Organically off-target: EU plans fall short for countries to achieve 25% organic farms by 2030
08 Jun 2022 --- IFOAM Organics Europe, the umbrella organization for organic food and farming, is calling for massive investments in the sector to achieve 25% organic farmland by 2030. As of now, most countries are off-target, and without investments, there is a very real threat of losing some of the current organic farmland.
Without proper incentives, the future of organic farming in the EU looks bleak as IFOAM points to insufficient budgets for several countries including, Czech Republic, Finland, Portugal, Sweden, France, the Netherlands and Spain.
The organization has sent warning letters to the national ministries of agriculture of the 27 EU countries and to the EU Commission.
“Some countries lack ambition to contribute nationally to the EU’s target of 25% organic farmland by 2030, either in terms of targets, either in terms of weak interventions, and low budgets to develop organic farming,” says Jan Plagge, president of IFOAM Organics Europe.
“Member States should integrate the Commission’s observations to guarantee at least the continued growth of organic production during the next CAP period 2023-2027 and have a greater overall climate and environmental ambition,” he continues.
According to Innova Market Insights, organic claims are established in new launches mainly driven by the growing movement toward more ethical and sustainable lifestyles. Europe leads the organic movement by having 15.2% of organic product launches, followed by the 13.4% of North America – 2020 data reveals.
The organic trend is largely impulsed by Millenials, as one of every three consumers that say to follow an organic diet have between 26 and 35 years.
Risk of deconversions?
IFOAM also warns that, in some cases, countries could go backwards in terms of maintaining the space dedicated to organic farming, spotlighting France as an example.
“Some budgets are also too low to enable the maintenance of organic farming, such as in France, for which the Commission predicts a risk of deconversions as of 2023,” says the organization.
In the case of Spain, IFOAM criticizes the EU Commission as they “did not identify the alarming situation faced by the organic sector due to the lack of budget allocated for organic farming.”
The organization highlights that Spain is going to spend in the 2023-2027 period less than what the country should be spending per year – with plans to spend €752 million (US$803 million) in five years compared to the €1.1 billion (US$1.18 billion) per year needed.
Time left to rectify
Organic farming was one of the only green-friendly practices found to be beneficial and in line with reducing emissions, according to an EU damning report on climate action spending released in May.
An audit revealed confusing and overstated information on how the money spent on agriculture actually linked to green policies.
To avoid losing five years that could be used to expand farming land and maintain existing hectares, IFOAM underscores that there is still time to rectify the situation.
“The Commission should ensure Member States enhance their CAP strategic plans before approving them to make sure the interventions set will incentivize more conventional farmers to transition to organic farming. Given the benefits of organic for biodiversity, the environment and animal welfare as recalled by the Commission itself in its letters.”
However, while the EU Commission has stated organic farming to be beneficial for its reduced emissions and its soil quality improvement capabilities, it could have some adverse side effects:
“Lower yields from organic farming may lead to more production and emissions elsewhere,” says the European Court of Auditors.
Underpaid organic farmers
IFOAM argues that interventions to boost farmers’ payments set in the strategic plans will not attract producers to switch to organic harvests. It maintains that the new plan (2023-2027) is “inferior” to the last program (2014-2022) in terms of giving farmers monetary incentives for them to convert to organic farming.
This is explained by the farmers’ issues to combine organic subsidies and schemes with eco-schemes, agri-environmental ones and climate measures (AECMs), explains IFOAM.
The organization also reveals that more money is not being given to those projects that render lower emissions: “For instance, for France, the Commission mentioned that the Eco-scheme for organic farming is currently foreseen to receive the same level of payment than the Eco-scheme for HVE (so-called “High Environmental Value”) despite it provides lower environmental benefits.”
By Marc Cervera
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