More than 1,000 discussed the new Organic Regulation, Common Agriculture Policy, and future of our food system at first digital European Organic Congress

On 1-3 July, the first online edition of our European Organic Congress took place with more than 1,000 participants. This year’s theme was ‘Organic in Action’.

Julia Klöckner, German Minister for Agriculture and Food, Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein, Chairman of the German Association of Organic Farmers, Food Processors and Retailers (BÖLW) and re-elected President of IFOAM Organics Europe, Jan Plagge welcomed more than 500 participants on the first day of the congress. Julia Klöckner opened stating the recently published Farm to Fork Strategy offers a huge opportunity for organic, which Germany will seize during its Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) to further promote organic production and consumption. Two pecha kucha presentations exemplifying ‘Organic in Action’ followed.

Of course, the European Organic Congress is not complete without a session on the new EU Organic Regulation, moderated by IFOAM Organic Europe’s Regulation Manager, Emanuele Busacca. Nicolas Verlet, Head of the Organics Unit of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI), informed participants that the first drafts of all implementing and delegated acts were submitted to the relevant Committees and are currently at different stages in the intensive legal process. Marian Blom, IFOAM Organics Europe Vice-President,Michel Reynaud, IFOAM Organics Europe Board Member and sector representative for certification and Georg Eckert, President of EOCC informed about the main expected changes for organic operators and control bodies and provided input and critical remarks from the sector. The panel also touched on the possible postponement of the application of the new EU Organic Regulation to 1 January 2022 – an option the European Commission is currently assessing. IFOAM Organics Europe, other EU agri-food federations, the EU Member States and the Committee on Agriculture of the European Parliament (COMAGRI) agree this postponement is needed to ensure a smooth transition and to allow organic operators, control bodies and Competent Authorities to get ready for the foreseen changes in their day-to-day operations.

The second day started with a session ‘25% organic land by 2030: How can the CAP contribute’, moderated by Eduardo Cuoco, IFOAM Organics Europe’s Director and attended by more than 400 participants. During his opening speech, Wolfgang Burtscher, Director-General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission stated that the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies offer a great opportunity for the EU to move out of the current crisis in a sustainable way. However, he also pointed out that it is crucial to consider the various situations throughout the EU and ensure adequate funding for organic farming. Afterwards,  a high-level panel composed of Walter Dübner, Head of Division Agricultural Production and Horticulture of the German Ministry for Food and Agriculture, Norbert Lins, Member of the Parliament (MEP) and chair of COMAGRI, and Jan Plagge, President of Bioland and IFOAM Organics Europe exchanged on the possibilities for integrating the organic target into the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). According to Jan Plagge, the CAP should require Member States to set national targets in their CAP Strategic Plans, provide sufficient funding for the maintenance of and conversion to organic farming and ensure a fair remuneration of farmers providing public goods. All speakers agreed that organic farming is a part of the solution and can make our food system more resilient.

The afternoon session on day two focused on a new European Organic Action Plan. Nathalie Sauze-Vandevyver, Deputy Director General of DG AGRI, said the European Commission will make sure that the new Organic Action Plan will build on the lessons learnt and best practices of the previous one. She invited everyone to contribute during a public consultation that will be launched after the summer break. During the following three break-out sessions moderated by Dr. Alexander Gerber, chair for farming at BÖLW, Lukas Nossol, IFOAM Organics Board member and Representative of Denree as well as Dr. Alexander Beck, chairman of the Assoziation ökologischer Lebensmittelhersteller (AöL), participants discussed the different possible aspects of the new Organic Action Plan. One of the key take-aways of this session was that increasing awareness of organic values is crucial to strengthen organic value chains as demand is driving the sector.

This year’s European Organic Congress ended with a session ‘European agriculture and resilient food systems in a post-Covid-19 world’, led by Eric Gall, Policy Manager at IFOAM Organics Europe. In a video message, Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety said that there is no change without ambition when referring to the 25% organic land target laid out in the Farm to Fork Strategy. The CAP is and will continue to be a key tool in reaching this target and must promote organic production and consumption at the same time. After this strong opening statement, a high-level panel composed of Tassos Haniotis, Director of Strategy, Simplification and Policy Analysis at DG AGRI, Thomas Waitz, MEP, Olivier de Schutter, Co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), Sarah Compson, International Development Manager at Soil Association, and Sébastien Treyer, Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), further discussed our vision for the future of food and farming with the more than 300 participants that had tuned in. Panellists and attendees concluded that Covid-19 is a tiny rehearsal for a much bigger crisis, the climate crisis and we need to transition to an agricultural systems providing resilience and mitigating its effects on the environment, and not just producing food.

Relive the congress by going through our Twitter Moments, browsing #EOC2020, and watching the congress recording (available on the congress website and our YouTube channel as of next week).

We would like to thank our speakers, participants, technical consultants, co-organisers, sponsors, supporters, and media partners for making this congress possible.  

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