly unfair. These farmers pioneered sustainable agriculture and have provided environmental benefits for over 10 years.”

“They never benefited from public money to convert to organic farming, and now they will lose out yet again.”

“Accommodating these farmers would not involve significant sums of public money; it is the principle that is important,” Mr Holden said.

He added that the situation is particularly serious for organic farmers in Wales and Scotland, as there will be no move to a more equitable, area-based payment over time as there will be in England.

As for dairy producers, they will receive a payment based on the amount of milk quota held on 31 March 2005.

But since organic dairy farmers for a number of reasons – the breeds and forage they use, as well as their lower stocking densities – usually produce less milk than non-organic dairy farmers, the SA is concerned about their CAP outcome.

The Soil Association is calling on Defra, SEERAD and the Welsh Assembly to make payments to producers from the National Reserve.

In England, Defra also has the option of paying the full regional average payment from the outset.