25 March 1999
£6m not enough — Soil Association
ORGANIC champion the Soil Association is deeply concerned that MAFF plans to allocate just £6 million for the first year of the new Organic Farming Scheme, due to start next month.
Ministry officials revealed the budget to Soil Association director Patrick Holden this week.
“That is even worse than we feared,” said Mr Holden. “It seems very unlikely it will be enough. The number of enquiries through the MAFF-funded organic conversion helpline is setting new records every month and if that continues the OFS budget will be bust early on.”
Bearing in mind that the proposed UK conversion grants were not high by Continental standards, and that, unlike other EU countries, government would not sanction organic maintenance payments, it would be acutely politically embarrassing for a Labour administration if it could not fund the uptake for the new scheme, he said.
Mr Holden was also concerned that farmers already in Environmentally Sensitive Area schemes before they applied for organic conversion grants would, under the new scheme, have to accept lower organic conversion rates.
He accepted that there were EU rules about “double funding”, but believed more imaginative solutions could have been found.