Organic support moves welcomed by OF&G

Date Published: 27/11/2014

DEFRA’s decision to pay organic farmers lower conversion rates but increase maintenance rates is the right move for the UK organic industry, according to licensing body Organic Farmers & Growers.

OF&G chief executive, Roger Kerr
OF&G chief executive, Roger Kerr

The government released details of the rates organic farmers would be paid under its Countryside Stewardship scheme – its replacement for Environmental Stewardship under the new CAP regime – on Tuesday (25 November).

The scheme, which will be open for applications from July 2015 and will start making payments in January 2016, will see conversion rates more than halved in some instances, but maintenance rates increased to counter the cut (see table).

The announcement came after successful lobbying by OF&G and other organic organisations including the Soil Association and the Organic Research Centre. Defra and Natural England’s initial proposals had been to introduce high conversion and lower maintenance payments – a move OF&G believed would have unbalanced the sector.

“We were concerned that such a plan would lead to more people than otherwise coming into organic on an unrealistic promise,” said Roger Kerr, OF&G chief executive.

“If becoming organic did not go according to plan, they would have found themselves forced to leave at the earliest opportunity, again unbalancing our sector.”

Mr Kerr said OF&G was pleased Defra had managed to achieve a reasonable level of payments for organic farmers, especially given the budget cuts the country faced.

“People choose organics for a number of reasons and one of the most popular is the proven environmental benefits that organic farming offers,” he added.

“It has been clear for some years now that across the European Union the organic sector is moving forward and continuing to grow throughout the recession.

“Now that we in the UK are also seeing growth again it is so important that our Government also supports British organic farmers.

“Our sector has a high profile and a strong message that is helping UK economics and addresses so many environmental concerns and provides increasing numbers of people with great, British food.”

DEFRA’s new organic payment rates under Countryside Stewardship:

Payment table graphic