28 August 2001
Ministers hamper organic farmers

By Fwi staff

MINISTERS have been accused of hampering UK farmers by failing to come up with an organic strategy document.

The Organic Targets Campaign has launched its own action plan in a bid to kick-start the government into action.

Failure to develop policies to meet the increase in demands for organic produce has prevented farmers from exploiting new markets, it claims.

The campaign aims to have 30% of land in England and Wales farmed organically and 20% of food marketed to be organic by 2010.

Campaign co-ordinator Catherine Fookes said European countries with the most organic land had taken a more strategic approach to organic farming.

The UK must now do the same or our farmers will miss the boat, she said.

The government needs to act swiftly to enable the organic sector to reach its potential in the next decade.

The outline action plan recommends measures that the government could introduce immediately to help farmers go organic.

Overall, the document says, the attitude of the agricultural establishment may be one of the biggest challenges for the development of UK organic farming.

Barriers to conversion include farmers worried about institutional attitudes within the government and the influence of the agrochemical industry it notes.

These social and institutional barriers need to be addressed to encourage more farmers to go organic.

But it suggests that improving information and training available to farmers on the issue would help.

At present there is insufficient training capacity, farmers course and access to technical information to enable the sector to grow to 30%, says the document.

To improve the market situation, it proposes that schools, hospitals and local authorities should introduce an organic buying policy.

This would be allowed under EU law in contrast to a buy British policy.

The Organic Targets Bill has wide support from a number of organisations including the Soil Association, Friends of the Earth and the Pesticides Trust.

It has previously been presented to Parliament as a private members bill.

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