Latest stage of organic reform is a mixed bag

The results of a vote in the European Parliament on suggested reforms to the organic farming rules are a mixed bag for UK farmers, says the NFU.

While some of the amendments voted through by the parliament’s Agriculture Committee provide greater flexibility, others could leave organic farmers facing substantial challenges in the future.

NFU Deputy President Minette Batters said: “We are keen to ensure that changes to EU organic regulations does not disadvantage British organic farmers. We have seen the organic market grow by around 4% over the last year. We also want to make sure that conventional farmers are not hampered by these changes.”

NFU is specifically concerned at proposed changes to the regulations which would mean organic animal feed will have to be produced on-farm or sourced from within 150km.

Ms Batters said: “The change to organic feed sourcing is unworkable in the UK as there’s already a major shortage and people simply wouldn’t be able to get hold of it. This amendment is a big threat to all our organic livestock producers and could realistically threaten the viability of their businesses.”

“However, the NFU is pleased to see that MEPs listened to concerns put forward by the NFU and removed a clause requiring wholesale conversion of part-organic systems to a full organic operation within five years. This would have been a backward step, seriously risking the viability of organic farming in the UK. We also very much welcome the deletion of the condition where organic farmers would have borne the cost for any accidental contamination. “

Amendments approved by the Agriculture Committee last week will now be the subject of inter-institutional negotiations between the European Council, the Parliament and the Commission. The NFU will continue to press its outstanding concerns and work with MEPs and Government officials to ensure the ongoing negotiation process delivers a more evidence based approach, guaranteeing utmost confidence in the organic brand.

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