Mixed response to extra organic subsidies move
By Johann Tasker
FARMERS have given a mixed reaction to news that the government is considering paying extra subsidies to organic farmers.
Stewardship payments to organic producers after they convert from conventional farming methods could be the long-term future of aid to the organic sector, junior farm minister Elliot Morley told MPs on Nov 8.
The Soil Association said such a scheme would reward producers who use environmentally sustainable methods. Gundula Meziani, the associations policy manager, said: "The prevention of environmental problems through organic farming should be far cheaper for the government than continually trying to cure the problems caused by intensive farming.
But the NFU said it was more important to increase the money available to farmers who want to convert to organic farming rather than giving higher subsidies to farmers who are already organic.
Andrew Clark, NFU chief rural development adviser, said: "If the government is talking about payments just for being organic then thats a dramatic change which some in the organic movement would be quite happy about. But others think its not the way to go because organic farming has to stand on its own two feet."
Charles Peers, chairman of Organic Farmers and Growers, welcomed the idea of giving more payments to organic producers. But he added: "They havent talked to us about how they propose to do it and all too often they overload the conditions that have to be met and it makes life exceedingly difficult. It would have to be managed so we know where we are and where we are going."
Britain is the only EU country which does not support its organic farmers with stewardship payments after they convert. *