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One thousand Organic Entry Level Stewardship applications received

18 May 2006

UK - Applications for Organic Entry Level Stewardship (OELS) agreements have reached the landmark 1,000 mark, including 86 which underpin Higher Level Stewardship applications. Of the 74,244 hectares of land currently entered into OELS, 30% or 22,539 hectares are currently undergoing conversion, which represents a welcome addition to the area of land which is being managed organically in England.

OELS was launched in March 2005 with the twin aims of: encouraging a large number of organic farmers and land managers across a wide area of land to deliver simple yet effective environmental management on their organic units; and encouraging the expansion of the organic sector in England in order to help meet the increasing demand for organically produced food. In order to do this, OELS offers top up payments to convert conventionally managed established top fruit orchards and improved land to organic production in addition to the schemes £60 per hectare payment rate. OELS can be combined with Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) options to deliver significant environmental benefits in high priority situations and areas.

Phil Stocker from the Soil Association commented:

‘It is a great achievement to cross the boundary of 1000 OELS applications. These farmers include a blend of newly converting farmers taking up the conversion option, and longstanding organic farmers who are finally getting a reward for the environmental benefits of organic farming. OELS is proving to be an effective mainstream mechanism for incentivising and rewarding organic farming.’

Paul and Diana Redgate, of Willey Wood Farm near Moorgreen in Nottinghamshire, have a combined OELS and HLS agreement. Paul Redgate said:

"We began our conversion to organic production in 1999 through a five year Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) and we rear pedigree sheep and cattle. With the OFS due to finish, we applied to join Organic Entry Level and Higher Level Stewardship because, with the changes to the Common Agricultural Policy, we saw that there was an opportunity to be rewarded for managing the farm in a more environmentally-friendly way while still maintaining our organic production.

“The main OELS options we are pursuing are hedgerow maintenance. We are using these and the Higher Level Stewardship options to benefit wildlife on the farm. We will be putting in grass margins to provide good hunting grounds for barn owls. We will also restore hedgerows and plant two new small woodlands. By raising water levels on some of our permanent pasture we will create important habitat for a range of wading birds.

"Meeting the terms of our agreement will require some effort on our part - but the payments we will receive will make this financially worthwhile and the increase we hope to see in the wildlife on the farm will be equally as rewarding."

Source: Defra - 18th May 2006



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