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Still struggling with the ‘O’ word: Organic principles get Defra backing in new schemes but again fail to name check ‘organic’ 

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When senior Defra ministers set out further details of the Government’s new Environmental Land Management schemes at this week’s Oxford Farming Conference, something was still missing – the ‘O’ word (‘O’ for organic).

Today, OF&G (Organic Farmers & Growers) said that, while organic principles get backing in Defra’s new schemes, Defra had again “failed to name check organic”.

“We’re still missing detail on how new schemes will integrate with existing land management initiatives. And while the Local Nature Recovery scheme could be a good fit for organic, farmers need much greater detail if they are to plan for the next 5-10 years,” said OF&G’s chief executive Roger Kerr.

“Making space for nature, creating wildlife habitat, choosing nature-based solutions, are all exactly what the UK’s 3,604 certified organic farmers have always done.”

He added that in failing to name check organic, Defra was failing to flag a market opportunity to farmers looking to adapt to the changing farming landscape.

OF&G says that organic delivers a proven system of environmentally sensitive food production that operates within a fully regulated and audited farming scheme.

“With the organic market growing at a rate of over 8% year-on-year, surely it is a mistake on the part of Government not to now publicly recognise this opportunity”

Roger Kerr

“It’s a system that delivers public goods while also providing nutritious food and sustaining rural economies. With the organic market growing at a rate of over 8% year-on-year, surely it is a mistake on the part of Government not to now publicly recognise this opportunity.

“It is the job of government to provide support that is both consistent and accessible,” Kerr noted.

“What we are calling for is recognition that organic is a clear part of the wider Defra policy agenda. The UK needs a strong organic supply base and there’s an obvious fit with Defra’s environmental direction.”

While acknowledging that that organic farming won’t be for everyone, Kerr pointed out that with input costs spiralling, organic is worth investigating for those minded to explore the opportunity.

“It’s disappointing that George Eustice has again failed to give proper assurance to Britain’s farming community and missed an opportunity to highlight the need for the integrated approach to land management that organic already offers. Now is not the time to be shying away from backing what is a lucrative and environmentally beneficial system for many UK farm enterprises,” he concluded.

Main image: George Eustice addressing this week’s Oxford Farming Conference. OFC

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