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OHLS: Defra agrees to uphold funding agreements at eleventh hour

Crisis averted for organic farmers as Defra agrees to uphold funding agreements at eleventh hour

Important changes to Organic Higher Level Stewardship

Many organic farming businesses in the Organic Higher Level Stewardship (OHLS) will now be able to roll over their agreements.

Following months of pressure from Soil Association legal teams and the English Organic Forum, Defra has agreed to continue environmental scheme payments preventing further organic farms going out of business.

Defra's delay on OHLS roll over: too late for some organic farmers

Adrian Steele of the Soil Association and co-chair of the English Organic Forum said; “It’s very positive Defra will now offer organic farmers due to renew their OHLS agreements a continuation. But sadly, this news comes too late for many.

“Defra’s original decision not to allow OHLS agreements to be rolled over hit around 123 organic farms in 2020, and 50 went out of certification as a result. This is a sad loss for a growing UK organic market and at odds with government pledges to support environmental farming. Many organic farmers have spent decades providing environmental benefits, as part of the HLS scheme.”

Why did this issue with roll over payments arise?

The payment scheme challenges arose following Brexit when Defra officials decided only farmers with no land in organic production with HLS agreements ending before 2024*, would be offered annual extensions to bridge the gap.

The organic food and drink market latest figures reveal the UK organic market has reached its highest growth rate in 15 years at 12.6%, outperforming growth in the non-organic sector with total sales of organic at £2.79 billion. 

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*
The new Environmental Land Management scheme arrives in 2024 and agreements will switch to this scheme then