1. Who is supporting the Bill?
The Organic Targets Bill has been developed over several years by a steering group of organisations that includes all the organic sector bodies in Scotland and NGOs such as the RSPB and Scottish Wildlife Trust. In total, 83 organisations (see below) now support the Bill which has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament by Robin Harper MSP (Green Party). Robin has been joined by MSPs from all parties in proposing the Bill to the Parliament. The Bill has benefited from the involvement of the Parliament's Non- Executive Bills Unit in terms of policy development and professional drafting.
2. The objectives of the Bill
The long-term aim of the Bill is that there should be more organic food produced and consumed in Scotland contributing positively to sustainable development. The Bill aims to achieve this by developing a 10-year action plan driven by targets that will support the development of the organic
sector 'from field to plate'.
3. The need for the Organic Farming Targets Bill
a) The benefits
Organic food production methods have been shown to result in a range of environmental benefits relating to increased biodiversity, pollution reduction and landscape conservation.
Robust evidence exists that points to higher nutrient levels in some organic foods compared to conventionally produced equivalents.
Animal welfare standards in organic farming are seen as exemplary by many organisations concerned with these issues.
Evidence shows that organic production requires higher levels of labour than conventional farming, thereby assisting rural development and employment levels.
b) The problems
Sales of organic food in the UK are booming, up 33% in the last year. Despite this the UK is the most import-dependent country in Europe, importing 70% of organic produce last year.
The organic sector in Scotland faces serious problems of market failure: poor information, undeveloped business links and infrastructure, lack of investment and diseconomies of scale.
Despite 7.1% of Scotland's agriculture currently falling under organic management, there is a marked imbalance between farm types, in that 85% of land in conversion to organic is upland rough grazing.
c) The solutions
Elsewhere in the UK and Europe the problems experienced by the organic sector are increasingly being addressed by action plans driven by targets. Both the action plans prepared for organic farming in England and Wales include targets. Later this year, the European Commission will introduce an EU wide organic sector action plan with targets.
It is therefore widely recognised that a combination of market 'pull' and government 'push' forces are required to develop the organic sector successfully. Conversion to organic management attracts payments for farmers through the Organic Aid Scheme (OAS) in Scotland. However, the OAS
does not offer ongoing, post-conversion payments as are available in many competitor countries in Europe and (from April 2003) in England under the new English organic Action Plan.
Although price premiums to farmers may be reduced when organic supply grows to meet expanding demand, an increasing organic sector is likely to result in greater efficiency through increasing economies of scale, better infrastructure and research, thereby compensating for any future premium reductions.
4. Why a legislative route?
Organic Farming in Scotland is at a crucial point of development. It offers the potential to become a significant part of mainstream agricultural practice in Scotland, but requires the lead of government to galvanise the sector and provide support that is, at least, equivalent to levels of support offered in other countries.
The Scottish organic sector has received comparatively poor levels of support from successive governments. A legislative route would provide the Scottish organic sector with the security it requires to develop successfully during the next decade, and would formalise commitment from the
current and future Scottish Executives.
5. Why targets?
Targets are an important part of any government strategy that seeks to deliver measurable and identifiable outcomes. Targets exist for many areas of Scottish Executive activity where government has only partial control of the outcomes, including waste recycling and renewable energy.
Increasing numbers of Scotland 's organic farming competitor countries have targets for land area conversion. To successfully compete with these in terms of efficiency and infrastructure, Scotland also needs targets. Without targets, any strategy to develop the Scottish organic sector is unlikely to meet with success, when faced with competition from countries possessing organic sector targets.
Targets provide an important planning function in the development of any action plan to strengthen the organic sector. Planning out conversion support finance available means that farmers can take a decision to convert to organic with confidence. Planning out supply chain development means farmers will know the supply chain is gearing up to supply their products to the market.
