Big rises in aid on way for conversion to organic farming
By Jonathan Riley
FARM minister, Nick Brown, has announced big rises in aid for farmers converting to organic production and paved the way for larger farms to convert with the removal of the 300ha (740-acre) ceiling on payments.
The extra aid was part of the governments spending review (News, July 31) and followed guidelines for rises set out in the organic aid scheme review published in April.
It recommended increases in total payments over a five-year conversion period, for land eligible under the arable aid payment scheme, from £250/ha (£101/acre) to £450/ha (£182/acre). For most improved land in the uplands, payments will rise from £50/ha (£20/acre) to a total of £350/ha (£141/acre) over five-years.
But Mr Brown chose to ignore the organic aid scheme reviews recommendation that the 300ha (741 acres) aid ceiling should remain. Instead, he announced its removal, making organic conversion more viable for larger farms.
Patrick Holden, director of organic promotion body The Soil Association, said the revised scheme was welcome and would encourage more farmers to switch to organic production.
"These enhanced payments are excellent news for organic farming and we are delighted that the 300ha limit has been removed," said Mr Holden.
But he added that there was a need for an ongoing support scheme beyond the conversion period. Only then would UK farmers be able to compete with organic producers from other EU member states on an equal footing.
The NFU has hailed the extra cash as good news for farmers. Union president, Ben Gill, said: "Numerous opportunities exist for farmers and growers to supply organic produce both at home and overseas." *