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Opening plenary - The impact of the CAP Reform proposals on UK organic producers

Chair: Nic Lampkin (ORC)

Now the CAP reform proposals have been published, negotiations on the final details are taking place, with all parties – governments, farming unions and environmental groups – arguing their often very different positions. The proposals include some important new measures for organic farming that are often not reflected in debates. The plenary provides an opportunity to consider these positions and likely outcomes for the organic sector.

Session summary

The first session of the Conference focussed on the impact of the CAP reform proposals and how they will affect the organic sector. Juern Sanders (VTI) provided some background on the introduction of support payment and highlighted that payments differ widely in the EU, with the UK having the lowest payment rates for conversion. He also highlighted that a number of countries who would like to foster organic farming have implemented an organic action plan, e.g. Germany and Czech republic - these try and identify bottlenecks for the sector and co-financing options. Overall, it is apparent that there is a lack of an overall strategic vision in support levels of organic farming in some countries.

Nic Lampkin (ORC Director) then provided an overview of the CAP reform proposals published by the Commission in 2011, stating that payments under Pillar 1 (currently the SFP) will be split into a ‘basic payment’ and a ‘greening element’. To qualify for the greening element farmers will need to provide ‘Ecological Focus Areas’ (7% of land area), diversify crop rotations and protect permanent grassland. Organic farming systems will qualify for this element automatically, although many are now arguing that other agri-environment scheme participants and other certification schemes (e.g.LEAF) should qualify too. Nic highlighted that organic farming is the only approach that has a legal basis, under EC regulations and we need to highlight this. Still, some are going to significant lengths to argue against organic; so we need to be engaged in the CAP reform process, provide clear evidence, and have a single voice. The sector also needs to be able to demonstrate that it can help provide the public goods that society is looking for.

Christopher Stopes (IFOAM EU) then presented on IFOAM’s position on CAP reform. Christopher criticised the fact that Jim Paice and others seem to be focussing on GM and maximising production in the CAP debate, although fortunately the present Commissioner seems to be supportive of organic. Christopher highlighted that IFOAM’s core demands are that recognition of whole-farm environmental benefits of organic is provided within the greening element, and that wider, public benefits provided by organic farming should be factored into payment calculations. IFOAM are also trying to encourage ambitious greening measures for Pillar 1, for instance asking that the ‘3 crop rotation’ requirement should include one protein crop, and encouraging measures to enable ‘dis-intermediation’ by producers, (taking out the middle man). Christopher finished by highlighting that agri-business interests still lead the CAP, as the process is open to lobbying as never before, however the organic sector can be engaged in this process.

Discussion points:

  • There is a need for greater consistency in the level of support offered to the organic sector in the EU
  • There is often an assumption of high market premiums within the organic sector when calculating support payments, however this is not always the case with many farmers marketing and non-organic prices.
  • The organic sector needs to continue to engage with Defra officials and develop a single voice.
  • There needs to be more engagement between the organic sector and RSPB, National Trust etc to identify common ground and avoid negative positions being taken.

Action points:

  • ORC to provide link to VTI study of European organic farming policies when published
  • ORC and IFOAM to continue to engage with CAP reform debate at Defra and EU levels
  • Further information including links to IFOAM can be found on the ORC CAP Reform webpage

Individual speaker presentations and abstracts

Juern Sanders (von Thuenen Institut): European organic farming policies - an evaluation of recent experiences (PDF 571KB)
Over the last ten years, organic farming has expanded continuously in EU Member States. Between 2000 and 2009 the organic area in the EU15 Member States grew by 75%. At Member State level, organic farming has, however, devel-oped very differently. There are countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Sweden in which the organic area as a proportion of total UAA is above 10%. On the other hand, there are several Member States in which organic farming is still niche production with a share of less than 2%, e.g. in Bulgaria, Malta and Ireland. The large differences in the development of the organic sector are in part due to differences in the policy environment. Against this background, this contribution aims to provide a comprehensive overview of public support measures for organic farming in EU Member States. Special emphasis is given to organic support payments that are provided under national or regional rural development programmes (RDPs) in most EU Member States. These payments are implemented to compensate for additional costs or income foregone as a result of organic management and play an important role in the economic performance of organic farms. Besides organic support payments, other RDP measures that address organic farming as well as CAP Pillar 1 and regional measures including organic action plans are taken into account.

Nic Lampkin (ORC): The Commission’s CAP Reform proposals 2014-2020 (PDF 257KB)
In October 2011, the European Commission published the legislative proposals for the next phase of CAP Reform, still scheduled to be im-plemented from 2014. While there is still much negotiation and debate with Member States and the European Parliament still to happen around the details of these proposals (a process likely to take most of 2012), the main building blocks are unlikely to change significantly as they represent the culmination of a debate that started already in 2009. Key elements of the proposals with respect to the Single Farm Payment include: a phasing out of historic entitlements, a rebasing of existing entitlements from 2014 (based primarily on 2011 claims), a simplification of cross-compliance requirements and the introduction of reduced/capped payments for larger farms. The direct payment will be split into a basic payment (up to 70%) and a ‘greening element’ (30%). The greening element will be uncapped and organic producers will obtain it automatically. Other producers will need to protect permanent grassland, increase crop diversity and allocate 7% of land as ecological focus areas. How the delivery of the greening element under existing agri-environment schemes will be affected is still open. Organic farming also has a higher profile in rural development as a measure separate from other agri-environment schemes. However, at this stage, indications from Defra/Natural England are that OELS will continue unchanged in the next period. In Wales, a new Organic Farming Scheme is to be developed, following its disentangling from Glastir. The presentation will also consider other aspects of the proposals affecting organic producers and consider the next steps in their implementation.

Christopher Stopes (IFOAM EU Group): The European organic movement’s position (PDF 283KB)
IFOAM EU Group represents the organic sector in the EU 27, EFTA and neighbouring countries. CAP reform must respond to urgent environmental challenges that put our future food security at risk: degradation of natural resources and climate change. Our long-term vision for food and farming policy in Europe should be essentially transformative. Support for farmers must be re-focused towards targeted measures that deliver public goods to serve the needs of society. Organic food and farming fits this prescription, it is an effective approach to achieve the sustainability objectives of agricultural policy. The IFOAM EU Group proposes five key recommendations for the CAP 2014-2020 (see the full proposals for further details and all recommendations):

  1. Sufficient funding for conversion to and maintenance of organic farming through a bigger second pillar budget (50%) and by ring-fencing a significant share (50%) of the rural development programmes’ budget for measures that deliver environmental objectives, e.g. organic farming.
  2. Organic farming must be a mandatory measure under rural development programmes, eligible for 80% EU co-funding (up to 90% in new MS).
  3. Organic farming specifically included as priority in the European Innovation Partnership, and in relevant rural development measures (e.g. advisory services, investments, quality schemes and producer groups. Organic farms should be allowed a 20% higher support rate.
  4. Rural development programmes must specify how synergies between organic agriculture and other rural development measures can be achieved to maximise environmental and socio-economic impact.
  5. Greening the first pillar must ensure improve-ment in the overall sustainability of food systems, and should include at least three crops in the rotation (with at least one protein crop and no one crop more than 50% of all crops). Permanent grassland must be protected with max. livestock density.