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Soil Association webinar to support opening of Scottish organic conversion payment window

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Financial support is on offer now to Scottish farmers and landowners converting to organic via the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS).

The Scottish Government is offering financial support for those converting to organic farming, as well as for other land management practices that enhance Scotland’s environment.

Soil Association Certification will be hosting a webinar on Friday 15 February to provide guidance to farmers on how they can apply and what organic conversion involves. Find out more and register to take part here.

The funding application window opened this week and will close on Friday 21 April 2019.

Dumfriesshire farmer Ken Porter is manager of 1500 hectares of mixed livestock at Tanlawhill, near Langholm, and received around £16,000 per year for five years via AECS.

He said: “I applied for the job of farm manager here in 2001 because the trustees wanted to go organic. I like that way of farming – not using chemicals, having to work with the land and the stock.  Organic farming means finessing the farm – working with the land to make it go your way.

“The AECS payment is definitely worth the effort and I got a lot of help when I applied to be certified by the Soil Association. They were on the other end of the phone when I had a question, and they still are.

“We have a profitable estate, we get a premium on store animals, although that has fallen away in Scotland so we’re sending lambs to Wales, and a double premium on our Aberdeen Angus. But I’d say you can’t go organic just for the money. Things go wrong, it’s nature. But if you enjoy it, the financials will follow.”

Clare McDermott, business development director at Soil Association Certification, said: “This is a really good time to convert to organic with the recent renewed government focus on preserving and enhancing our environment, including a commitment to protecting our soils.

“Farming is going to need to play an integral role in achieving this and the fundamental principles of organic – enhancing soil health, working with ecosystems, and caring for the environment – are wholly in line with the ambitions being set out by government.

“We also know that the public demand is there for organic produce in many parts of the world. People are becoming ever more aware of how their food is produced and we are now in our seventh consecutive year of market growth for organic in the UK. In 2017 we saw sales from our Scottish licensees rise by 28% – so there are good opportunities for farmers who want to meet that rising demand.”

The scheme is available throughout all of Scotland and up to £280 per hectare is available for converted arable land in the first two years. 

Soil Association Certification certifies organic farmers, offering a comprehensive and competitive support package that can assist farmers through their conversion period.

The Soil Association Certification business support package includes:

  • A dedicated Scottish Certification Officer based in the Edinburgh office offering practical and proficient support throughout the life of your certification.
  • Use of the UK’s most widely recognised organic symbol, used on more than 70% of UK organic products.
  • Supply chain support, including free access to the Food for Life supplier scheme.
  • Discounts for farming programmes such as Innovative Farmers.
  • Free marketing support for key organic campaigns, such as Organic September.
  • Support from our policy teams, who campaign for farmers on important issues, directly to Government.

Any farmer thinking about converting to organic can find out more about organic certification and conversion at www.soilassociation.org/certification.

Photo credit – Soil Association

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