Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by The Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill Campaign (A45)

  Please find enclosed a response to QUESTION 2 of the above inquiry: how better stewardship of agricultural land can be promoted.

  You will not be surprised to hear that the Organic Targets Campaign believes that better stewardship can be promoted via an organic action plan, with a target of 30 per cent of agricultural land to be organic by 2010. Measures that we recommend, such as an on-going stewardship payment for organic farmers are contained in the following paper.

  As you know the Minister has already agreed that an organic action plan should be put in place and you recommended a more strategic approach in your organic inquiry report from last year. However for the action plan to be successful, it must set some sort of targets (or "bench-marks"). How else will we be able to judge its success?

  In summary an action plan and targets are needed for the organic sector to ensure that:

    —  The organic sector develops sustainably rather than with the damaging boom and bust economic cycle so often seen in British farming.

    —  Production keeps pace with market growth.

    —  The high level of organic imports in the UK reduces.

    —  Retailers can source more of their organic produce from the UK and thereby support British farmers.

    —  A level playing field for UK farmers develops as other European organic farmers benefit from greater Government support.

    —  Organic food becomes more accessible to people on low incomes.

  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require more information.


  The Steering Group of the Organic Food and Farming Target Campaign's (OTC) response to the Committee's inquiry will focus on how better stewardship of agricultural land can be promoted, and why an organic action plan and target is urgently required for the development of the organic sector. We believe this would help to secure a sustainable future for UK agriculture.

  Who we represent:

    —  The steering group for the campaign consists of Elm Farm Research Centre, Friends of the Earth, HDRA—the Organic Organisation, Pesticides Action Network-UK, Soil Association, Transport & General Workers Union (RAAW), UNISON and WWF-UK. Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, is the secretariat for the campaign.

    —  118 organisations, ranging from supermarkets, such as J Sainsbury, to statutory agencies such as the Countryside Agency, environmental groups, trade unions and small farmers' groups also support the campaign. Together these organisations have a combined membership of over three million people.

    —  A majority of backbench MPs in the last Parliament also supported the campaign.


(a)  in the short-term?

  1.  The Government should support the policies put forward by the Organic Target Campaign

  1.1.  This calls for:

    —  An action plan for organic farming;

    —  30 per cent of agricultural land in England and Wales to be organic by 2010. The achievement of the above aims must be done in such a way as to:

    —  Make organic food more accessible to more people;

    —  Increase the availability of locally produced organic food;

    —  Keep the organic market on a sustainable path of growth;

    —  Keep market growth and production in step

  1.2.  An action plan for organic farming

  1.2.1.  The Government should adopt a strategy for the development of the organic sector that is supported by the organic sector and all stakeholders. The market for organic food must grow sustainably, and currently much headroom exists for the supply of UK organic produce to increase. However in order to avoid over-supply and drop-outs from conversion and to ensure the sustainable growth of the sector, the Government must begin the process of putting in place an action plan for organic food and farming.

  1.2.2.  In May 2001 European Agriculture Ministers, including the UK's Junior Minister Elliot Morley MP, signed a declaration in support of a European action plan. This must be taken forward.

  1.2.3.  In the short term a "task force" or steering group could be set up, similar to that in Wales and Northern Ireland, made up of representatives of the whole of the food chain and key interest groups. For each area an expert could be contracted to consult widely and prepare proposals for the action plan. They should work in close co-ordination with each other and under the guidance of the task force. The proposals drawn up should build on the organic action plan that is already in place in Wales.


  1.3.1.  A Government target should be adopted for organic farming to:

    —  Align policies for the different areas of the organic sector so that all areas develop at similar rates;

    —  Give direction to all sectors of the food chain (producers, processors and retailers) so that they can enter the organic market and plan with confidence;

    —  Encourage joined up thinking across Government departments.

  The target should be 30 per cent of agricultural land to be organic in England and Wales by 2010.


