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The Organic Action Plan

Following our campaign successes in 2002, work continues keeping the Defra Organic Action Plan on track in key areas of targets and evaluation, on-going payment rates for organic farmers and encouraging more UK buying of organic food by supermarkets. At the Defra Organic Action Plan meeting at the end of 2002 most people, including the Minister Michael Meacher MP, were in agreement with the need for a date of 2010 for the market share target of 70%. However some groups wanted to do more research on the market size and predicted growth rates. Catherine Fookes, who represents the Organic Targets Campaign on the Organic Action Plan advisory group will keep the pressure on to get this date in the plan.

Government publishes Organic Action Plan with target

It's been a roller coaster ride, but finally we have what we have all been calling for during the last three years an organic action plan, with an all important target so that we can judge its success. An extremely big thank you to all our supporters for your perseverance, your time and your enthusiasm. This success really shows the power of the pen and that people working together can make change happen all those letters from all the supporting organisations and individuals to MPs and Ministers, the huge lobby of Parliament in January 2002, really made a big difference.

It's been a long, hard six months working on the Government's Organic Action Plan team, but it was worth it. Our key points are in the action plan: a target, payments continuing after farmers have converted, more support for direct retailing and local food, encouragement for public bodies such as schools and hospitals to buy organic food. The plan is a huge step forward for British organic farming. As Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association, said: "This is a major breakthrough for organic farmers in England."

However, there is still work to do. The target Government has set is for the market share of British organic produce to increase from its current lowly 30% to 70%. Instead of all that imported organic produce you see on some supermarkets' shelves, you should gradually see more British produce instead. Although the campaign had originally called for a target for 30% of land to be farmed organically by 2010, the main aim of the campaign was for an action plan that included clear targets for making real progress. The market share target adopted by Government will make a good alternative, if it is met by 2010. It would ensure our farmers can meet far more of the UK demand.

Currently, though, the target has no date, and there are other aspects of the plan which fall short of what we think is needed. For example payments after conversion are still low compared to other EU countries, and there could have been a greater commitment to local organic food systems. We also need to make sure that similar measures are introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so that farmers in these areas are not disadvantaged.

This first action plan is just the start, and work will continue in the Autumn. Please help us to keep the pressure on so that the action plan results in real change for UK organic farming.

The Government's Organic Action Plan for England

The following list shows our analysis of the main points.

Setting a target

  • Government action: UK organic market share to increase from 30% to at least 70%
  • Our analysis: Excellent that target made it into the action plan. Needs a date of 2010

Financial support

  • Government action: Payments continuing for 5 years after the farmer has converted to organic farming. Top payment is 30 / hectare. Available 2003
  • Our analysis: Great that this concept accepted. Now need to ensure the money is enough to compete with other EU countries
  • Government action: Top fruit (apples and pears) to receive increase in payments from 70 to 600 per hectare in years 1-3 and 30 in years 4 and 5
  • Our analysis: As above
  • Government action: 5 million extra on Research and Development over next five years
  • Our analysis: Excellent news!

Supplying of organic food

  • Government action: Clarification that public bodies can buy organic food based on environmental benefits it can provide
  • Our analysis: Excellent news!
  • Government action: Defra will get organic meals into government staff canteens
  • Our analysis: Excellent news!


  • Government action: Supermarkets committed to "increasing proportion of organic food which they source within the UK"
  • Our analysis: Will only buy from UK "where it is feasible at acceptable levels of quality and price" This gives retailers a get out clause
  • Government action: Will provide information on organic and conventional imports and "seek to support producers to increase their share of the organic market"
  • Our analysis: Good that they will provide information but rest is very woolly. Wanted all retailers to agree to set targets for UK supplies once information gathered. Sainsbury's and Waitrose are the only two supermarkets who have so far, and Marks & Spencers has a good track record in UK sourcing

Organic standards

  • Government action: States that Ministers support high standards
  • Our analysis: Excellent news!
  • Government action: Consumers to be more involved in setting standards
  • Our analysis: Excellent news!


  • Government action: More market information available
  • Our analysis: Very good news for farmers and processors thinking of going organic. Could help us avoid an over-supply situation in the future if market predictions available


  • Government action: New Research Committee on organics to advise on organic research
  • Our analysis: Excellent news!
  • Government action: Food Chain Centre will analyse organic red meat sector and identify best practice
  • Our analysis: Good start but would like to see this extended to other sectors too in near future

Local food

  • Government action: Attempt to raise skills levels in small organic food processing and manufacturing businesses by securing changes to Vocational Training Scheme
  • Our analysis: Urgently needed and welcome!
  • Government action: Will develop strategy for regional food sector, including local food marketing
  • Our analysis: Great potential to help small and medium sized enterprises but needs a commitment to put funding into local food economies from, for example, Regional Development Agencies

Government organic action plan welcomed

Government organic action plan welcomed - but campaigners call for action timetable. Friends of the Earth and the Organic Targets Campaign have welcomed today's commitment by the Government for British organic producers to supply 70% of the domestic market the same level as conventional producers.

Organic Campaigning Gets Ministerial Recognition

Supporters of the Organic Targets Campaign have certainly made an impression on the government. Minister responsible for organic farming, Elliot Morley, recently said , "My arm is aching with signing letters from MPs about it". (Organic Business Magazine; June 2002) Indeed, the hard work calling for a plan with targets has come to fruition in the form of a soon-to-be-published Defra Organic Action Plan. Even better, after lobbying for three years, Sustain is on the steering group.

