Organic farm funding criticised

By Sandamali Zbyszewski

The scheme through which organic farmers receive funding to manage their land in environmentally friendly ways was sternly criticised today.

The Organic Entry Level Stewardship Scheme, which receives as much as £20 millions from the European Union and the UK taxpayer, has come to expect a constant flow of EU money, fostering a culture of mismanagement and under-optimisation, the National Audit Office (NAO) said.

“[The Department of Food and Rural Affairs] should learn from this scheme and get a lot better at putting credible measurement arrangements in place to demonstrate whether public funds are being used properly,” said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.

“It appears likely that Defra’s scheme helped to deliver environmental benefits by encouraging organic farming, but we can’t draw a similar conclusion on the land management measures and I would have expected a greater environmental benefit for the taxpayer’s funding contribution.”

The adoption of organic farming within the scheme merely follows the rate by which organic farming has been taken up as a whole by the farming industry, the research found.

Worse still, when the scheme is taken up, the more challenging measures were eschewed in favour of methods already in place on the farms.

As a consequence, the impact on the natural and historic landscape of Britain has not been as satisfactory as expected, the report concluded.