European Commission Proposes 25% Organic by 2030

The EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy includes an historic commitment to bringing 25% of its land under organic production. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

In May of 2020, the European Commission released its much anticipated Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy (the Strategy), which includes a landmark commitment to bring 25% of agricultural land in Europe under organic farming by 2030. As part of our ongoing Regenerative Programs and Incentives Feasibility Study, OCO explored how the European Union (EU) is incentivizing sustainable agricultural practices. Read ahead to understand how the Strategy positions the EU’s food system as the global standard for sustainability, and what members of Ontario’s organic value chain can learn from Europe’s attempt to grow organic production.  

What is the Farm to Fork Strategy?

The F2F Strategy is at the heart of the European Green Deal, a set of initiatives looking to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. It is a comprehensive approach to ensuring the health and sustainability of Europe’s food system. While the Strategy still requires endorsement by the European Parliament to become legislation, it is already spurring conversations about the global role of organic practices. 

Organic farming is front and centre throughout the F2F Strategy’s five pillars, which are:

  1. Increase organic farming;
  2. [Ensure] Europeans have access to healthy, affordable, and sustainable food;
  3. Tackle climate change;
  4. [Ensure] fair economic return in the food chain; and
  5. Protect the environment and preserve biodiversity, with targets of 50% reductions in the use of chemical pesticides, nutrient loss, and the sales of antimicrobials for farm animals and aquaculture, all by 2030.

Achieving the first pillar, an increase in organic farming, can contribute to fulfilling the remaining four of the EU’s food system pillars.

How will organic farmers benefit from the F2F Strategy?

The Strategy is in its early stages, so there are few details about which policies will be implemented and how they will achieve the desired targets. Nevertheless, the Strategy outlines some of the ways the EU aims to  collaborate with farmers to achieve its goals.  

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the main mechanism for farmer support. While the CAP already includes programs that incentivize sustainable farming practices through funds like the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), targeted initiatives are being promised to stimulate the supply of organic products. 

Eco-schemes, for example, are funding streams proposed specifically to increase practices such as organic farming. The Strategy also promises advisory services, the development of innovative feed additives with reduced pollutant footprints, and the creation of an organic Action Plan. The Action Plan will include demand-side levers such as promotion campaigns, green public procurement methods, sustainable food and animal welfare labelling to connect sustainable production methods with consumer demand, as well as the harmonization of voluntary green claims across EU Member States.

What are potential challenges of the F2F Strategy for organic farmers?

While the F2F Strategy has been lauded for its historic commitment to organic farming, various industry representatives are promoting a cautious approach to its implementation. 

Advocacy groups have argued that for targets to be achieved and demand-side policies to have traction, those operations undertaking organic production methods should be compensated for the additional labour involved in adopting more sustainable practices. Demand-side policies are also being scrutinized for fear that they may inadvertently disadvantage the EU’s organic sector. For example, prohibiting campaigns that promote meat consumption due to health and sustainability concerns could punish farmers whose organic practices alleviate some of the demand-side concerns over livestock.

What lessons can the Canadian organic sectors learn from the F2F strategy?

The Strategy speaks to a campaign the Canadian organic sector has been consistently lobbying for: greater government attention to the organic file. The federal Food Policy for Canada was an important step towards a coherent national food system, but Canadians should look to the F2F Strategy for a more ambitious plan. This is especially true of the Strategy’s organic land target. No such comparable target has been proposed in Canada, where approximately 2% of agricultural land is farmed using certified organic practices. Policy proposals that are meant to achieve the EU’s 25% target should be evaluated by the Canadian agri-food sector once they are further developed. A better-incentivized organic Action Plan that applies across EU Member States can serve as a reminder to Canadian agricultural policy makers that we can be more ambitious with our plans for a national organic sector.

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