  1.4.1.  Information barriers

    —  Support for the efficient dissemination of organic research results

    —  Development of an initiative for the national supply of organic market information

  1.4.2.  Supply chain barriers

    —  Development of statutory rules governing the relationship between retailers and organic suppliers

  1.4.3.  Market development barriers

    —  Adoption of public-purchasing policies for organic food by public bodies and agencies such as schools, hospitals, prisons, civil service and local authorities

    —  Further development of network of organic demonstration farms for visits by schools

  1.4.4.  Financial barriers

    —  provision of sufficient funding for the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) to ensure that 30 per cent will be organic by 2010. To achieve a 30 per cent conversion with support provided as under the existing Organic Farming Scheme will cost a minimum of £796.5 million to 2010 or £79 million/year. This figure is calculated with current payment rates and is therefore a minimum figure.[26]

    —  increase the rates for certain sectors such as arable and horticulture, reflecting the true costs of conversion.

    —  developments of proposals for stewardship schemes, providing on-going support. They should be based on the public benefits that organic farming provides.

  1.4.5.  Standards barriers

    —  development of a network on organic standards development within and between EU Member States.

    —  public education and information on the organic standards.

  1.4.6.  Social and Institutional barriers

    —  a communication initiative within the farming sector for both policy makers in Government and practitioners, including training, events, secondments, seminars, combined with visits to organic farms.

    —  the review of all government literature on agriculture to ensure inclusion of information and promotion of organic farming.

  1.4.7.  Recommendation for overcoming intensive farming problems

    —  CAP should be reformed so that financial support is moved away from production support towards rural development and agri-environmental support. This would encourage more organic and sustainable farming.

(b)  in the medium to long-term?


  Once the task force is in place, the process of consultation should start. Whilst the Organic Target Campaign cannot foresee the outcome of the consultation, the following ideas have been identified as long-term possible solutions to the barriers holding back the growth of the organic sector.

2.2  Linkages

  To ensure that the organic sector grows in a structured and sustainable way a main feature of the organic action plan must be the linkages between the different parts of the organic sector. For example market growth and production must be kept in step, supply chain improvements should be linked with the development of local and regional marketing and production and information services should also be linked.

2.3  Recommendations for overcoming barriers to the growth of the organic market—long term

  2.3.1.  Information barriers

    —  an increase in the organic research budget to 30 per cent of the Government R&D budget.

    —  development of regional support centres to provide farmers with access to technical and marketing support.

    —  making advice and training an integral part of organic conversion, including market planning.

    —  identification of training needs of farmers, and embark on long-term action to fulfil them. This could include a mentoring system.

  2.3.2.  Supply chain barriers

    —  development of a network of local abattoirs.

    —  regional initiatives for the development of marketing co-operatives and other collaborative projects for each sector.

    —  amendment of EU fruit and vegetable standards to take account of low input farming systems including organic.

  2.3.3.  Market development barriers

    —  regional initiatives for local and regional distribution of organic food (for example farmers' markets, box schemes, community supported agriculture, links between schools, hospital and local farmers).

    —  the inclusion of modules on food production and nutrition in the national curriculum.

    —  public information on organic farming principles, practices and benefits.

  2.3.4.  Financial barriers

    —  developing capital grant schemes for conversion.

  The Government should also consider:

    —  Increasing the money raised from "modulation" (removing some of the production related subsidies currently paid to farmers). This would provide more funding for the Rural Development Programme, which should be used to support organic farming, or more sustainable methods of non-organic farming. This should be graded or stepped so that the largest farmers who receive the highest subsidies bear the brunt of modulation.

    —  A pesticides tax could help internalise the external costs of agriculture and fund more environmentally friendly farming practices, including organic farming. The ECOTEC study, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), predicted that £84-£131 million per year could be raised from a pesticides tax in the UK. This money would allow for a significant boost to the organic conversion scheme or stewardship schemes, and could also fund the R&D programme referred to above. It could also be used to fund advice to farmers on how to reduce their reliance on pesticides.

  2.3.5.  Standards barriers

    —  improvement of decision-making processes for legal standards development nationally and internationally, in partnership with the organic movement.

  2.3.6.  Social and Institutional barriers

    —  development of a network of regional centres to provide local support to farmers considering and undertaking conversion.


    —  In the long-term the CAP must become a policy for sustainable food production and rural development. It should support agricultural systems that do not depend on external inputs.

19 December 2001

26   This figure does not take account of changes the campaign would like recommended to the scheme such as higher payments for horticulture, and arable land, and potential on-going organic stewardship schemes. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 6 November 2002