All Hot Air? An Organic Action Plan without Farm to Fork Targets

The European Parliament voted this month to support organic farming and organic food consumption in the block, by endorsing the EU Action Plan for Organic Agriculture. The adopted action plan garnered 611 votes to 14, with five abstentions. Ostensibly an endorsement of organic agriculture, a hint that something may be amiss is that enormous majority. All things to all people, nevertheless what is missing is any specific mention of the Farm to Fork target of shifting 25% of agriculture to organic. So, where’s the action on this action plan? Or is it all just hot air? Ashely Parsons has more. 

A Peek Inside the Plan

The Organic Action Plan (OAP) is a 74-point plan that endorses increasing organic agriculture across the bloc. At the heart of the plan there are three axes that aim to leverage organic farming across the bloc, each sounding quite worth pursuing (here’s the full text):

1.Stimulate demand and ensure consumer trust

Increasing the consumption of organic products and strengthening consumers’ trust in them is vital to encourage farmers to convert to organics. To support continued growth and maintain a profitable market for organic operators, the Commission will undertake actions that promote organic canteens, improve traceability and prevent food fraud. 

2. Stimulate conversion and reinforce the entire value chain

To continue progress in production and processing, the action plan would encourage conversion, develop analysis methods to strengthen transparency, emphasize short trade circuits, and upgrade animal nutrition to meet organic standards.

3. Lead by example: improve the contribution of organic farming to sustainability

The Commission will further improve the organic sector’s contribution to sustainability and environmental challenges through actions focused on reducing the environmental footprint, developing alternatives to potentially harmful inputs/pesticides and improving animal welfare.

Give credit where credit is due

The plan is not a catastrophe – there is much to commend it. It lays out laudable goals for organic agriculture in the EU.

IFOAM Organics Europe praised the approval of the plan, tweeting, “Existing practical agronomic solutions such as organic & agroecology will ensure food systems become more independent from external inputs, less input intensive & more resilient while ensuring Food Security for all Europeans and beyond, and profitability for farmers.

The vote shows that the Parliament agrees increasing organic agriculture is a positive shift (duh?). But it also feels like it purposefully undercuts the ambitions of the Farm to Fork legislation by omitting the plan’s targets. Pete Pakarinen, media advisor for the center right EPP Group congratulated the conservative Austrian MP Simone Schmiedtbauer for her vote on the plan: “Report on EU action plan on organic farming adopted with focus on functional markets, not target figures.”

That target figure Pakarinen is alluding to is indeed left out of the report. The OAP was expected to include an important benchmark for making sure Farm to Fork succeeds: 25% of farmland being organic by 2030. The OAP does not refer to this target in the text.

Hot Air?

Prenom NOM – 9th Parliamentary term

Greens deputy Claude Gruffat (left), said “This was a missed opportunity to push sustainable agriculture across all regions and [push] a diet that is better for health and the environment”

In an interview with La Nouvelle Repubilique, Gruffat expressed his disappointment: “It is not difficult to get an overwhelming majority for something so flat and shallow.” 

He added, “Ce n’est pas le vent de l’environnement qui soufflait ce mardi à Strasbourg” which translates roughly to: it wasn’t for the environmental cause that this passed on Tuesday in Strasbourg.   

Gruffat is onto something: this report is spectacular at supporting organic agriculture on paper, but in practice, there is no requirement for action on this “action plan.” The OAP is an own-initiative report. When approved, these reports function as a request by the Parliament to the Commission to create a legislative proposal addressing the objective of the report. 

Regarding the OAP, the Commission will publish 2024 a midterm review. It seems strange that the Commission might publish legislation in 2 years’ time that would presumably include targets when the Farm to Fork strategy should be currently on the path to integration.

Simone Schmiedtbauer, the plan’s author said “the sector will ‘only grow if the market for organic products grows’ according to Euractiv.  

But without a reemphasis of the Farm to Fork target, nor legal obligations to make changes, the plan can be seen as vague and self-congratulatory. Maybe that’s the aim? This plans seems to be all things to all people, and as a consequence, it is also much ado about nothing.

While it paints the appearance of a Parliament that is pushing for increasing organic agriculture, in reality it sidesteps hard decisions and the contentious issue of the 25% target for organic in Farm to Fork. pushing the real legislation of Farm to Fork off-stage. So plenty of huffing and puffing, but little of substance delivered. Hot air.

Stay tuned for a more detailed analysis of the text in our next article on organics.

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Ashley Parsons
About Ashley Parsons 9 Articles
On her 7000km journey from France to Kyrgyzstan on bicycle and horseback, daily interactions and sometimes long sojourns with rural farmers and grassroots organizations showed Ashley Parsons the resilience and strength of our rural communities. Ashley is a writer and journalist dedicated to exploring potential and existing systems of inclusive progress, whether they are found in the agro-economy sphere or in the larger biodiversity and environmental conservation movement. In her work with ARC2020, she acts as the Paris correspondent, covering newsworthy agri-food and rural topics at the EU level, communicating with partners, and assisting with the on-the-ground work of Nos Campagnes en Résilience in supporting farmers and other rural actors. A propos d’Ashley Parsons Lors de son voyage de 7 000 km de la France au Kirghizistan à vélo et à cheval, Ashley a fait de nombreuses rencontres avec les paysans et des membres associatifs de terrain. Elle a même séjourné plusieurs semaines chez certains d’entre eux découvrant, ainsi, la force et la résilience des campagnes. Écrivaine et journaliste, Ashley s’est consacrée, principalement, à l'exploration de systèmes progressistes - tant aux possibilités qu’à l’existant - qui favorisent l’intégration sociale, et se trouvant dans le monde agro-économique ou de manière plus large, dans le mouvement de conservation de la biodiversité et de préservation de l’environnement. Au sein de l’association ARC2020, elle est correspondante pour la France, couvrant les actualités agroalimentaires et rurales au niveau de l'UE. Elle fait partie de l’équipe « Nos campagnes en résilience », pour soutenir la communication avec les partenaires ainsi que le travail sur le terrain.