Many of the British farmers affected by foot and mouth disease (FMD) are looking at moving into organic farming as they start to rebuild their stocks, according to a survey commissioned by the UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The telephone survey of more than 1,000 farmers whose businesses were affected by the foot and mouth outbreak found that many farmers are looking at diversification, entering 'green' schemes or turning organic.
The survey revealed that there is interest among a "small percentage" of farmers in running an organic enterprise. If all those indicating that they planned to run such an enterprise did so, this could double the number of organic farms in the UK.
Lord Whitty, Minister for Food and Farming, said: "All of these farmers suffered terribly from foot and mouth and it is very encouraging that they are thinking positively about the future. It is particularly pleasing that many are seriously considering new diversified and environmental options for their farms so that re-stocking takes place in an environmentally sustainable context."
Further findings show that 25 per cent of the holdings surveyed are "definitely" or "possibly" planning to diversify into non-traditional or non-farming activities, and another 25 per cent indicated that they would "definitely" or "possibly" move some of all of the land on their holding into environmental schemes.
In response to the survey, Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, said: "To encourage farmers to convert - and ensure that they can remain organic - the on-going payments recommended by the Curry Commission must be introduced."
He added that retailers would have to ensure that there is a market for the extra organic products being produced over the next two years. UK-first buying policies need to be adopted by all supermarkets, he said.
"In addition, improved information gathering systems will be necessary at a national level to allow organic farmers access to relevant and accurate market data. This will help ensure that farmers can plan ahead and that supply and demand for all product areas are balanced," Holden urged.