That was the message given out by the organic certification body Scottish Organic Producers’ Association (SOPA) – which pointed out that the crippling cost of fertilizers meant now could be the perfect time to convert to organic.
Speaking yesterday, SOPA manager and organic farmer, Debs Roberts, said artificial nitrogen had no role to play in organic farming and claimed that organic farming worked in a natural way to protect soils and biodiversity with fewer artificial inputs.
She said that as a further incentive, the Scottish Government had also made a manifesto promise to support the growth of organic farming in Scotland – adding that it had backed this intention up with funding designed to support organic conversion and maintenance in the Agri-Environment Climate (AECS) Scheme.
“The future of farm policy is very bright for organic farms, and with broad headline interest in soils and biodiversity, there is much opportunity for the natural capital benefits brought about by organic farm management,” said Roberts.
She stated that SOPA held the only UK approved organic standards which were specifically developed for Scottish farmers.
“This means that our organic standards suit the culture of Scottish farming, and respect our unique climate, geography and biodiversity.”
And she added that SOPA’s Defra-approved certification process ensured its standards were fully compliant with organic regulations in the rest of the UK, Europe and the rest of the world – with the organic standards covering all farm produce such as cereal crops, fodder crops, livestock, vegetables and wool. While the current round of AECS funding applications was due to close in ten days on 29 April, Roberts said that SOPA offered free telephone advice to guide anyone thinking about converting to organic production through the process.
“We can help you while you are thinking about conversion, preparing for conversion and undergoing conversion.”
She said that the co-operative certification body would be able to talk interested individuals through the steps to apply for funding – adding that SOPA could even act application agents for businesses wishing to make the change.
Stating that the body could help with technical advice on the conversion process, reminders of important dates and steps which producers needed to take, Roberts said that the SOPA team was on standby to assist with organic funding application queries.
*Under the EACS scheme which provides funding for five years, a minimum of £500 in total funding over five years can be sought, meaning small farms can apply – while at the other end of the scale, the maximum Arable, Improved Grassland and Fruit and Veg are qualifying for support is 300ha and on extensive units, the scheme application cannot exceed total 1000ha. Payments are based on the type of land entered into the scheme – and initial screening is through an approved Organic Viability Proposal (OVP).