Organic conversion payment window open for NI farmers

Northern Irish farmers interested in converting their farm to organic production have one month from today to apply for government funding to help offset the cost of the conversion.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs will pay £144/ha for up to 60ha of grassland conversion and £149/ha for arable conversion.

Areas in excess of 60ha will be eligible for £45/ha.

See also: Business Clinic: Should I convert to organic arable production?

Payments are made for the first two years of the five-year Environmental Farming Scheme, with a lower organic management payment rate for the final three years of the scheme.

A lesser organic management payment rate is then delivered for the final three years of the scheme.

Funding windows in the rest of the UK are currently closed, with the scheme delivered through the Countryside Stewardship scheme in England, Glastir Organic in Wales and the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme in Scotland.

Conversion area increasing

Figures from Defra for the whole of the United Kingdom show there was a 29% increase in area of the land under conversion to 32,600ha in 2017, the most recent year available.

The area of fully converted land fell by more than 15% between 2012 and 2017, before showing a small rise in 2017, the first since 2008.

The Soil Association say the market is worth £2.33bn after a growth in sales of 5.3% in 2018.

Martin Sawyer, Soil Association Certification CEO, said: “We expect post-Brexit policy to drive some major long-term changes, with sustainability and diversification becoming much more important, so this is a really important moment in time to convert to organic.

“We are now in our eighth consecutive year of market growth for organic in the UK, so there are good emerging long-term opportunities for farmers who want to meet that rising demand.”

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