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Organic conversion branded a ‘no brainer’ as new support scheme opens

CONVERSION: The Agri-Environment Climate Scheme has opened for applications.

New support for converting farmland to organic production is predicted to attract huge interest from farmers as the latest Scottish Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) opens for applications.

The Scottish Government aims to encourage the doubling of organic land in Scotland by 2026, and according to organic body, Soil Association Scotland (SAS), starting the conversion process with funding is a “no brainer”.

AECS payments are available to support farmers through the two-year conversion period when the farm must be farmed organically but products can’t be sold as organic.

Improving degraded soils is high on the agricultural agenda.

SAS head of policy, David McKay said: “With growing concern for climate change and the catastrophic declines in wildlife and habitats, there has never been a better time for farmers and crofters to think about going organic.

“Governments across Scotland, the UK and Europe have big environmental targets to meet in the next decade, and we know that shoppers are increasingly looking for reassurance that their products have been made with care for the natural world.”

Organic production is relevant in every farming sector.

Lanarkshire producers Hugh and Andrew Stewart, who farm dairy and beef cattle across 700 acres and have been certified organic since 2020, said getting support from an earlier agri-environment scheme made a big difference to the conversion process.

They said: “Over time we have been able to get more money for our products, but for that initial transition period the financial help was really important, because our costs did go up a bit and initially we couldn’t sell our products as organic. It gave us the confidence to make the change – we wouldn’t have liked to have gone through conversion without it.

“It’s good that the government is incentivising farmers to make these changes through financial schemes rather than just leaving them to cope alone.”

It is no surprise, then, that farm consultants are gearing up to process applications for the AECS scheme, which will be open until April 29.

Mary Munro

Strutt & Parker’s head of farming in Scotland, Mary Munro, said: “Consultants are expecting a huge amount of interest from farmers this year.

She addded: “This will be a full round of the scheme with all the options for environmental and habitat management available, which is very welcome after the past two years where only limited funding was offered.”

 

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