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European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production

European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production
Photo: Eurofresh Distribution

Last week, the Commission presented an Action Plan for the development of organic production. Its overall aim is to boost the production and consumption of organic products, to reach 25% of agricultural land under organic farming by 2030, as well as to increase organic aquaculture significantly.

Organic production comes with a number of important benefits: organic fields have around 30% more biodiversity, organically farmed animals enjoy a higher degree of animal welfare and take less antibiotics, organic farmers have higher incomes and are more resilient, and consumers know exactly what they are getting thanks to the EU organic logo. The Action Plan is in line with the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies.

The Action Plan is designed to provide the already fast growing organic sector the right tools to achieve the 25% target. It puts forward 23 actions structured around 3 axes – boosting consumption, increasing production, and further improving the sustainability of the sector – to ensure a balanced growth of the sector.

The Commission encourages Member States to develop national organic action plans to increase their national share of organic farming. There are significant differences between Member States regarding the share of agricultural land currently under organic farming, ranging from 0.5% to over 25%. The national organic action plans will complement the national CAP strategic plans, by setting out measures that go beyond agriculture and what is offered under the CAP.

Promote consumption

Growing consumption of organic products will be crucial to encourage farmers to convert to organic farming and thus increase their profitability and resilience. To this end, the Action Plan puts forward several concrete actions aimed at boosting demand, maintaining consumer trust and bringing organic food closer to citizens. This includes: informing and communicating about organic production, promoting the consumption of organic products, stimulating a greater use of organics in public canteens through public procurement and increasing the distribution of organic products under the EU school scheme. Actions also aim, for example, at preventing fraud, increasing consumers’ trust and improving traceability of organic products. The private sector can also play a significant role by, for example, rewarding employees with ‘bio-cheques’ they can use to purchase organic food.

Increase production

Presently, about 8.5% of EU’s agricultural area is farmed organically, and the trends show that with the present growth rate, the EU will reach 15-18% by 2030. This Action Plan provides the toolkit to make an extra push and reach 25%. While the Action Plan largely focuses on the “pull effect” of the demand side, the Common Agricultural Policy will remain a key tool for supporting the conversion. Currently, around 1.8% (€7.5 billion) of CAP is used to support organic farming. The future CAP will include eco-schemes which will be backed by a budget of €38 – 58 billion, for the period 2023 – 2027, depending on the outcome of the CAP negotiations. The eco-schemes can be deployed to boost organic farming.

Beyond the CAP, key tools include organisation of information events and networking for sharing best practices, certification for groups of farmers rather than for individuals, research and innovation, use of blockchain and other technologies to improve traceability increasing market transparency, reinforcing local and small-scale processing, supporting the organisation of the food chain and improving animal nutrition.

To raise awareness on organic production, the Commission will organise an annual EU ‘Organic day’ as well as awards in the organic food chain, to recognise excellence at all steps of the organic food chain. The Commission will also encourage the development of organic tourism networks through ‘biodistricts’. ‘Biodistricts’ are areas where farmers, citizens, tourist operators, associations and public authorities work together towards the sustainable management of local resources, based on organic principles and practices.

The Action Plan also notes that organic aquaculture production remains a relatively new sector but has a significant potential for growth. The upcoming new EU guidelines on the sustainable development of EU aquaculture, will encourage Member States and stakeholders to support the increase in organic production in this sector.

Improve sustainability

Finally, it also aims to further improve organic farming’s performance in terms of sustainability. To achieve this, actions will focus on improving animal welfare, ensuring the availability of organic seeds, reducing the sector’s carbon footprint, and minimising the use of plastics, water and energy.

The Commission also intends to increase the share of research and innovation (R&I) and dedicate at least 30% of the budget for research and innovation actions in the field of agriculture, forestry and rural areas to topics specific to or relevant for the organic sector.

The Commission will closely monitor progress through a yearly follow-up with representatives of the European Parliament, Member States and stakeholders, through bi-annual progress reports and a mid-term review.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: “Agriculture is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss, and biodiversity loss is a major threat to agriculture. We urgently need to restore balance in our relationship with nature. This is not something farmers face alone, it involves the whole food chain. With this Action Plan, we aim to boost demand for organic farming, help consumers make informed choices, and support European farmers in their transition. The more land we dedicate to organic farming, the better the protection of biodiversity in that land and in surrounding areas.”

Agriculture Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, said: “The organic sector is recognised for its sustainable practices and use of resources, giving its central role in achieving the Green Deal objectives. To achieve the 25% of organic farming target, we need to ensure that demand drives the growth of the sector while taking into account the significant differences between each Member State’s organic sectors. The organic Action Plan provides tools and ideas to accompany a balanced growth of the sector. The development will be supported by the Common Agricultural Policy, research and innovation as well as close cooperation with key actors at EU, national and local level.”

