17 September 1999
Organic conversion funding falls short
By John Burns
THE number of producers wanting to convert to organic farming is overloading the cash-starved Organic Farming Scheme, it has emerged.
Payments for the current financial year ran out in August this year, only four months after the scheme was launched.
The schemes £8.5m budget for next year is already expected to be fully allocated well before Christmas this year.
Gundula Azeez, policy adviser for pro-organic Soil Association, said at least £18m was needed to meet the demand for the scheme.
“Producers are being put off [from going organic] by the lack of funding,” he said.
For producers who have not yet applied to registering bodies for inspection — the first step towards gaining OFS funds — the door may already be closed.
Notts producer Chris Mollart was planning to convert to organic farming at his rented Broadwaters Farm, Ossington, near Newark.
But he was told that any application to it for inspection that arrives after October this year may have missed the chance to join the OFS in 2000.
Mr Mollart said he was told that applications to registering bodies for approval and the certificate needed by MAFF were taking up to 12 weeks to process.
“If inspection has not already been requested, then farmers will not make it before MAFF funding has been used up,” he said.
A MAFF spokesman confirmed that funds seemed likely to run out well before the end of the year.