The European Commission launched a public consultation on its future action plan on organic farming on Friday (4 September), and also proposed to postpone by one year the entry into force of the new organic regulation.
The announcement is part of the Commission’s efforts to support the organics sector, which plays a key role in achieving the goals of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies, including the target of reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming by 2030.
The organic action plan is designed to look at how organic production can help the agri-food sector improve its sustainability across the supply chain, developing both demand for organic products and organic production.
The consultation on the plan, due for adoption early in 2021, will gather feedback on the draft plan from citizens, national authorities and relevant stakeholders and will be open until 27 November.
Separately, the new set of rules for organic farming, approved in 2018 after many years of interinstitutional negotiations between MEPs and agriculture ministers, is designed to ensure fair competition for farmers whilst preventing fraud and maintaining consumer trust in an effort to reflect the changing nature of this rapidly growing sector.
The new organic regulation was originally due from 1 January 2021, but lawmakers and campaigners have been pushing for a one-year postponement of its application to 1 January 2022, saying this is needed to ensure a smooth transition and allow organic operators, control bodies and competent authorities to get properly ready.
The Commission has offered its support for this position, saying that while the new organic regulation provides a solid basis, secondary legislation still to be adopted needs to be equally resilient.
In a statement published online, the Commission reiterated its commitment to organic farming, emphasising that the Commission’s priority is to ensure that the organic farming sector has the right tools in place and legal framework to achieve the objective of 25% of agricultural land dedicated to organic farming, as laid out in the Farm to Fork strategy.
“At the request of member states, the European Parliament, third countries, and other stakeholders, the Commission has therefore proposed to postpone the entry into force of the new organic legislation by one year until 1 January 2022,” the statement reads
Reacting to the news, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said organic farming will be a “key ally in the transition that we are leading towards a more sustainable food system and better protection of our biodiversity”.
The news of the launch of the consultation and the proposal to postpone application of the new EU organic law was welcomed by Norbet Lins, chair of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee.
He said that delaying new EU rules on producing and labelling organic products by one year would give farmers and national authorities more time to adjust.
“I am happy that the Commission followed Parliament’s lead and proposed postponement of entry into application of the new organic rules,” he said, adding that “rushing through the approval of the secondary legislation when farmers are preoccupied with tackling the effects of COVID-19 would do more harm than good.”
“Postponing the entry into application of the Organic Regulation is the only feasible option that would give member states and operators enough time to make a successful transition to the new and better system of organic production,” he said, adding that the Agriculture Committee will do its utmost to ensure that this proposal is quickly adopted.
The announcement was also welcomed by EU organics association IFOAM, whose President Jan Plagge said a new EU Action Plan for organic farming is “crucial to make Europe more organic”.
“This kind of concrete step is what we need to boost demand and raise awareness on the benefits of organic production, which is a key aspect of an action plan,” he said.
Eduardo Cuoco, IFOAM director, added that postponing the new organic regulation was a “wise decision” that will allow member states to properly finish the work on the secondary legislation.
“We now urge the European Parliament to accept this proposal without delay through a simplified procedure,” he said.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]