HL Deb 31 July 1998 vol 592 c301WA
Lord Williams of Elvel

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What decisions they have taken on the recommendations of the review of the organic aid scheme. [HL3169]

Lord Donoughue

Since the Government came to office, we have been determined to encourage more farmers to convert to organic production. We have made more resources available for advice to help them and I am pleased to say that many more are realising the opportunities that organic farming can offer and are seeking to convert. However, conversion has costs and the additional returns cannot be realised immediately.

More support is justified for farmers during the conversion period. Subject to the agreement of the European Commission, it is the Government's intention to increase payment rates under the English scheme to those recommended in the review which we commissioned last year.

If organic farming is to become a mainstream option, it is important to encourage larger farms to convert. For this reason, we intend to go beyond the recommendations of that review and lift the 300 hectare limit on the area which can qualify for aid. We will also be going beyond the recommendations of the review by making the annual payment at the end of the first quarter, thus helping farmers' cash flow at a difficult time.