31 August 2001

Campaign calls for organic cash

By Isabel Davies

MINISTERS are being urged to slash subsidy payments for larger intensive farms and use the money to fund organic food production instead.

The Organic Food and Farming Targets Campaign wants production subsidies for big conventional farms cut by 20%. It has called on the government to use the money to boost the Organic Farming Scheme which pays farmers to convert their land to organic production.

Campaigners hope their Organic Action Plan will address "the governments failure to develop policies to meet the enormous increase in demand for organic produce". They want 30% of land in England and Wales farmed organically by 2010 by which time they hope 20% of all marketed food will be organic.

Campaign co-ordinator Catherine Fookes said: "We would want the government to do a thorough analysis so it does not take money from the farmers who need it most. Some of the larger farmers get such huge subsidies. Why not redirect some of that money away to smaller organic farms?"

The action plan suggests that the governments failure to come up with an organic strategy has prevented UK farmers from exploiting new market opportunities "At present there is insufficient training capacity, farmer courses and access to technical information to enable the sector to grow to 30%," it says.

The attitude of the agricultural establishment may be one of the biggest challenges for the development of UK organic farming, says the document, which proposes that schools, hospitals and local authorities should introduce an organic buying policy. Brussels would allow this in contrast to a "buy British" policy, it claims.

But the Country Land and Business Association said there should be no discrimination against large farmers. Redirecting money away from production related support towards rural development must be at a pace the industry could accommodate, said a CLA spokesman. &#42