Scottish fund to support organic conversion opens

Scottish farmers who want to convert to organic can apply to the Scottish government for support under a new scheme.

Farmers have until March 31 to apply for the five-year agreements which will start in 2018 and are guaranteed for the full five years.

The payments are front-loaded for the first two years to support conversion, with reduced support available for a further three years.

See also: Why the organic farming market could be back on track

There will be two opportunities to apply for the funding – the current window and again in 2018.

Any land is eligible but areas of rock, scree, water, dense bracken and similar non-productive areas should be excluded from applications.

The maximum eligible area for each application is 1,000ha

See also: Video – Scotland launches ambitious organic food plan to build farming resilience

Scottish government figures show spending on organic food and drink reached £57.8m last year, a rise of 11.7% on the previous year.

The Soil Association’s policy director Peter Melchett welcomed the payments saying: “The demand for organic food is growing strongly in the UK, and is currently outstripping home-grown supply.

“Export markets for British organic produce present a further opportunity for British farmers to prosper, if the right government policies are in place.”

Soil Association Scotland is one of the bodies able to certify organic farmers for the scheme, and is welcoming applications with a new support package for farmers interested in converting.

The association has released guidance for farmers interested in applying, but will discuss individual applications.

See also: UK land farmed organically reaches seven-year low

Earlier this month organic leaders welcomed the announcement by Defra minister George Eustice the government would continue to support the sector post Brexit as it provided welcome stability.

In a meeting with the English Organic Forum, Eustice told senior industry representatives he did not want to undo any existing organic regulations or standards which had so far encouraged UK organics to grow.

Scheme facts

  • Funding is only currently available in Scotland. Windows will open in other parts of the UK later in the year
  • Funding is only available in Scotland. Windows will open in other parts of the UK later in the year
  • Payments are front-loaded in the first two years to support conversion
  • Farmers must apply with a viable unit for support up to a maximum of 1,000ha
  • Farmers should consider their market carefully as although currently growing, agreements will tie farmers into the organic market for at least two years
  • The association urges applicants to analyse their system holistically, considering crop rotation and animal health planning.

Scotland’s organic conversion support rates

 

Years one to two

Years three to five

Arable

280

65

Improved grassland

140

55

Unimproved grassland/rough grazing

12.50

8.50

Fruit and vegetable

400

200

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