Golden Eggs

I recently received a letter from the part of the Soil Association that deals with Certification of Organic produce. It told me that "the Board of Soil Association Cert [sic - I presume the abbreviation in this circular letter must be an economy measure - I expect the date was omitted for the same reason] has reviewed the fees for the coming financial year."

It continued: "We are, of course, extremely mindful of the current difficulties being experienced by many of our producer licencees." Hurrah for the Soil Association! I thought. At least one organisation is trying to help us! But the letter continued: "I am, therefore, pleased to be able to tell you that the Board has decided this year on a nominal inflationary increase of 2.5% across the board." We, like most other farmers, suffered a considerable and damaging loss last year - as a direct result of the government's handling of FMD - and like all other farms and farming related businesses, we were excluded by the government's handling of EU "State Aid Rules" from receiving any help from the Business Recovery Schemes. In these circumstances the largesse of the Soil Association seems rather paltry. [Why is it assumed that an increase in charges will be automatic? There seems plenty of scope for improvements in efficiency in the bit of the licencing performance that we see - and what about the economies of scale that ought to result from all the new organic farmers we had been hearing about? When the average 500 acre farm is making an income of £2,500 pa, a licencing fee of £693.25 seems a bit steep. We will be in for £569.87 to pay out of our negative income.]

Today I learn from the Soil Association that there will shortly be not one but two "Certification Programmes": the "Soil Association (SA) Certification Symbol Programme" and the "Soil Association (SA) Global Partnership Programme". I will not attempt to explain the differences - they are thoroughly opaque and thoroughly suspect so far as I am concerned. I am sure, however, that the Board will try levy some cracking fees for the two.

I fancy I hear some faint honks from the expiring geese which were once expected to lay golden eggs.