Memorandum submitted by The Organic Food
and Farming Targets Bill Campaign (F 15)
The Steering Group of the Organic Food and Farming
Targets Bill Campaign welcomes the timely inquiry of the Agriculture
Select Committee into organic farming. Our response to the inquiry
will focus on why strategy and targets are urgently required for
the organic sector. We believe the setting of targets and the
formation of an action plan for the organic farming sector should
form a major part of your inquiry.
2. OUR PURPOSE
The Campaign has drafted a Bill that aims to
encourage government to set targets that ensure that 30 per cent
of agricultural land will be organic by 2010 and that 20 per cent
of the food that we consume will be organic by this date. However,
the Bill is not just about adopting targets. The targets are a
means to an endthe creation of a long-term strategy or
"action plan" for the organic sector, which will make
organic food more accessible to all sectors of society and create
quality jobs in an environmentally sustainable agriculture industry.
3. WHO DO
The steering group for the campaign consists
of Elm Farm Research Centre, Friends of the Earth, Henry Doubleday
Research Association, Pesticides Action Network-UK (formerly Pesticides
Trust), Soil Association, Transport & General Workers Union
(RAAW) and UNISON. Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming,
is the secretariat for the campaign.
69 organisations, ranging from supermarkets
to statutory agencies such as the Countryside Agency, environmental
groups and trade unions, have also indicated their support for
the campaign and over 200 MPs have already signed up to the Early
Day Motion (number 51) that relates to the Bill. Between the Steering
Group and those organisations that support the Bill we represent
an estimated two million people.
4. WHY AND
4.1 Sustained growth of the sector
A detailed strategy and action plan for organic farming
will help the sector develop smoothly, via sustained growth, rather
than in fits and starts. The targets, coupled with a strategy,
would also give the confidence to growers, farmers, retailers
and investors that the organic sector is set on a course of growth
and that they can enter the sector with confidence.
In drawing up the strategy, the government would
be able to address the many infrastructure problems and gaps that
are holding back the growth of the organic sector. The gaps that
exist include training, market development, infrastructure, transport
and technical research. Examples of current problems are outlined
Charges for small abattoirs threaten
their survival and in turn this threatens the viability of organic
producers who rely on small, local abattoirs.
The severe shortage of organic seed
commercially available to UK farmers is stifling the growth of
the organic market, holding back both the organic cereal and livestock
In sectors such as horticulture,
conversion costs are higher but this is not acknowledged in the
current Organic Farming Scheme.
4.2 Sustained financial support
The "stop-start" funding approach
taken by the government has limited the development of the organic
sector severely. Since the closure of the organic farming scheme
(OFS) in November 1999, the Soil Association reports that there
has been a significant decline in conversion to organic production
of around 50 per cent. This means that other countries are accruing
the environmental, economic and social benefits that organic farming
brings, while the UK farmers who want to convert have to wait
until April 2001 when the OFS is due to reopen. The lack of funding
also has knock on effects on organic processing facilities such
as dedicated organic processing feedmills.
Compared to conventional farming, organic farming
receives very little government support. For example, payments
under the Common Agricultural Policy in 1997-1998 amounted to
£3,582 million. Organic farming received £0.8 million
of this, which equates to 0.02 per cent of the payments.
The £20 million per year that will be available
from the Organic Farming Scheme under the Rural Development Regulation
for the next seven years gives some stability to the market, but
we estimate that to satisfy the demand from farmers that currently
exists, at least £32 million is needed per year. In order
to meet the target of 30 per cent by 2010, the OFS yearly budget
needs to be around £90 million per year.
4.3 Reducing reliance on imports
Targets will spur government action to encourage
the increased organic production needed to reduce the current
high level of organic imports. The UK currently imports around
70 per cent of the organic food sold here, and in 1999 we imported
over 80 per cent of the organic fruit, vegetables and herbs sold
in the UK.
There is obviously scope for the UK to produce more organic food
domestically but the lack of a clear government strategy and long-term
vision prevents a larger proportion of the growing demand being
met by UK production. Demand for organic food is growing at 40
per cent whilst supply is growing at 25 per cent.
If the UK does not take advantage of the increase in demand in
organic farming and food, other countries will continue to target
the UK market.
4.4 Experience of other European countries
Many other European countries have set targets
for organic agriculture (see table 1 below). Not only have they
set targets but they have also written integrated policy programmes
or action plans for the organic farming sector in order to ensure
that the targets are reached.
COUNTRIES IN EUROPE WHO HAVE SET TARGETS
||% Utilised agriculture
area organic when
|% Utilised agriculture|
area organic at end
date of target
|Sweden||10% by 2000|
20% by 2005
|Austria||10% by 2000
|Denmark||7% by 2000
|Finland||5% by 1999
|Norway||5% by 2000
|France||3-5% by 2005
* This figure is for combined certified and non-certified
The Swedish organic certification body, CRAV, estimates that
this figure is now 11.2%.
The four countries in Europe with the highest percentage
of agricultural land in organic production (Sweden, Austria, Denmark
and Finland) have all set targets and developed action plans.
Denmark has produced the most detailed action plan. Their starting
point was that consumer demand for organic production should be
met, and that the organic market should develop on the basis of
the market economy.
The Danish plan made 65 recommendations and resulted in increased
investment in research and training, new marketing initiatives
and increased agri-environment support in environmentally sensitive
areas. Organic food has also been promoted as a way of converting
consumers to sustainable consumption and studies have been carried
out on the impact of converting 80 per cent to 100 per cent of
Danish agricultural land to organic production.
