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Brussels, 10 June 2004

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Organic farming in the EU

Today, the European Commission has adopted the “European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming”. Its objective is to facilitate the ongoing development of organic farming in the EU. The Commission puts forward a list of 21 concrete policy measures to be implemented, such as improving information about organic farming, streamlining public support via rural development, improving production standards or strengthening research. This plan comes in response to a rapid increase in the number of farmers producing organically and to a strong demand from consumers during the last years. It is based on extensive consultations with Member States and stakeholders including an online consultation in 2003, a hearing in January 2004, and meetings with Member States and stakeholder groups. The Action Plan will be presented at the next Agriculture Council. For details about the action plan see IP/04/730.

EU measures to promote organic farming

The 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) represented a significant step forward in further integrating environmental concerns, with measures that integrate environmental concerns into agricultural market and income policy on one hand and on the other targeted environmental measures and more funds for rural development programmes.

Organic farming is an important tool in the strategy of environmental integration and sustainable development which are key principles of the common agricultural policy (CAP). Organic farmers are currently eligible to receive support from the first pillar of the CAP through direct payments and price support measures. More importantly, organic farming is fully integrated in the rural development policy, the second pillar of the CAP and plays an important role in delivering environmental benefits.

The 2003 CAP reform emphasised the long-term economic and social viability of the agricultural sector, providing safe, high quality products by methods offering a high degree of consideration for the environment. The CAP reform can therefore be expected to provide a positive framework for the future development of organic farming in Europe.

Production, labelling and inspection rules:

Council Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 on standards and control measures for organic farming ensures the authenticity of organic farming methods, and has evolved into a comprehensive framework for the organic production of crops and livestock and for the labelling, processing and marketing of organic products. It also governs imports of organic products into the EU.

Favouring Organic farming in the framework of Rural Development Policy Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/1999 as amended by Council Regulation (EC) No 1783/2003 provides amongst other support for

  • investments in agricultural holdings can cover the investments necessary for the redeployment of production and diversification towards organic farming.
  • training for qualitative reorientation of the production, which can facilitate farmers’ conversion to organic farming. Training issues may also contribute to this (e.g. protection of the environment, animal welfare).
  • agricultural production methods designed to protect the environment, maintain the countryside (agri-environment). Farmers delivering environmental services to the public are compensated for costs incurred and income foregone for their activities going beyond Good Farming Practice and may include an incentive covering transaction costs.
  • the participation of farmers in food quality schemes, and for promotion of the products covered by these schemes.
  • investments to improve the processing and marketing of agricultural products, which can be targeted on organic produce. The utilisation of this measure is of importance if the entire filière is considered in the support of organic products.
  • marketing of quality agricultural products or for the diversification of farming activities (e.g. the establishment of a village shop for organic products) can be used as tool to further enhance organic farming.

Information and promotion

The Commission’s information activities in support of organic farming are primarily to inform farmers, stakeholder organisations and the general public of the Commission’s policies in this area and to develop an understanding of what organic farming entails. Different regulations currently offer the possibility of EU co-financing of information or promotion campaigns for organic farming.

[Council Regulations (EC) No 2702/1999, (EC) No 1257/1999, (EC) 2826/2000 , (EC) No 814/2000]

Facts about organic production in the EU

The 1990s witnessed very rapid growth in the sector. In 1985, certified organic production (including areas under conversion) accounted for just 100 000 ha on 6 300 holdings in the EU, or less than 0.1 % of the total utilisable agricultural area (UAA). By the end of 2002, this had increased to 4.4 million ha on an estimated 150 000 holdings, or 3.3 % of total agricultural area and 2.3 % of holdings

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED]

[Graphic in PDF & Word format]

[Graphic in PDF & Word format]

The EU logo for Organic Farming

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED]

In March 2000 the European Commission introduced a logo bearing the words 'Organic Farming - EC Control System' [Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 (Consolidated text)] to be used on a voluntary basis by producers whose systems and products have been found on inspection to satisfy EU regulations. Consumers buying products bearing this logo can be confident that:

  • at least 95% of the product's ingredients have been organically produced;
  • the product complies with the rules of the official inspection scheme;
  • the product has come directly from the producer or preparer in a sealed package;
  • the product bears the name of the producer, the preparer or vendor and the name or code of the inspection body.

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