Greening the Common Agricultural Policy

Written evidence submitted by the Soil Association (GCAP 10)


1. This response is made on behalf of the Soil Association and produced by its policy department. The Soil Association is the main organisation for organic food and farming in the UK, and is a membership charity with over 27,000 members including approximately 4000 farmer members. The Soil Association also owns an accredited organic certification company.

2. This response focuses on the details of the inquiry questions as they relate organic farming which is the Soil Association’s area of expertise.

Executive Summary

3.The Soil Association supports the European Commissioner's strong focus on stimulating employment in farming (in the UK organic farming generally creates over 70% more jobs), and on greening the CAP. The EU Audit Commission has recognised that there is clear scientific evidence of the environmental benefits of organic farming.

4. We support the compulsory 30% allocation of Pillar 1 payments to benefit the climate and the environment. We welcome the decision that certified organic farmers will be automatically eligible for this payment, without additional requirements, because, in the Commission's words "they are shown to provide clear ecological benefit".

5. In the Rural Development element, Pillar 2, the "new separate measure" for organic farming, designed to give organic farming "greater visibility", is particularly important for UK organic farmers, as we currently receive lower Pillar 2 payments in the UK than in any other EU Member State. We expect this new proposal from the European Commission to deliver a degree of fairness to British organic farmers, with a more level playing field with competitors in other EU countries than they currently enjoy’.

6. We would, however, like to see greater clarity from the Commission about what Member States will be expected to deliver through this ‘new separate measure’. We are also anxious that the innovative role of organic farming is recognised through strong involvement in the new Innovation Partnership in Pillar two.

Recommendations for amendments

7. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) EU Group (of which the Soil Association is a member) has developed a number of recommendations to ensure the CAP 2014-2020 would support organic farming [1] . These include:

· 8. Sufficient funding for the conversion to and maintenance of organic farming must be ensured by strengthening the 2nd pillar budget and by ring-fencing a significant share (50%) of the rural development programmes’ budget for measures that deliver to environmental objectives such as organic farming.

- 9. Organic farming must be made a mandatory measure under the rural development programmes and should be eligible for 80% EU co-funding.

- 10. Organic farming should be specifically included as a priority in relevant rural development measures such as advisory services, investments and producer groups. Organic farms should be allowed 20% higher support rate.

· 11. The second pillar budget should increase to at least 50% of total CAP budget before 2020.

· 12. A more specific point is that the diversity of grasslands must be considered in the permanent grassland definition. Where those areas currently defined as permanent grasslands are in fact land in traditional crop rotations which include 7-10 years of grassland, such land should be eligible for return to a rotation including a grass/legume fodder crop (as per the crop diversification measures).

November 2011

[1] Further information on positions taken by the European organic movement can be found at


Prepared 30th November 2011