03 August 1999
Fund loss threatens organic farms
YESTERDAYS admission by the government that it has run out of money for farmers who want to start farming organically is reported in The Guardian.
The Soil Association has said that the announcement, made by junior agriculture minister Elliot Morley, could severely damage the development of organic farming.
Helen Browning, who chairs the association, said that the lack of money would “put the brakes on thousands of British farmers” who want to go organic.
“The government has lost a crucial opportunity to revitalise the beleaguered farming industry in this country in a sector where the potential is obvious to everyone.”
The governments £6m fund to help farmers to convert to organic methods has run out just months after it was set up in April.
The amount of organically-farmed land in the UK increased fivefold last year to 275,000 hectares (679,515 acres) or 1.5% of farmland.
More than 500 farmers competed this year for a share of the £6m state help which the government has pledged will be increased to £8.5m next year.
Farmers are applying to go organic at the rate of 100 a month but public demand is out-stripping production and 70% of organic food is still imported.