Although the encouragement to organic conversion remains relatively pitiful, given the potential economic/employment and environmental returns for the country, not to mention the level of farmer-demand for assistance in conversion, still interesting to see a UK Government minister citing "the environmental benefits which organic farming can provide".
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ORGANIC FARMING: NEW FUNDS COME ON STREAM MAFF press release - 2 November 2000
England's growing organic sector is to receive a boost from the New Year when new funding worth around £20m a year starts to come on stream, Countryside Minister Elliot Morley announced today.
Farmers wishing to convert to organic production will be able to apply for assistance under the Organic Farming Scheme from 2 January, said Mr Morley.
Under the scheme's first round, 1270 farmers were allocated £30m to assist their move to organic production: three times more than in the previous five years put together.
The reopened Scheme forms part of the England Rural Development Programme under which £1.6bn will be available for environmental protection and developing the rural economy over the next seven years.
Mr Morley said: "I am delighted to be able to announce the reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme. The budget for 2001/02 will be £18m, which is an increase of more than 50% on expenditure in 1999/2000.
"We believe firmly in consumer choice and we want to see that consumers are able to buy organic produce if they wish to. We also want to capture the environmental benefits which organic farming can provide. 1270 farmers are already benefiting from aid under the Organic Farming Scheme and we aim to build on that success by bringing much more land into organic production.
"I am very grateful to all those who responded to the consultation document issued as part of the review of the scheme. This work that they have carried out will form a valuable contribution to the mid-term evaluation of the ERDP."
Most of the issues raised in the review will be carried forward as part of the mid-term review of the Programme, due to be completed by 2003. Change to the Scheme at this stage is being limited, so as to allow it to accept new applications as soon as possible.
Subject to Parliamentary approval, the deadline for applying for aid under the OFS after registration with an organic inspection body is being extended from three months to six months. This will facilitate applications to the scheme.
Notes for Editors
1. The Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) opened on 6 April 1999 and closed to new applications at the end of November 1999. It replaced the Organic Aid Scheme which provided lower payments. Under the OFS, farmers enter into 5-year agreements during which they receive conversion aid payments.
2. So far, 1270 farmers have been accepted onto the OFS, with a total area of about 100,000 ha committed to conversion under the scheme.
3. The review of the OFS was announced on 4 October 1999 (see MAFF News Release 339/99).
4. The England Rural Development Programme, of which the OFS is a part, was formally launched by Nick Brown on 3 October (see MAFF News Release 349/00). Funding for the OFS under the Programme is as follows: