Soil Association: UK farmers to be rewarded for going organic

April 12, 2023

UK Farmers who convert to organic will receive up to a third more cash than last year as the government increases support for nature-friendly farming. This is according to a new report by the Soil Association.

Payments for organic farming are rising by an average of 25% for those entering a new scheme with Countryside Stewardship, which opened for mid-tier applications at the end of March.

The Soil Association said the government has boosted all payments for farming that benefits the environment via Countryside Stewardship, but the increase for organic is significantly above the average increase of 10%.

The renewed support follows another rate hike last year when payments for organic rose by between 46 and 500% for those entering a new scheme.

It also follows the 11th year of consecutive growth for the UK organic market, which topped £3.1billion in 2022 after a challenging year for both businesses and shoppers.

Big opportunities for sustainable farming

Some farmers converting to organic will be able to earn twice as much as before from government incentives, in Countryside Stewardship agreements that will run for five years, the Soil Association said.

Options are also available for nature-friendly practices that are in harmony with organic principles, such as avoiding insecticides and protecting soils, via the new Sustainable Farming Incentives (SFI).

Soil Association Organic Sector Advisor Adrian Steele said: “All farmers have faced huge challenges during the last few years with the combined impacts of the pandemic, the Ukraine War, post-Brexit policies, extreme weather, and the cost-of-living crisis. But it is clear there are big opportunities for sustainable farming and organic is receiving renewed government support.

“Times are undoubtedly hard but both governments and citizens across the UK want to see action to protect nature and we know that agroecological and organic farming holds the solution to producing good food while protecting the environment.

“We are pleased to see this renewed commitment to rewarding organic farming. Alongside continued growth in the market, this should give farmers confidence in switching to or maintaining organic practices, despite the short-term uncertainty facing every farm.”

Rise in farm support payments for organic

The Soil Association also said that farmers can apply for organic conversion or maintenance payments via the mid-tier options for Countryside Stewardship, which will be open for applications until 18 August 2023.

Converting permanent improved grassland to organic will receive 25% more than before at £187 per hectare, while converting to organic top fruit receiving a third more at £1,254 per hectare, the charity said.

Other organic conversion payments will receive around 17% more than before, with unimproved permanent grassland now at £89 per hectare, rotational land at £296, and horticulture at £703.

For management of organic farmland, payments are doubling for top fruit at £1,920 per hectare, with other payments rising by between 16 and 44%.

Government funding support is contributing to a strong forecast for organic’s continued success in the UK in 2023, in particular the Scottish Government’s ambition to double the amount of organic land by 2026.

Despite the cost-of-living crisis, drive for sustainability is an ongoing trend for shoppers and retailers are making more sustainable commercial decisions amid pressure from environmental groups including WWF.

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