Organic rally bang on target!

Thank you for a fantastic lobby and Rally of Parliament. Over 700 campaign supporters packed Westminster Central Hall in London at the rally on January 23 and ensured Parliament heard the message loud and clear: we need a target for organics in this country.

A line-up of ten lively speakers ensured we covered organics from farm gate to dinner plate. A Danish organic campaigner told us how the Danish Action Plan and targets had benefited farmers and consumers. Simon Jones, a Lincolnshire organic farmer shared his experience of converting his farm and called on the government to set targets for organic farming. Other speakers included Wendy Wrigley from the Co-op, Dr Vyvyan Howard, Charles Secrett (FoE), Joan Ruddock MP, Patrick Holden (Soil Association), Barry Leathwood (TGWU) and Professor Tim Lang. Finally Louiza Patikas, who plays Helen Archer, manager of Ambridge Organics, in the Archers, led the crowd over to the House of Commons to lobby our MPs.

"Hundreds of British farmers want to convert to organic farming but can't afford to do so. The Government should step in and help ensure that British farmers and the British countryside reap the benefits from the boom in organic food"
Louiza Patikas, who plays Helen Archer in the Archers on BBC Radio 4, at the rally, January 23 2002

Many MPs signed up to the campaign on the day of the lobby and many more are signing up all the time. (over 180 as we go to press) These MPs are lobbying a crucial Government Minister on your behalf. So the message is really getting through - bang on target!

A massive thank you to all of you who came to the rally. Check out our latest photos of the rally. We've had so much positive feedback from speakers and supporters. People said it was a great day out (despite the rain) and that they valued being part of the democratic process. Now we must build on the momentum we've generated and make sure that MPs stick to their promises.

The Curry Report on Farming and Food : What's what on organics

The eagerly awaited report in to the future of farming was launched on January 29. The Organic Targets Campaign was delighted to see an organic action plan, one of the campaign's policies, in the recommendations. And a major leap forward to reduce organic imports was recommended - an organic "stewardship" scheme (payments to producers after they have converted to organic farming in return for the environmental benefits they provide to the public). We will be working hard to ensure that rates here are high enough to compete with EU farmers, most of whom have been receiving these payments for years.

However, a significant omission was a 30% land target for the action plan.

The action plan must have targets. Without them, how will we know if the action plan is working? How can we hold the Government to account? A target will give the farmers, processors and retailers the confidence to convert to organic systems and imports will reduce. More than half of the countries in the European Union have targets and action plans - can they all be wrong?

Minister for Rural Affairs supports organic action plan and targets!

It's great news for the Organic Targets Campaign that Rt Hon Alun Michael MP has become Minister of State for Rural Affairs, in the new Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). As First Minister, leading the Welsh Assembly, he introduced the Welsh Organic Action Plan and its target of 10%. It means that we have a Minister who has recognised the strategic advantage of setting a clear target for conversion of land to organic farming. Clearly it would be inconsistent if he did not now move to introduce the same policy of a firm target for England's organic farming - but he will need you to convince him that this is a priority area and that he can go further than the 10% target set in Wales. Over 260 MPs have already supported a far more ambitious 30% target - as have most major supermarkets, trade unions and environment groups. Furthermore, since the Welsh target was set, imports of organic food have grown even more in the UK - from around 70% of food imported last year to 75% now.

So to convince him of the need to do for England what he has already done for Wales, we need you to TAKE ACTION!

Government sets targets and agrees to action plan for organic farming

Victory is in sight for the Organic Targets Bill campaign! The Government has finally started to listen. In the last month, major progress has been made on the Organic Targets Bill the Government has set a target and the Minister for Agriculture Nick Brown agreed that an action plan is needed for organic farming. So, our mission to get the Bill into law is succeeding - now we just need to persuade Government to increase their low target, and get them working, as soon as possible, on an action plan for the sector.

Targets argument now won

In November 2000, a target was set in the Rural White Paper for England: "Our target is 430,000 hectares of land converted or converting to organic by 2007." This equates to a target of 4.7% of agricultural land in England to be organic by 2007. It falls far short of our 30% target, but it's a start.

Convincing Ministers to set a target has not been easy. Even as recently as last July Nick Brown said "we are not setting specific targets [for organic farming]."( 27 July 2000: Hansard Column 1224) However, now the Government has accepted the principle of targets, we are a huge step nearer to convincing them to support the Bill. Certainly we will need to make strong arguments for the reasons that the target should be higher - but the argument about whether or not to set one has now been won.

Action plan for organic given thumbs-up

Its not only targets that have been agreed to. The Minister of Agriculture Nick Brown agreed that an action plan for organic farming could be useful. When tackled on the issue at the Soil Association's organic conference in January 2001, the Minister said he was not opposed to an action plan. So now we need one more big push to get the Bill either onto the statute books, or into Government policy.

The argument for an Action plan also received heavyweight support from the Commons Agriculture Committee. After a six-month enquiry, the Committee of MPs recommended over 30 actions to support organic farming and make it easier for the sector to expand. The measures they suggest could easily form the core of an Action Plan to boost organic farming to the levels the Bill requires. (See article below for more info on the report)

These momentous steps forward show that the lobbying we have all been doing is paying off already and the Government is waking up to the fact that it needs to do more for organic farming. Thank you to all those who have helped in the campaign so far there's still plenty more to do, so keep up the good work.

Organic Sector Development: We are helping to bring the organic message to the UK consumer with the Organic. Naturally Different campaign.

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