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21 September 2020
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Opening Plenary - The changing policy environment and impacts on organic producers

Chair: Lawrence Woodward

2010 has seen a new coalition government in the UK and the launch of the full-scale debate on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy. Organic producers will be affected by the changes, for better or for worse. This session will examine some of the key changes taking place and the case for continuing support for organic farming as means to deliver environmental and other public goods.

David Baldock
Executive Director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP). Studied Economics and Philosophy at Cambridge and has had a career in independent policy institutes. He has been responsible for a wide range of studies on European environmental, agricultural and related policies and is an experienced observer of EU affairs. As well as independent work he has led policy research studies for the European Commission, OECD, governments, academic funders and NGOs. He has been published widely and regularly gives evidence to parliamentary committees and government agencies. He established the Institute’s agricultural policy work in the mid 1980s. Since then he has been responsible for a series of research projects on agriculture, rural development and nature conservation policy in Europe as well as wider topics such as climate policy. He led the Institute’s work on the integration of agricultural and environmental policy within the CAP and the development of agri-environment measures. Recent work in this area includes studies on the future of the CAP, the delivery of public goods in rural areas and specific policies such as modulation and cross-compliance.
Presentation - Shifting the focus of CAP to public goods and the contribution of organic farming

Helen Browning
Helen Browning runs a tenanted 1,350 acre organic livestock and arable farm in Wiltshire, which supplies organic meat to multiple retailers. The business recently diversified to take on the running of the village pub, successfully adding a restaurant. She is currently Director of External Affairs at the National Trust and before taking up that role she was Food and Farming Director at the Soil Association for many years. She is also Chair of the Food Ethics Council and has been a member of several important commissions concerning British agriculture and food, including the Curry Commission on the Future of Farming and Food; the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission; and the Meat and Livestock Commission. She was awarded an OBE in 1998 for services to organic farming. Helen was appointed as Director of the soil Association in October 2010 and will take up the post in early spring 2011.

Nic Lampkin
Nic Lampkin is Director of the Organic Research Centre and formerly Director of Organic Centre Wales and Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University. He has been involved in organic farming research since the 1990s, with a particular focus on economic and policy issues and is author of Organic Farming, co-editor of the Organic Farm Management Handbook, and more recently has led the development of a tool box for the evaluation of organic farming action plans. He is also Chair of the Welsh Organic Strategy Group.
Presentation - Organic farming policies in Europe and future prospects under CAP reform

Session Summary

Helen Browning covered the background and context of current organic farming policy. She suggested that the organic sector would be best served by thinking of how we might want to respond to Government and new policies as NGOs in the new political arena of “Big Society” (which might by-pass NGOs) and CAP reform. Helen suggested what is needed is a framework to allow markets to operate properly with a value on social and environmental outputs to be used to compensate for market failure. Engagement with government needs to be done in an inclusive, non-lecturing way, and show how organic farming can address the environmental, societal and economic tensions in farming, food, energy and land management as government does not recognise this as organic farming does not play part of the cheap food chain, is not creating wealth creating products (inputs etc) and is too independent in many parts of the food chain. However, we are what we are and know that we are right to challenge the unsustainable model of current food production systems. Need to make the case for organic farming in this context but also show the bigger wins in social, economic, environment and animal health and welfare.

David Baldock’s talk covered the CAP review and potential and opportunities for organic farming. CAP has previously had a number of drivers including protecting the livelihood of farmers but it is expected that the importance of agriculture to deliver a wider range of public goods (both environmental and others such as rural vitality, food security and animal health and welfare) will be increased. This should allow organic farming to benefit. He outlined the problems and the scale of the environmental challenge that we face including the huge cost of loss of these public goods. These challenges are critical as the EU and its citizens see the environment as a fundamental part of its identity. Agriculture, and in particular organic farming, has a role to play in protecting the environment and identity as one of the most beneficial farming systems for environmental public goods and it goes against the drivers to undersupply of public goods. He covered potential CAP reform; its implications and challenges; and its potential implications. These included that the main focus is on Pillar 1 reform rather than Rural Development measures; agri-environment measures - including support for organic producers would continue but be modified in relation to Pillar 1 direct payments; over time support should shift to public goods providers but this requires a larger redistribution than proposed now by the Commission.

Nic Lampkin set out his ideas for the organic movement and CAP reform. He explained that the issue was complicated as there were two key issues of land management to deliver sustainability and public goods but also the use of the market to deliver what we want and that these two are often in conflict. There is often no market for public goods and most policy maker in the UK have no interest in developing organic farming as they see other ways to deliver their policies and see targeted measures a simpler route for them. However, organic farming can deliver these policy wants but there is a problem making them see that organic farming can deliver a multi-functional, farming systems approach, which addresses multiple goals, serving a wide range of interest groups with differing priorities. He outlined possible public and private support options for organic farming including direct payments (supply push) and consumer awareness (demand pull). However, support can increase supply ahead of demand but should we limit the public goods being delivered by organic farming because of the market and is it fair that those who choose to buy organic food are paying more to support these public goods? There is a need to separate the market and public goods and an organic action plan can help the market and public goods to become more complimentary and integrated. The reform of CAP should benefit organic producers. The varying options are: no change - Continuation of Pillar 1 payments as market insurance scheme with slight adjustments: increased emphasis on payment for public goods (greening of Pillar 1) and fairer distribution of resources: increased emphasis environmental support, while phasing out direct payments; ending of all subsidy payments. The EU environment group’s perspective is for strengthened environmental measures; support for High Nature Value and Organic Farming, and Pillar 1 focused on public benefits and that current options do not go far enough. The priorities for organic farming must be that organic certification is seen much more than just a quality mark and that agri-environment support is still justified. It could be part of the greening of pillar 1 as organic farming can deliver public goods. However, this is not a favoured option in the Commission where the current debate focused on compulsory actions and the UK disagrees with overall Commission proposals and will not even consider OF option.

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