Belgium | Organic Agriculture
The EC presents measures to promote organic production within the framework of the European Green Deal
It presents 23 actions structured around promoting consumption, increasing production and continuing to improve the sustainability of the sector to ensure its balanced growth.3/25/2021
The European Commission today presented an Action Plan for the development of organic production. Its overall goal is to boost the production and consumption of organic products, reach 25% of agricultural land dedicated to organic farming by 2030 and significantly increase organic aquaculture.
Organic production has several important advantages. For example, organic fields have around 30% more biodiversity, organically raised animals enjoy a higher degree of welfare and receive fewer antibiotics, organic farmers have higher incomes and are more resilient, and consumers know exactly what they receive thanks to the organic logo of the EU. The Action Plan is in line with the European Green Deal and the 'Farm to Fork' and Biodiversity Strategies.
The Action Plan is designed to provide the organic farming sector, which is already experiencing rapid growth, with the right tools to reach the 25% target. It presents 23 actions structured around three axes (boosting consumption, increasing production and continuing to improve the sustainability of the sector) to ensure its balanced growth.
The Commission encourages Member States to formulate national organic action plans to increase the national share of organic farming. There are large differences between Member States in the proportion of agricultural land currently under organic farming, ranging from 0.5% to more than 25%. The national organic farming action plans will complement the CAP national strategic plans by establishing measures that go beyond agriculture and what is offered under the CAP.
Increasing the consumption of organic products will be crucial to encourage farmers to adopt organic farming and thus increase their profitability and resilience. To this end, the Action Plan proposes several concrete measures aimed at boosting demand, maintaining consumer confidence and bringing organic food closer to citizens. These include the following: Informing and communicating about organic production, promoting the consumption of organic products, encouraging greater use of organic farming in public dining rooms through public procurement and increasing the distribution of organic products within the framework of the EU school program. The measures also aim, for example, to prevent fraud, increase consumer confidence and improve the traceability of organic products. The private sector can also play an important role, for example by rewarding workers with 'ecocheques' that they can use to purchase organic food.
Currently, around 8.5% of the EU's agricultural area is dedicated to organic crops and trends indicate that, at the current growth rate, the EU will reach 15-18% by 2030. This Plan de Acción provides a series of tools to give a new impulse and reach 25%. Although the Action Plan focuses largely on the 'pull effect' of demand, the Common Agricultural Policy will remain a key instrument to support the conversion to organic farming. Currently, around 1.8% (7.5 billion euros) of the CAP is used to support organic farming. The future CAP will include green schemes backed by a budget of between € 38 billion and € 58 billion for the period 2023-2027, depending on the outcome of the CAP negotiations. Organic regimes can serve to boost organic farming.
In addition to the CAP, other essential instruments are the organization of information activities and the creation of networks to exchange best practices, the certification of groups of farmers instead of only individuals, research and innovation, the use of the blockchain and other technologies to improve traceability, greater market transparency, reinforcement of local and small-scale transformation, support for the organization of the food chain and improvement of animal nutrition.
To make organic production better known, the Commission will organize an annual EU 'Organic Farming Day' and organic food chain awards to recognize excellence at all stages of the organic food chain. The Commission will also encourage the development of eco-tourism networks through 'eco-districts'. "Eco-districts" are areas where farmers, citizens, tour operators, associations and public authorities collaborate in the sustainable management of local resources, based on ecological principles and practices.
The Action Plan also notes that organic aquaculture production remains a relatively new sector, but has significant growth potential. The forthcoming new EU guidelines on the sustainable development of EU aquaculture will encourage Member States and stakeholders to sustain increased organic production in this sector.
Finally, the Action Plan also aims to continue improving the performance of organic farming from the point of view of sustainability. To this end, measures will focus on improving animal welfare, ensuring the availability of organic seeds, reducing the sector's carbon footprint and minimizing the use of plastic, water and energy.
The Commission also intends to increase the share of research and innovation, and dedicate at least 30% of the budget for research and innovation measures in the field of agriculture, forestry and rural areas to specific or relevant topics from the beginning. point of view of the organic sector.
The Commission will monitor progress through an annual review carried out together with representatives of the European Parliament, Member States and stakeholders, as well as through biannual progress reports and a mid-term review.
Speeches by members of the College of Commissioners
The Executive Vice President responsible for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: “Agriculture is one of the main causes of the loss of biodiversity, and the loss of biodiversity represents a serious threat to agriculture. We have to urgently restore the balance of our relationship with nature. It is not something that affects only farmers, but affects the entire food chain. Through this Action Plan, we aim to boost demand for organic farming, help consumers make informed choices and support European farmers in their transition. The more land we dedicate to organic farming, the better the protection of biodiversity on that land and in the surrounding areas.
Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said: “The organic farming sector deserves recognition for its sustainable practices and use of resources, which gives it a central role in achieving the objectives of the Green Deal. To achieve the 25% organic farming target, we must ensure that demand drives growth in the sector and take into account the large differences between organic sectors in each Member State. The Green Action Plan provides tools and ideas for a balanced growth of the sector. Its development will be supported by the common agricultural policy and research and innovation, and by close cooperation with key partners at local, national and EU level. '
Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “Organic farming has many benefits for the environment, as it contributes to healthy soils, reduces air and water pollution, and improves biodiversity. At the same time, with demand growth faster than production over the last decade, the organic sector brings economic benefits to its stakeholders. The new Action Plan on organic farming will be a crucial instrument to advance towards the achievement of the objectives of 25% of the agricultural area dedicated to organic farming and a large increase in organic aquaculture that are contemplated in the strategies on Biodiversity and “From farm to table”. Furthermore, the new strategic guidelines on the sustainable development of EU aquaculture, which the Commission will adopt shortly, will further promote organic aquaculture. '
The Action Plan takes into account the conclusions of the public consultation held between September and November 2020, which had a total of 840 responses from stakeholders and citizens.
It is an initiative announced in the 'Farm to Fork' and 'Biodiversity' strategies, published in May 2020. These two strategies were presented within the framework of the European Green Deal to facilitate the transition to sustainable food systems and address the fundamental drivers of biodiversity loss.
In the recommendations to Member States on their CAP strategic plans, published in December 2020, the Commission included the target of a 25% green area in the EU by 2030. Member States are urged to set values nationals for this objective in their CAP plans. Depending on their local conditions and needs, Member States will explain how they intend to achieve this objective through the CAP instruments.
The Commission presented its proposals on CAP reform in 2018, introducing a more flexible approach based on performance and results, taking into account local conditions and needs, and broadening the EU's sustainability ambitions. The new CAP is structured around nine objectives, which also form the basis on which EU countries formulate their CAP strategic plans.
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