6. The detail of the Bill
The Bill will require a target be established for the conversion of 20% of agricultural land to become organic within 10 years. The target will be applied to three different categories of land to ensure some balance between different land types and geographic areas of Scotland. The Bill will also require Scottish Ministers to produce a 10 year strategy for the whole organic sector 'from field to plate' in order to meet the target, which must consider:
- a mechanism for delivery of the plan;
- development of financial support measures;
- supply chain development;
- an information and research strategy; and
- market development including local marketing.
These aspects are identified under the Schedule of the Bill. However the Bill is not prescriptive and will leave the detail of the plan to be decided by Scottish Ministers following consultation with all stakeholders. The Bill will require annual reports to be submitted to the Parliament to review progress towards meeting the target and other associated issues.
7. The accompanying documents
The Bill is published with several accompanying documents. The Explanatory Notes provide an explanation of each part of the Bill, the Financial Memorandum identifies likely costs as a result of the enactment of the Bill, and the Policy Memorandum explains the background to the Bill in greater detail, including the consultation on the Bill which took place last year.
MSPs supporting the Bill
Brian Adam SNP, Robert Brown LD, Colin Campbell SNP, Dennis Canavan IND, Bruce Crawford SNP, Roseanna Cunningham SNP, Linda Fabiani SNP, Kenneth Gibson SNP, Donald Gorrie LD, Christine Grahame SNP, Ian Jenkins LD, Richard Lochhead SNP, Kenny MacAskill SNP, Margo MacDonald SNP, Maureen Macmillan LAB, John McAllion LAB, Irene McGugan SNP, Fiona McLeod SNP, Alex Neil SNP, Lloyd Quinan SNP, Tavish Scott LD, Tommy Sheridan SSP, Murray Tosh CON,
Sandra White SNP.
Organisations on the Bill steering group
Borders Organic Gardeners, Biodynamic Agricultural Association, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Henry Doubleday Research Association, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scottish Green Party, Scottish Organic Gardeners, Scottish Organic Producers Association, Scottish Wildlife Trust,
Action Against Allergy, Advocates for Animals, Arid Lands Initiative, British Institute for Allergy and Environmental Therapy, Centre for Alternative Technology, Centre for Food Policy, Centre for Human
Ecology, Christian Ecology Link, Compassion in World Farming, Edinburgh Wildlife Group, Elm Farm Research Centre, Environmental Arts, Environmental Concern Orkney, Gaia Foundation, The Green Team, Health Education Trust, International Society for Ecology and Culture, John Muir Trust, Kippen Environment Centre, Land Heritage, Living Water Charitable Trust, One World Centre, Organic Gardening Magazine, Reforesting Scotland, Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Scottish Consumers Association for Natural Food, Scottish Crofting Foundation, Scottish Development Education Centre, Scottish Ecological Design Association, The Scottish Tree Trust, SERA Scotland, Skye Environmental Centre Ltd, Small Farmers Association, Transport and General Workers Union, UNISON, Water of Leith Conservation Trust, Women's Environmental Network, Wooplaw Community Woodland, WWF Scotland
Asda Stores Ltd, Bellfield Organic Nursery, Black Isle Brewery, Bonaly Farm Dairy, Broughton Ales Ltd, Cream o' Galloway, Croft Organics, CWS Retail Brands Group (The Co-op), Damhead Holdings, Earthworks Trading, East Coast Organics, Ecology Building Society, Evergreen Wholefoods, Greencity Wholesale, Hendersons of Edinburgh, Highland Wholefoods Workers Co-operative, John Bryan Organic Meats, JS Organic Jerseys Ltd, Lembas, Loch Arthur Farms, Macleod Organics, McIntosh Donald Ltd, Nature's Gate, Neal's Yard Remedies, Netherfield Farm, Pillars of Hercules Farm, Poyntzfield Herb Nursery, Scottish Herbal Suppliers, Simply Organic, Sunrise Wholefoods, The Island Bakery, The New Leaf, Waitrose