Scots organic conversion payments open for applications

Prospective organic farmers in Scotland have been warned not to miss out on vital payments as the application window for conversion schemes is about to open.

The Scottish Organic Producers Association (Sopa) said in previous years, applications have opened in January and closed again by March/April.

There is no date set for 2018 but the Scottish government has confirmed funding for organic farming will be available under the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS), Sopa said.

With the window likely to open in a month’s time it means this is a crucial period for anyone looking to take advantage of the funding options for organic maintenance and conversion.

Sopa policy manager Debs Roberts said it was important to discuss conversion planning and decide on the best start date for conversion before going ahead.

See also: Mega-mergers and agrochem giants – good or bad?

“Start dates will depend on individual holding and livestock set-ups to work out the optimal time period in which to be able to start selling organic produce.

“There are specific rules on crops, beef, dairy and sheep, so we recommend getting in touch with Sopa for advice before you officially start,” Ms Roberts said.

“There are pitfalls in filling out the forms and we have seen applications rejected on basic errors in supplying information so it best to take advice,” she added.

When applicants are successful, payments for the five-year scheme are attractive as the Scottish government is keen to boost organic production from 3% of the farmed area.

Conversion takes two years so payments are weighted heavily towards the first 24 months of the scheme.

Conversion payments £/ha    

  Year one Year two Year three Year four Year five
Field-scale fruit and veg 400 400 200 200 200
Arable 280 280 65 65 65
Improved grass 140 140 55 55 55
Rough grazing 12.50 12.50 8.50 8.50 8.50

The market for organic produce is growing at about 7% a year so once the farm is converted, price premiums are also enticing, Ms Roberts said.

For organic milk, producers can expect to receive an extra 20p/litre while wheat made about £300/t at harvest.

Beef is selling at £4.70-£5/kg and the organic lamb premium is between 10p-20p/kg according to spec, Ms Roberts said.