Drop In Organic Farmland
As the market for organic food is growing very strongly in the UK (7.1% in 2016), we are worried about the continuing drop in organic farmland, reported by DEFRA this week.
Organic farmland fell to 507,900ha in 2016 and now makes up just 2.9% of the total farmed area. While it is positive to see an increase in the organic land in conversion (a 22% increase on 2015), it is clear (from the increase in organic poultry and cattle numbers) that existing organic farmers are increasing production from existing organic land to try and meet growing demand.
While we are seeing increasing applications from processors and producers alike who want to convert to organic, there is a lag between the time applications are made and when the conversion period begins. What is needed is confidence in the organic market, which can be met by long-term government support. Converting to organic farming is a big step for individual farmers, and these figures underline the importance of long-term government support for organic farming beyond Brexit, to give some certainty and security to farmers thinking of converting.
We are calling on the next government to offer stronger support for organic farming, by building on the current system and increasing the amount of land farmed using organic methods, which can help deliver environment, animal welfare and public benefits. This should include maintaining, improving and expanding the organic conversion and maintenance payments, ensuring agricultural colleges offer more courses in organic and agroecological farming practices alongside new organic apprenticeships, and maintaining the legal basis for organic standards –ensuring ongoing alignment with the EU organic regulation.