EU funding application
At the end of 2008, Sustain agreed to take on the role of “promoter” in the process of applying to the EU for funding to promote organics in the UK. The objectives of the bid are to:
- Enhance consumer awareness of standards– what organic means and how it is regulated.
- Increase consumer awareness of how to identify organic products, including national logos, the EU logo and other labels.
- Provide information and broaden awareness of the benefits of organic farming.
- Maintain and encourage the consumption of organic farming products.
By November 2009 the target of £250,000 match funding was surpassed and so a new target of £300,000 pledged from industry was set. With the help of the Organic Trade Board, over 50 companies have now pledged. The bid was submitted to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on time at the end of November 2009. In July 2010 Sustain should hear if the bid has been successful and if the EU will match the funding pledged by the organic industry.
Advisory Committee on Organic Standards
Catherine Fookes is a consumer member of the Advisory Committee on Organic Standards, and is a consultant to Sustain.
At its meeting in March 2009 the request from certification bodies to allow a relaxation of rules so that organic livestock could be fed non-organic feed was rejected by ACOS members.
At the previous meeting, the new EU regulation on organic farming has been discussed in detail prior to its coming into force in January 2009. The EU has now agreed that the aquaculture part of the regulation will have more time for consultation, instead of being rushed through, and will not come into force until June 2009.
Organic Action Plan
Disappointingly, the Organic Action Plan group has been disbanded by Defra. Plans have been made for an ’Organic Stakeholder Group‘ to take forward the action plan priorities, however this is unlikely to happen before Spring 2009.
One of the first jobs Sustain will ask the stakeholder group to do is to review progress towards the target set in the original Organic Action Plan. The most recent figures available from the British Retail Consortium showed that in 2007 around two thirds (66%) of indigenous organic produce sold was from the UK. This represents considerable progress from the one third (30%) level in 2002. However, we need to know what the 2008 figure is and have a breakdown of different sectors. For example, some sectors (such as indigenous fruit) still have high import levels and the new stakeholder group should focus attention on these.