What Next for Organic Agriculture?
Changes and priorities in the wake of the referendum
It is fair to say that the referendum result has galvanised NGOs to work together. It has shown the scale of concerted action that is necessary and put small differences of priority into perspective.
In the short term, the Chancellor has guaranteed the Basic Payments and agri-environment agreements that are in place by the 2016 autumn statement until 2020 which gives some short term certainty for the farming sector.
At the Soil Association we are working on many fronts to ensure the voice of organic farmers and growers is heard loud and clear in the corridors of power and that we are part of a consistent voice seeking a future agriculture policy which keeps sustainable agriculture front and centre of its ambitions.
To do this we are signatories to a number of communications sent to the highest level of Government. We have teamed up with other food and farming NGO’s across the UK as well as those interested in conservation, health, food and access to land.
Conscious of the key themes which drove the Brexit debate, namely trade, migration/labour and health we are considering labour issues in our thinking on policy post-CAP, drawing on evidence that organic farms on average have more and better jobs. We are also drawing public health advocates into the debate on policy post-CAP, to bring health into agricultural discussions about ‘public money for public goods’ and keeping in close touch with government’s Committee on Climate Change.
We are clear that a sustainable future agriculture policy must square the needs of farming, forestry, the environment, health, animal welfare, international development and consumers. It will almost certainly be under pressure to spend less than the current CAP, and will depend on a renewed public mandate for that spending.
When it comes to organic standards in the UK in the event of Brexit, they are likely to remain close to those in Europe, as the EU is currently our major trading partner and is likely to remain so for some time, although the Soil Association is supporting the development of growing export markets in a range on non-EU countries.
In the meantime, we are continuing our substantial contribution to IFOAM EU’s efforts to secure a decent outcome from the EU Organic Regulation review and playing a major part in developing policy priorities for the organic sector, including through IFOAM UK (chaired by the SA’s Chris Atkinson), the English Organic Forum (chaired by Nic Lampkin, ORC) and the Scottish Organic Forum (chaired by the SA’s David Michie).