8 October 1999

No more porkies! Shadow farm minister Tim Yeo at the Tory Party conference in Blackpool launched a campaign for the honest labelling of British pigmeat. Mr Yeo told delegates: "Food labelled British may have been grown abroad and merely processed here. The next Conservative government will introduce honesty in food labelling." Earlier in the week, Tory leader William Hague told a Countryside Forum Rally it was time food labelled British was grown in Britain. "No more Dutch or Danish bacon masquerading under a British label," he said.

Dismay among organic men as funds run dry

By Isabel Davies

THE organic sector has expressed its utter dismay at the announcement that there will be no more money for farmers who want to convert to organic production in England until April 2001.

Junior farm minister Elliot Morley said this week that the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) will close until a review of the sector has been completed. Any producers who made their applications after Oct 4 will have them returned.

The popularity of the OFS has meant the government has allocated two years worth of funding in just six months.

In a Press statement, Mr Morley said new applications to the scheme would not be accepted until a review of support to the organic sector had been completed.

"There will be more money available, but before we decide how it should be allocated, it makes sense to take stock..

"The sector is evolving rapidly and we need to be sure that the money we have available is being put to best possible use," he said.

The review, which is expected to take several months to complete, will focus on whether the growth in organic sales will continue and to what extent.

The OFS, launched by farm minister Nick Brown in April this year, has been heavily criticised by organic campaigners because of the lack of funds.

Payments for the current financial year (1999/2000) ran out in August, only four months after the schemes launch. Although the government announced then that there would be £8.5m available for next year (2000/01), this money has now run out.

The news comes as a blow to producers wanting to convert as they now face at least an 18-month wait before they can join the scheme.

The Soil Association described the announcement as a disastrous blow. Running out of funds after only six months showed the government had a serious lack of judgement.

Soil Association agriculture development director Simon Brenman said: "Our figures clearly demonstrate that the government has miscalculated demand by at least four-fold and this failure will inevitably curtail the development of UK organic agriculture for the foreseeable future."

At the same time, it would give other European countries the opportunity to increase imports, he warned.