30 July 1997
MAFF signals bigger incentive for organic farming conversion
COUNTRYSIDE minister Elliot Morley yesterday hinted that farmers converting to organic production would be likely to receive bigger payments.
The government is reviewing the rates of aid and structure of payments. He said MAFF might look at a boost for organic farming as part of its comprehensive spending review.
The minister was speaking during a visit to Eastbrook Farm, near Swindon, Wiltshire, an organic meat venture. His comments follow the Commons agriculture select committee recommendation in March that rates should be raised to help farmers compete with conventional farming subsidies.
Farmers currently receive £250 a hectare over five years to convert their land.
Mr Morley admitted that output fell after conversion as farmers stopped using fertilisers and natural soil fertility took time to build up. He said the demand existed for organics and the UK had the expertise and skills to grow more organic food. About 75% is imported.
The National Farmers Union welcomed the
review. Deputy president Tony Pexton said the government had previously been out of step with the rest of the European Union on the issue.