The action plans from the other countries who have set targets
have included policy measures relating to research and development,
training, identifying and removing barriers to increased organic
production, development of processing and marketing activities
and the continuation of support for organic production.
4.5 Government targets
The government has found targets useful for securing progress
in many areas such as poverty reduction, waiting list reduction
and reducing truancy in schools. The Organic Targets Bill campaign
believes that a target is required for organic farming to give
clear signals to farmers that the government will support organic
farming in the long-term. This will give confidence to farmers
who want to convert but are worried that government commitment
to the sector will not be sustained.
The Prime Minister has committed to a low target of trebling
organic production by 2006,which
would mean nine per cent of the UK's agricultural land would be
under organic production in 2006. This 9 per cent target is unlikely
to be met with the predicted level of spending on the Organic
Farming Scheme of £20 million per year. It would cost £58
million per year to reach 9 per cent by 2006. £20 million
per year will only lead to approximately 8.5 per cent of agricultural
land being organic by 2010.
Finally and crucially, there is also no action plan in place
to ensure that this target is reached.
4.6 Breadth of support for targets
69 national organisations (see appendix 2 (not printed))
and over 200 MPs (see appendix 3, page 2 (not printed)) now support
the call for the Organic Targets Bill. The organisations represent
a huge cross-section of society: countryside and environmental
groups such as the Countryside Agency, Worldwide Fund for Nature
and the RSPB, supermarkets such as ASDA and Marks and Spencer's,
trade unions such as UNISON, consumer groups such as the National
Federation of Consumer Groups as well as the organic farming lobby.
4.7 Organic farming delivers public benefits
Organic farming methods deliver many benefits for the public,
including wildlife and landscape benefits, and economic and social
advantages. For example, there is significantly more wildlife
on organic farms: there are 25 per cent more birds at the field
edge and 44 per cent more in-field in autumn and winter.In
terms of health benefits organic potatoes have been found to contain
more potassium and calcium, iron and zinc.,
10 As organic food is produced without synthetic pesticides, the
risks of pesticide residues are less. For example, a quarter of
conventionally produced new and salad potatoes tested for pesticide
residues in 1998 were found to contain pesticide residues. None
of the organic new and salad potatoes were found to contain residues.
Finally, overall between 10 per cent and 30 per cent more jobs
can be created in organic systems, bringing economic benefits
Organic produce seem more expensive than conventional food
but conventional farming has many hidden costs that consumers
pay for through higher taxes. For example, removing pesticides
from drinking water costs around £120 million per year and
other costs are incurred such as damage to wildlife and habitats
and soil erosion.
Although organic farming does not remove all these hidden costs
as no farming method is benign, it does significantly reduce some
of the hidden costs, making organic food cost less overall in
the long-term. Policy instruments need to be found to internalise
both the negative hidden costs of conventional farming and the
positive benefits associated with organic farming.
If the government was to develop a strategy and offer more
support for farmers wishing to convert economies of scale and
technical improvements would gradually develop and organic food
would become more affordable to more people as a consequence.
The Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill Campaign believes
that the Select Committee should recommend that the government
makes a long-term commitment to the organic sector by adopting
the Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill, so that targets are
set and an action plan formulated, to enable the organic sector
to fulfil its potential. The government states that their strategy
is to meet market demand but without adequate government support
the UK organic sector cannot meet market demand. The UK therefore
needs a strategy and targets, so that we can at least meet market
demand, and reduce the amount of organic food we import so that
the UK environment, UK farmers and UK consumers can begin to reap
the benefits of organic food and farming.
6. APPENDICES (NOT
Appendix 1: The Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill.
Appendix 2: List of organisations supporting the Organic
Food and Farming Targets Bill.
Appendix 3: The Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill Campaign
Update, Issue 2, May 2000.
8 June 2000
MAFF, Public Expenditure under the CAP and on national grants
and subsidies, Agriculture in the United Kingdom, 1999. Back
Soil Association, Organic Food and Farming Report, Bristol
Soil Association, Organic Food and Farming Report, Bristol,
Lampkin, Nicolas et al, The Policy and regulatory environment
for organic farming in Europe, Organic Farming in Europe: Economies
and Policy, Volume 3, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart,
Lampkin, Nicolas, Welsh Institute of Rural Studies, Aberystwyth,
based on data supplied direct or published up to 14/3/00. Back
Lampkin, Nicholas et al, The Policy and regulatory environment
for organic farming in Europe, Organic Farming in Europe: Economics
and Policy, Volume 3, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart,
Prime Minister's speech to the National Farmer's Union conference,
1 February 2000 stated that "we envisage a trebling of the
area under organic farming by 2006." Currently 3 per cent
of agricultural land is organic or in conversion. Therefore a
trebling of organic area would lead to 9 per cent of agricultural
land, or 1,620,000 hectares being organic by 2006. Back
Soil Association, The Biodiversity Benefits of Organic Farming,
Bristol, May 2000. Back
Woes, K Lang D, Boess C and Bogl KW 1997, A comparison of organically
and conventionally grown foods-results of a review of the relevant
literature, J of the Science of Food and Agriculture Vol
74 pp 281-293 quoted in House of Lords Reports July 1999. Back
Working Party on Pesticide Residues, Report on Pesticide Residues
in Food, Pesticide Safety Directorate, London, 1998. Back
SAFE Alliance, Double Yield: jobs and sustainable food production,
London, 1997. Back
Pretty, J et al, An Assessment of the Total External Costs
of UK Agriculture, University of Essex, in press. Back