10 November 2000
‘Unfair deadline for organic aid’

by FWi staff

HUNDREDS of British farmers hoping to convert to organic production could miss out again despite government attempts to boost domestic output.

The Organic Farming Scheme, which ran out of money a year ago, will reopen on January 2 with an 18m cash injection.

The deadline for applying for aid after registering with an organic inspection body will be extended from three months to six months.

But the Soil Association believes that 350 out of 800 farmers who failed to secure funds before they ran dry last November will be disappointed again.

It claims that farmers who registered with an organic body a long time ago will fall foul of the six-month rule even though it has been extended.

Phil Stocker, the Soil Associations senior agricultural development officer, told Farmers Weekly: “This is cynical and unfair treatment.”

He added: “By applying last year it now turns out that farmers effectively signed themselves out of any future scheme operating under the same rules.”

The 18m scheme includes about 13m for new entrants – only enough for about 90,000ha (222,300 acres) or about 1150 producers.

That means there is only enough cash for 700 new applicants once the scheme has catered for the backlog of 450 eligible producers who applied last year.