Letter: Green farm aid fails to add up

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Sir: Do organic farmers get a raw deal on subsidy? (Comment, 9 April). Let me give the example of a 34-acre field on our farm.

The field was in arable cropping in December 1991; that makes it eligible for arable aid. Because it was in crops it obviously earned no livestock quota. For the farmer using chemicals this field could continue in arable crops and therefore continue to receive arable aid. Using organic methods it is not possible to keep it in continuous exploitative cropping; after three years of cereals we had to return it to four years of grass and clover to rebuild fertility, but that means livestock - something not economical without quota. Other suitable fields cannot be swapped with this one because they are not eligible for arable aid. We have no surplus quota. Having already lowered our stocking to become organic, our quota was based on reduced numbers.

If we abandoned organic methods (after 22 years) and used sprays and fertilisers on this field we would receive between pounds 108.12 and pounds 210.59 per acre or pounds 3,676 and pounds 7,160 per annum depending on the crop we chose - a potential pounds 28,640 over the four years.

I am sure the current subsidy system was not conceived to penalise organic farmers. But because those who drew it up knew or thought little about the technical aspects of organic production, the end result is that we, and most organic farmers, are losing out.

Richard Young

Broadway, Worcestershire