The Soil Association will attempt to put organic farming at the heart of a reformed Common Agricultural Policy when it holds a debate in London next Thursday (7 October) on the future direction of European agriculture.

The speaker line-up, which includes policy director Peter Melchett, NFU president Peter Kendall, CLA policy director Allan Buckwell, the National Trust’s Helen Browning and RSPB conservation director Mark Avery, will ensure a wide range of perspectives are aired, the association’s Clio Turton said.

“The EU is looking to make the CAP as climate friendly as possible but at the same time Brussels will have to cope with a whole range of national political agendas for agriculture. Some feel the CAP only needs minor alterations whereas others are calling for more radical reform.”

Speaking ahead of the event, which takes place at The Farmers Club in Whitehall, Lord Melchett (pictured) said organic farming had a significant role to play in addressing a number of key challenges which lay at the heart of the CAP.

“Debating the future of the CAP is important, because two distinct visions of the future of food and farming are emerging in some European countries, particularly in the UK.


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“On the one hand, some say the public money paid through the CAP must support commercial farming, and the current trend towards bigger farms and larger livestock units, and stop supporting small farms altogether.

“On the other, the European public and many others want public money only to be spent delivering public goods – small farms, more wildlife, better welfare, more farming jobs, farming in remote areas, and organic farming.”

“Farming will face severe challenges as the costs of inputs like nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers rise in the face of climate change pressures and shortages. As farmers we are being asked to deliver less greenhouse gas emissions, more wildlife, better animal welfare, less water use, and a healthier diet. The only major international scientific review of farming, IAASTD, concluded that meeting these multiple challenges will require a radical shift to agri-ecological systems, like organic.”

Farmers at the debate will have their say through the open session which will follow the formal addresses. But those unable to attend can make their voice heard through FWi’s forums, Ms Turton said.

“There is a thread running on FWiSpace in which we’re seeking to extract views from across the farming spectrum. We hope to be able to include some of these in the discussions next week.”