DEFRA doubles farmers’ organic cash flow

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ENGLISH FARMERS who convert to organic are receiving up to double previous rates under a new government scheme.

The rate hike for organic conversion is part of Defra’s new Countryside Stewardship package, which is now open for applications.

Conversion of permanent improved grassland and best fruit to organic produce will receive double previous payments at a new rate of £150 per hectare. Conversion to organic rotation land, horticulture and unimproved grassland will receive around 50% more than before, with new rates ranging from £76 to £602 per hectare.

For organic farmland management, payments will increase by approximately 50% for rotational land and unimproved permanent grassland. Payments are increased sixfold for organic management of enclosed wild pastures, with rates doubling for organic horticulture management and tripling for the best fruit.

Along with these rate increases comes an increase in the organic market, with a 23% increase since 2019 revealed in the latest annual organic market report from the Soil Association Certification.

Adrian Steele, Organic Sector Adviser to the Soil Association, said: “The post-Brexit changes to agricultural policy and payments are causing a lot of concern among farmers. But it is clear that there are great opportunities for nature-friendly farming, and organic should receive renewed government support.

“The good deeds of agroecological and organic farmers, which have long been overlooked, will now be rewarded under new environmental land management schemes. The longer-term goals that the government has set for agriculture, with a new emphasis on the protection of soil, wildlife and the environment, are in harmony with the principles of organic farming. Along with the continued growth of the organic market, this should give farmers confidence to switch to or maintain organic practices, despite the short-term uncertainty that every farm faces. »

Savills Associate Director for Food and Agriculture, Tom Cackett, commented: “It’s exciting to see this increase in organic payment rates because it’s a commitment to good food production alongside the environmental focus. There are corners of every farm that never really grow anything that can be given to nature, but we have to be slightly careful if we take large areas out of food production.

“Organic farming can often be a good way to tackle this problem. Instead of marginalizing nature, why not integrate it into the whole farm, and then you can also get those payments for any the area instead of just for the corners.” or edges,” he said.

“If you do good things for the environment, it seems almost certain that there will be funds to support that for the foreseeable future. With the increase in organic management payments, the organic farming sector is one of the only sectors that will not experience such a dramatic drop in subsidy income when payments from the basic payment scheme decline and eventually disappear. .

UK shoppers now spend nearly £60m on organic produce every week, with a particularly strong performance for online and boxed programmes, which together drove 13% growth worth £558m sterling – but the challenge remains for UK farmers and supply chains to step up and meet this growing demand with UK produce, rather than imports. The total area of ​​land cultivated organically remained largely the same, increasing by only 0.8% compared to 2019.

The Soil Association hopes the new farm payments and incentives will help encourage all farmers to adopt more nature-friendly practices, including a greater increase in the number of those converting to organic.

But the organization warned that England’s environmental land management programs would not work in isolation and called for fairer and shorter supply chains that prioritize nutritious foods over cheap and ultra-processed foods. , and which reward farmers fairly.

The SA also expressed some disappointment with the exception to Defra’s organic tariffs – the management of organic improved permanent grassland, which is expected to remain at the same rate in 2022 and then be halved in 2023.

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