Five game changers for the EU Organic Action Plan

The European Union has set an ambitious goal for 25 percent organic farming in the EU by 2030. And the Commission wants our input as to how to do it: Organic Action Plan consultation.

This is an achievable goal. But also a very bold goal, motivated by the great contributions of organic farming to European Green Deal and Farm to Fork goals for biodiversity, environment, water quality, better food and better incomes for farmers.

Achieving this goal for organic land area will also require a rapid growth in the organic market and extensive new capacities in the organic NGOs, that can drive both market growth, farm conversion, and innovation in organic farming and food.

Rapid transformation in farm area and market shares will require ambitious, well financed policy at the EU, national and regional levels like we have never seen before. Real game changers. I would like to suggest 5 such game changers for the coming EU Organic Action Plan:

  1. Require substantial Organic Action Plans in all member states

The EU Organic Action Plan will only succeed if it mobilizes collaboration and organic policy development in the member states. The EU should make national organic goals and national organic action plans a requirement for approval of member states Strategic Plans for the CAP.

The national action plans should be completed within two years, and be developed with broad stakeholder involvement. There should also be some basic requirements for the national action plans. They should include goals for growth in both organic farm area, retail sales and public procurement. And significant actions and financing for both market development, and conversion to organic farming, including specific steps to strengthen market and innovation infrastructure, for example by building capacity in national organic research institutions and NGOs as drivers for market development and catalysts for farm conversion and innovation. Member states should also have a strategy for use of ecochemes to finance organic growth.

And I would recommend that the Commission include in the action plan concrete goals for market and sector development, as a guide for member states in their goal setting, and as a benchmark for assessment of the adequacy of market and sector oriented actions in the EU Organic Action Plan.

  1. Level the playing field in the food market.

The greatest barrier to expansion of the organic market, and to the broader conversion and economic sustainability in organic farming is the price differentials between conventional and organic food, caused largely by the lack of payment for environmental costs in conventional farming. It is essential that the Organic Action Plan includes actions that address this imbalance and unfair competition.

The Commission should enable and pursue introduction of lower VAT on products that achieve certification under the EU Organic logo. The Commission can also promote sharing of best practice in member states regarding implementation of taxes on fx pesticides, consistent with Farm to Fork commitments to EU tax systems that ensure inclusion of environmental externalities.

  1. Build Capacity in the organic sector and organic NGOs as drivers for market and farm development.

Member states with strong organic markets are characterized by strong organic NGO market development capacity. Denmark, world leader in organic sales, is but one case. But organic NGO market capacity is more often the missing policy ingredient for market development in EU member states.

National investments in critical market competencies and capacity allows the organic market NGOS to create deep partnerships with retail and food service leaders, and drive strong consumer awareness efforts with greater effect. The EU can mobilize the catalytic power of organic NGOs in market development by directly supporting a new EU initiative for sharing of best practice in organic market development across member states; and by requiring support for market development and NGO market development capacity in national national organic action plans.

  1. Mobilize national, regional and local public procurement.

The EU Organic Action Plan should finde actions that pave the way for using public procurement as a motor for development of the organic market and food sector. National, regional and local governments require motivation and assistance in integrating requirements for organic food in public procurement. The Danish model for simultaneous policy and sector mobilisation for organic public procurement works.

  1. Increase organic deliveries on sustainability, also as increased value in the market

In order to maintain and increase consumer interest in organic food, it is essential that organic farming is out in front on critical issues such as climate and biodiversity. This requires a stronger priority to sharing of organic best climate practice and more organic farming research in research programmes, including HORIZON. And it requires that we raise the bar on climate requirements in the organic standards, giving consumers a stronger climate guarantee under the organic label.

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