The Organic Farming Scheme replaced the Organic Aid Scheme, open from 1994 to 1999. The Scheme, which is co financed by the EU, is part of the Department's suite of agri environment schemes and offers financial help to conventional farmers and growers who wish to convert to organic farming methods. Payments are staged over a five year period, heavily skewed towards the initial years of conversion in order to compensate participating farmers in those years before a market premium for organic produce can be earned but when there is a loss of yield. Any agricultural land not already fully organic is eligible to enter the scheme. Participants in the scheme are required to have registered with, and agreed a conversion plan with, an organic inspection body and, if approved, to enter into an undertaking with Defra which is binding. They are also required to undertake certain environmental management operations.
This evaluation will address Defra's policies relating to the support of conversion to organic production, covering the rationale for such intervention and the effectiveness and efficiency achieved in meeting objectives. The evaluation will cover both economic and environmental aspects of the Scheme and will be expected to draw on evidence from other recent and current studies in this area. It will inform the interim evaluation of the English Rural Development Programme.