Farming Minister George Eustice MP has confirmed that existing organic farmers and growers whose Organic Entry Level schemes are coming to an end, and new farmers who want to convert to organic, will be able to apply for Countryside Stewardship support for the next two years.
At a meeting with members of the English Organic Forum last month, Eustice confirmed that the application process will open later in 2017 and again in 2018. Agreements last for five years and are therefore seen as providing welcome stability for farmers as the UK prepares to leave the EU.
“This will come as welcome news to consumers and farmers alike. The demand for organic food is growing strongly in the UK, and is currently outstripping home-grown supply. Export markets for British organic produce present a further opportunity for British farmers to prosper, if the right Government policies are in place,” says Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association.
Melchett, who was among those who attended the meeting, presented a briefing note on export opportunities in the organic sector. He particularly highlighted the US as a growth opportunity, given it is the largest organic market in the world with 43% of global sales. According to the briefing, the US market grew by 11% in 2015 – far exceeding the 3% growth rate of the US non-organic food market – and organic sales have been largely unaffected by the recession – sales are up from $17 million in 2006 to over $40 billion today.
Speaking at the meeting, Melchett said: “Those food businesses engaged in the export market need organic farming in the UK to be able to operate on a level playing field with other significant agricultural exporters (like Denmark and The Netherlands), and to expand to meet rapidly growing domestic and export markets.”