Farming: 'A robust, resilient, sustainable system' is needed
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From tomorrow, new EU rules on what standards a product must meet in order to merit an organic label enters into force. While they contain some improvements for animal welfare, they also water down what counts as “EU agriculture” on the label. Unlike in the US, the new EU rules also allow a product to be marketed as organic even when a test finds pesticides on it.
It comes after huge demand from Germany to water down the rules in order to boost supplies.
UK exporters have reportedly raised concerns that the new rules would make it harder for them to sell into the EU.
The National Farmers’ Union have announced that exports to the EU are down by 22 percent compared to 2019.
But they are down only two percent in the rest of the world.
Nick Adams, an organic beef and sheep farmer in Derbyshire, told the Guardian: “The prediction was that we would lose our main export market to Europe, but that hasn’t happened.”
Pig farmers have been hit by shortages of abattoir workers, while fruit and vegetable growers have not been able to find people to pick crops.
Livestock farmers have benefited from higher prices caused by extra demand during the pandemic last year – beef is up about 15 percent.
But as an organic farmer, Mr Adams relies less on fertiliser, which has risen in cost, and does not need a large labour force.
He added: “I do appreciate other sectors have found it incredibly difficult, but relying on cheap labour needed to be changed and would have had to change anyway.”
Organic farmers will also be rewarded for the first time under a revolutionary payment scheme to protect the environment.
Farms that shun harmful pesticides and herbicides will get subsidy cash from the Government.
Details of the Sustainable Farming Incentive were unveiled by Environment Secretary George Eustice earlier this month.
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A Government document on the scheme is the first to detail one of three new environmental land management initiatives – part of the Agricultural Bill’s transitional post-Brexit plan.
Under the EU’s policy, payments were based on the amount of land farmed – benefiting landowners and costing around £3.5billion in total.
But the new scheme moves away from area-based subsidies towards payments for what farmers do to protect soils and biodiversity and to help climate change mitigation, alongside producing food.
Gareth Morgan, of the Soil Association, said: “This is a long-awaited recognition from Hovernment that organic farming delivers benefits for the environment and should be incentivised.”
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