 

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EU Commission sets out 2021 Work Programme to support European recovery including Green New Deal

EU Commission sets out 2021 Work Programme to support European recovery including Green New Deal

 

On October 20, 2020 the European Commission adopted its 2021Work Programme, which sets out the actions the Commission aims to take in 2021. The Work Programme lists policy objectives and new legislative proposals based on the six headline ambitions of President von der Leyen:

  • A European Green Deal

  • A Europe fit for the digital age

  • An economy that works for people

  • A stronger Europe in the world

  • Promoting our European way of life

  • A new push for European democracy

Maroš Šefčovič, Commission Vice-President in charge of Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, said, “The priorities set out in this work programme will not only help deliver Europe’s recovery but also our long-term resilience – through future-proof solutions across all policy areas. For that, we will make the best use of strategic foresight as well as our better law-making principles – evidence-based and transparent, efficient and fit for the future.”

The Commission states that it is committed to evidence-based policies that are easier to comply with and less likely to create unnecessary burden for business and people. To that end, the Work Program foresees the creation of the ‘Fit-for-Future’ platform, a high-level expert group that will support the Commission to identify simplification and burden reduction potential. The Commission also highlights the need for impact assessments, which take into account the views of all those impacted. Therefore, the Commission commits to make consultations more efficient and more accessible to facilitate stakeholders’ participation.

One of the priorities of the Commission this year is also to increase efforts to improve the effective application, implementation and enforcement of EU law. The Work Programme stresses that the Commission will work with Member States to ensure the swift and correct implementation of new and existing EU rules. The Commission clearly states that it will not hesitate to uphold EU law through infringement proceedings where needed.

As part of the Better Regulation process, the Commission will continue or launch new REFIT exercises for EU legislation. The Regulatory Fitness and Performance program (REFIT) is a programme designed to keep the entire stock of EU legislation under review and ensure that it is fit for purpose; that regulatory burdens are minimised; and that all simplification options are identified and applied.

The European Green Deal

After the publication of the EU Communication on the Green Deal in December 2019, the European Commission has published sectorial strategies over the course of 2020 including the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy. More information about the Green Deal initiatives can be found in GAIN Report ‘EU Green Deal – September 2020 Update’.

To achieve the Green Deal objective of climate neutrality by 2050, the Commission announced that it will table a “Fit for 55 package” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030. This will cover wide-ranging policy areas including renewable energy, land use, effort sharing and emissions trading. The Commission will also publish a proposal for a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism on the risk of carbon leakage. In addition, the Commission will propose measures to implement Europe’s circular economy action plan, the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the Farm to Fork Strategy.  Among these measures are the action plan on organic production, the proposal to reduce the risk of products associated with deforestation on the EU market and the communication on rural areas.

Photo: European Commission

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Europe’s crop protection industry lays out 2030 Commitments

Europe's crop protection industry lays out 2030 Commitments
© ECPA

 

Europe’s crop protection industry (ECPA) has established a set of ambitious commitments to support Europe’s new Green Deal, including an investment of over €14 billion in new technologies and more sustainable products by 2030. In addition to this investment, ECPA also plans to ramp up waste collection and increase the levels of training among farmers in Europe as part of its response to the EU’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.

Géraldine Kutas, European Crop Protection Association Director General, said: “With its ambitious European Green Deal, the European Commission has fired the starting gun for the EU’s run towards a more sustainable, climate-neutral future. We are serious about contributing and aligning with the Green Deal policy initiatives which is why our companies have joined together to set our own voluntary, sector-specific, measurable goals in their support.”

The six commitments adopted by ECPA will guide the sector for the next decade in key areas of agricultural innovative technologies, the circular economy and better protection of people and the environment:

  • Innovation & Investment: By supporting innovation and the deployment of digital and precision tools as well as biopesticides, we further the European Commission’s ambition of a digital and green recovery. By 2030 we will be investing 10 billion euros into innovation in precision and digital technologies and 4 billion euros into innovation in biopesticides. All the investment the industry is committing to is only useful if there is the appropriate regulatory framework allowing the innovation to reach the European farmers.

  • Circular Economy: By increasing the collection rate of the empty pesticides plastic containers to 75% and establishing a collection scheme in the EU Member States that currently have none by 2025, we will contribute to the EU’s goal of a circular economy that aims at minimising waste and resources used, lessening the environmental impact of plastic packaging.

  • Protecting People & Environment: By training farmers on the implementation of Integrated Pest Management, water protection and the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE), our industry desires to further minimise exposure and reduce the risks of pesticide use, all while contributing to the overall goals of the Sustainable Use Directive and EU Farm to Fork strategies aiming at producing enough food sustainably.