10 April 2001
Funding pledge for organic scheme

By Isabel Davies

THE government has pledged to put an end to the stop-start funding which has plagued the Organic Farming Scheme and left many farmers disappointed.

An independent evaluation of the scheme will be commissioned shortly to examine evidence of its efficiency and effectiveness, claims a government report.

Responding to criticism by the Agriculture Select Committee, a government reply said it wanted a more orderly flow of funding over the next few years.

It blamed problems on the fact that the scheme had been more popular than expected because of the downturn in the prospects of the agriculture sector.

“Despite the allocation of additional resources, it proved impossible to meet applications from all those seeking conversion aid,” the government admitted.

The select committee had recommended that the government should make ongoing payments to farmers after they had converted to organic production.

But little progress has been made on that issue, according to the governments reply, which was released on Tuesday (10 April).

Ministers are still considering whether to introduce an organic stewardship scheme and any proposals will be drawn up in consultation with stakeholders.

The government said the organic sector had potential to grow, but stressed the need to avoid oversupply because of the pressure this would put on prices.