HC Deb 02 November 2000 vol 355 c620W
Ms Drown

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he plans to complete the review of the organic farming scheme. [136914]

Mr. Morley

The review of the organic farming scheme was launched in December 1999 and is now completed. I am grateful to all those individuals and organisations who contributed to it. A note summarising the outcome of the review has been placed in the Library.

We have carefully considered the extent to which changes needed to be made to the scheme, which was heavily oversubscribed after it opened in April 1999 as a much improved replacement for the previous conversion aid arrangements. We believe that the priority is to reopen the organic farming scheme as quickly as possible, and accordingly we will begin accepting applications from 2 January 2001, with the first new payments being made in April 2001.

The organic farming scheme is now part of the England rural development programme, and its future operation will be reviewed as part of the programme's mid-term evaluation. Many of the issues raised during this year's review will be relevant to that evaluation, and we will ensure that they are taken into account at that time.

Against this background, one change is being made to the scheme when it reopens, subject to parliamentary approval. To facilitate applications, we propose to extend the deadline for applying for aid under the scheme after registration with an organic inspection body from three months to six months.