CAP reform 2014 – 2020: Provisions for organic farming

EU Commisioner Dacian Ciolos has set out his vision for organic farming in a video message to the Dutch organic trade fair BioVak on 19th January 2012. In it he emphasises the benefits that organic farming can offer a reformed CAP, and talks about the role that research and innovation measures should play in supporting organic farming.

A transcript of the English translation can be found here (PDF 100KB).

As indicated above, organic farming will be specifically addressed at two levels. Firstly, organic farmers will qualify automatically for the uncapped Greening element accounting for 30% of Direct Payment (Pillar 10 support, while non-organic producers will need to make specific commitments to crop rotation, maintenance of permanent grassland and dedicating 7% of land to have specific ecological focus. Secondly, organic farming will also now be a stand-alone measure as part of the rural development programme, rather than one of many agri-environmental schemes as it has been from the mid-1990s. There are also several provisions for prioritising organic activities with respect to producer organisations and promotion contained in the proposed Market Management (CMO) regulation.

More precisely, Article 29(4) of the proposed Direct Payments regulation specifies that farmers complying with the requirements laid down in Article 29(1) of Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 as regards organic farming shall be entitled ipso facto to the {Greening} payment referred to in this Chapter. (This} shall apply only to the units of a holding that are used for organic production in accordance with Article 11 of Regulation (EC) No 834/2007, which means that part holdings as well as fully organic holdings will be eligible.

The introductory recitals to the proposed Rural Development legislation specify that payments for the conversion to or maintenance of organic farming should encourage farmers to participate in such schemes thus answering society’s increasing demand for the use of environmentally friendly farm practices and for high standards of animal welfare. In order to increase synergy in biodiversity benefits delivered by the measure, collective contracts or collaboration between farmers should be encouraged to cover larger adjacent areas. In order to avoid large-scale reversion of farmers to conventional farming, both conversion and maintenance measures should be supported. Payments should contribute to covering additional costs incurred and income foregone as a result of the commitment and should cover only commitments going beyond relevant mandatory standards and requirements.

Article 30 of the proposed Rural Development Regulation establishes organic farming as a distinct measure and specifies that support under this measure shall be granted, per hectare of UAA, to farmers or groups of farmers who undertake, on a voluntary basis to convert to or maintain organic farming practices and methods as defined in Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007. Commitments under this measure shall be undertaken for a period of five to seven years. Where support is granted for the maintenance of organic farming, Member States may provide in their rural development programmes for annual extension after the termination of the initial period. Payments shall be granted annually and shall compensate beneficiaries for all or part of the additional costs and income foregone resulting from the commitments made. Where necessary they may also cover transaction costs to a value of up to 20% of the premium paid for the commitments. Where commitments are undertaken by groups of farmers, the maximum level {of compensation for transaction costs} shall be 30%. Support shall be limited to 600 €/ha per year for annual crops, 900 €/ha per year for specialised perennial crops and 450 €/ha per year for other land uses.

While in general terms the new provisions for organic farming are designed to enhance the status of organic farming in the CAP and to be welcomed, there could be some unintended consequences. Firstly, Member States may use the automatic Greening payment for organic farmers as a basis for not implementing or reducing support under the Pillar 2 Rural Development regulations. Secondly, the separation of organic farming as an optional Rural Development measure from other Agri-environment-climate measures that are mandatory for Member States to implement, could provide another opportunity for Member States to discontinue or reduce support for organic farming.

Rather than leading to greater consistency in organic support between Member States, this could lead to a situation where support levels vary even more widely that they do currently, with some countries, or regions within countries, providing no support at all. This could lead to increasing trade distortions between and within Member States, where theoretically there should be a level playing field in the market place. While the inclusion of organic farming within the 25% minimum funding requirement for land management and climate measures will help, consideration should be given to making the organic measure (Article 30) compulsory and/or applying the higher co-financing rates foreseen in Article 65(4) of the proposed RDP regulation as a means to achieve greater consistency between programming regions.

It is also important the new RDP organic measure is not seen in isolation. Where possible, synergies between the various RDP and other policy measures should be exploited, in particular (but not exclusively) between the proposed organic farming measure and the measures addressing agri-environment-climate, Natura 2000/water framework directive, areas facing natural and specific constraints, animal welfare, quality schemes, investment in physical assets, farm and business development, establishment of agro-forestry systems, setting up of producer groups, co-operation, knowledge transfer and information actions, farm advisory services, LEADER and the EIP innovation measures, as well as to Pillar 1 Greening, research, public procurement, promotion and other non-RDP measures. This could be achieved by asking regions to state explicitly how these synergies will be exploited. The inclusion of an organic farming chapter, where appropriate linked to a national or regional organic action plan, in RDP programming documents could also be encouraged.

Reflecting some of these concerns, the IFOAM EU Group has called for organic farming to be prioritised in terms of higher co-financing rates and to be specifically recognised also in the context of knowledge transfer support measures. Further information on positions taken by the European organic movement can be found at www.ifoam-eu.org/workareas/policy/php/CAP.php.

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